HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated November 24, 2013 – 12:00am
It has happened before and it is happening again. The world is coming together again. But this time it is doing so at a level and intensity that seems unprecedented. I am talking about the relief efforts being undertaken by a great number of nations on earth to help the ravaged islands of the Philippines after it was hit by Category 5 typhoon Yolanda.
It seems like representatives of almost country in the world are here with their planeloads of relief goods, their doctors and rescue workers. And they brought with them the needed relief that will not only help rescue the victims but also rehabilitate their homes and rebuild their lives.
Every day, I hear of stories daily that uplift my spirits. Foreigners post in their blogs how much they are touched by the suffering they see on television. Many have opened their wallets and sent money to government agencies and NGOs doing relief work apart from what their own governments have done. Every effort is, of course, much appreciated.
This is all good. Apart from the obvious fact that the resources coming in will speed up the efforts, I see it as a sign that humankind is perhaps awakening to the awful truth about how we have all trashed the planet.
There is the painful fact that climate change is indeed already upon us. Mother Nature has been acting out too strangely and out of the norm. Super typhoons, storms, hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes are happening way too often. Many scientists say that these catastrophic weather patterns will be the new “normal” and we all must adjust to it from now on.
I saw a meteorologist on TV mention that weather phenomena that used to happen in the Philippines only once every century (based on existing records) are now happening with greater regularity in the past eight years. He also said that other unusual and deadly climate patterns are happening everywhere on the planet. Indeed, records are being broken everywhere in many countries in terms of temperatures (high and low), amount of rainfall and snow and the intensity of the weather disturbances.
In short, what just happened in the Philippines can happen anywhere now. A city, a nation, a continent may be assaulted severely with a weather phenomenon that can destroy it and kill its people as intensely and quickly as what typhoon Haiyan just did.
Two weeks ago, we as a nation got hit. Who knows which country will be hit next? While many governments still deny that climate change is real, the majority of humankind believes it is indeed upon us. Maybe that explains why all this aid is pouring from everywhere. There is the compassion factor of course that motivates people to give, but I believe it is coupled with the remote but real possibility that someday, they too may need help from everyone else.
The world is getting smaller every day. Communication, travel, migration and cyberspace have made us all immediate neighbors living in one big, wild Gotham city. It’s a good metaphor to use, except that in times of catastrophe, there is no Batman to save us and make things right.
More than ever, we are awakening to the fact that we live in one interconnected world. We are interdependent, and close cooperation, unified concerted action are needed more than ever to solve our problems.
“My brother’s fears are my fears, yellow white or brown.
My brother’s tears are my tears the whole wide world around.”
These lyrics from a song titled Because sung by Peter, Paul and Mary have always touched me because it rings true. And it summarizes the reason the world is responding to this terrible tragedy in our part of the world.
While I am awed at the idea that more and more of humanity is coming around, I am hoping that governments of the world will also awaken to the message that we sorely need new economic, social, psychological and structural templates that will change things for the better. The idea of exploiting nature to the point of extinction of its species to feed world’s appetite for consumption needs to be addressed. At the rate we are going, the lifestyle every country aspires for is actually unsustainable. Something has got to give, and the truth is, a lot of what holds us together now seems to be giving way.
The world’s uneven distribution of wealth, the mindless consumerism, hunger and extreme poverty are also something to worry about. In practically every country, the percentage of the nation’s wealth the rich own have only gotten bigger and it is at the expense of the middle class and the poor.
For our country, I feel that the response we have to this tragedy will determine in a big way how our character as a nation will be shaped in the coming years. We could fall and drown in the cynicism and negativity that many in social media are unknowingly promoting. We could listen to them and wallow in distrust of our government, our institutions, the character of our countrymen and even in our own capacity to rise out of this.
Or we could set aside this self-defeating attitudes and take action beyond mere complaining. Everyone can do something concrete. For example, by going to any center and actively repacking goods to bring relief to our countrymen, we are making things better. In these times, it is always a harder challenge to be optimistic. And yet one must be optimistic. After all, it is the positive, hopeful people who end up doing more than those who merely whine about everything. And God knows, we need less toxicity and more optimism if we are to survive this tragedy and thrive as a nation.
It will take years to rebuild. In fact, it will even reach decades. But I believe that where there is crisis, there is the opportunity to learn new things. We as a people together with the rest of humanity must embrace a level of commitment that will continue even when this big story moves to page 6 in a few weeks.
And this commitment shouldn’t be just about relief, but a host of resolutions that will contribute to effectively address the consequences of climate change. This is the time of reckoning. We can either passively accept and resign ourselves to the fact that more of this will be happening and so just continue doing what we have been doing with the planet, or we can take action now to alter the course of human history.
It’s up to us, and we must act now before it is too late.
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