It has been brutally cold in eastern Canada and much of the northern U.S. this winter, and it has barely just begun. Clearly, this is going to be a classic Canadian winter both in terms of cold weather and snowfall — and heating costs.
Still, I’m feeling somewhat fortunate today: we weren’t in the direct path of the “weather bomb,” or “bombogenesis” as some called it, last week. We were sideswiped by it with wind gusts of 50 km/h and a few centimetres of snow. People in the maritime provinces and eastern U.S. were hammered with high winds gusting to 150 km/h, rain, freezing rain and heavy snow, as much as 50 centimetres in some places. There were — and still are — widespread power outages and a lot of property damage.
That storm along with an old movie we watched last night — Deep Impact, in which a huge asteroid poses a human extinction threat — have me thinking again about just how fragile civilization on our big rock in space really is.
It doesn’t take much to disrupt our lives: high winds, heavy rainfall or snowfall, higher-than-normal water levels, droughts, forest fires, smog, etc. We are at Mother Nature’s mercy, and the more we pollute the planet, the greater the toll on weather conditions, it seems. And it seems to be getting worse each year. There are people in Quebec who still haven’t been able to return to their homes after the floods of last spring. One wonders what this coming spring will bring us.
The freaky weather around the world not only serves to remind us of how fragile we and our host planet are, but also that life here is a freakin’ miracle. I think we all have those moments, when we marvel at our own existence and the progress that mankind has made. And inevitably, when pondering such issues, we wonder about the progress we haven’t made, and how such a fragile species can be so violent and selfish at times.
We take so much for granted that at times we forget about the miracle of our existence. We all, of course, know that death can snatch us away from the planet in an instant, without notice. But we don’t give a lot of thought about the threats faced by our species, apart from that of nuclear war. Everybody is aware of that possibility, of course, and we seem to just shrug it off and carry on.
I suppose a time will come when mankind will have to face extinction. It’s inevitable: something will wipe out life on Earth, be it an asteroid, solar event or extreme weather — perhaps a combination of all three. Perhaps that is what the biblical story of Armageddon is really about: it didn’t take much of a stretch of the imagination to come up with a prophecy about the end of the human era. It will end.
It all serves to put some things in perspective. We tend to worry about small things while overlooking the suffering faced by so many people for whom life doesn’t seem to be a miracle at all. When the day finally comes when some official annouces that the end is nigh for the human race, those who have lived in luxury will weep, but those who are starving may welcome it.
I thought about that after the movie last night. Most of the films I have seen with similar themes — i.e. humans facing extinction from an asteroid or such — always focus on how people in the West will react to the news. Middle-class people, mostly. People who have comfortable lives. People who know that a miracle is ending.
But I doubt that the millions of starving people in African countries and elsewhere would care all that much about the pending extinction of mankind. Indeed, they would probably see it as a deliverance of sorts, because it is hard to care about the survival of the species when you are starving and have nothing. For them, life is not a miracle, but is instead a nightmare.
I don’t really have any, except it would be nice if we could make life seem like a miracle for everyone on the planet.
And, of course, that there will be a mass conclusion for the human race some day.
Sobering thoughts after seeing a movie that no doubt made an impact on a lot of people in its day, if only for a short time after seeing it.
Photo: NASA photo taken from surface of Mars shows Earth and moon.