I remember when I left Russia, I told a friend proshai – farewell. She grew angry and implored me to instead say do svidaniya – until next time. Russians use this as goodbye, like the French say au revoir, or the Italians arrivederci. Proshai carried with it a cold tone of finality that my friend didn’t quite like, though it turned out to be sadly accurate.
Goodbye is an absurd word – nothing feels “good” about it at all. Well, actually Godbwye – “God be with ye,” is the mother of this devastating term. It seems fitting that such a calamitous event be allayed by God.
“We are not going to get through this without taking a lot of casualties, if we get through it at all”
Gwynne Dyer, Climate Wars
“I can say with some confidence that we’re losing the fight, badly and quickly – losing it because, most of all, we remain in denial about the peril that human civilization is in.”
Bill McKibben, environmentalist and founder of 350.org
“Imagine a giant asteroid on a direct collision course with Earth. That is the equivalent of what we face now, yet we dither.”
Dr. James Hansen
It’s probably already too late. Humanity may survive, but if it does, it will be in a very different world, with a very different level of civilization. It won’t be the flooding of coastal cities and islands that kills people. That happens relatively gradually, and people will evacuate first. It will be the starvation caused by a massive decrease in food production coupled with an increase in overall population. It will be the exponential increase of climate-related diseases. And it will be the political repercussions of climate change, namely war.
And as things fell apart nobody paid much attention.
Perhaps humanity deserves the extinction hurdling toward it. The greedy corporate executives that knowingly poison the planet. They are guilty of murder. Their employees who have sacrificed their grandchildren and ours for a job. They are guilty of manslaughter. The corrupt politicians who know the science but are willingly silenced by energy industry “donations.” They are accessories to murder. The journalists who neglect the truth in favour of faux “objectivity” and “balance,” and the ordinary citizens who would rather watch reality TV than face the reality of impending doom. They are guilty of criminal negligence resulting in massive death.
“If our lives are dominated by a search for happiness, then perhaps few activities reveal as much about the dynamics of this quest - in all its ardour and paradoxes - than our travels.”
“Journeys are the midwives of thought.”
- Alain de Botton, The Art of Travel
He wonders why he is here. Why did he flee from such comforts? Why forgo the hot, pressurized water, the ever-present super high-speed Internet, the machines that do the laundry and dishes for him, the voicemail, the ubiquitous coffee to go, the gargantuan stores that supply his every need, the clean, comfortable, safe lifestyle, and the obese GDP?
The Traveller’s story is a tragic one. He will never catch what he is chasing, never escape from what pursues him. Telling himself that home is everywhere, he fears it is nowhere. As though there are hot coals beneath his feet, he cannot stay in one place. Like the Flying Dutchman, he is doomed to sail the seas forever. His tortured soul is disillusioned, disappointed, distant. He chases a mirage. He is condemned to travel.
So many times, I’ve heard people recently returned from the Developing World crying crocodile tears about how “guilty” they feel for living in the West. Guilty for what, exactly? For the fact that we live in such amazing countries and those outside the West do not? How obscenely, nationalistically, ethnocentrically self-congratulatory.
My insomnia has found me, has slithered 7,000 miles, tracking me, stalking me, passing through the eucalyptus farms and the fortress of mountains I have immersed myself in, sneaking through my yellow gate doors, and has wrapped its coils around me. I knew it would. It is as lonely as I and cannot stay away…
Mzungu (n., Swahili, used throughout East Africa) – “Someone who roams around aimlessly;” White person.
“Among these palm trees and vines, in this bush and jungle, the white man is a sort of outlandish and unseemly intruder. Pale, weak, his shirt drenched with sweat, his hair pasted down on his head, he is continually tormented by thirst, and feels impotent, melancholic. He is ever afraid: of mosquitoes, amoebas, scorpions, snakes–everything that moves fills him with fear, terror, panic.”
- Ryszard Kapuściński, The Shadow of the Sun