Big Smile, No Teeth: Looking for that silver lining while the planet burns


  • Living
  • Monday, 09 Dec 2019

Anwen the burnt koala, rescued from a nature reserve in New South Wales, caught the public’s hearts and an online fundraiser for koalas injured in Asutralia’s devastating bushfires topped RM2.8mil last month. But the cute little things are functionally extinct thanks to climate change, among other factors. Photo: Reuters

I’m tired. I’m sure you are too.

The world is beautiful and hard all at once. Things are seldom binary.

COP25, the Conference of Parties, started last week in Madrid to build on how to make the Paris Agreement of 2015 work and as a precursor to get to zero carbon emissions by the time COP26 rolls around in Glasgow next year.

Am I optimistic that this year won’t just be a bunch of loose pledges by nations that need to look like they’re taking the climate crisis seriously but won’t amount to anything? Yeah, not so much.

By the way, koalas are functionally extinct. Fun. Man, I’m tired.

So yeah, speaking of the koalas, “functionally” extinct means the population no longer has large enough numbers to be viable, meaning that they no longer impact their ecosystem and that they’re in danger of being wiped out by disease because there are so few of them.

This news comes amid the brush fires in Australia wiping out their numbers and, of course, their habitat.

Are these brush fires just bad luck? Sure. Sort of. Climate change creates drought conditions that make brush fires more likely. They up the chances of brush fires happening.

Koalas are the first to make extinction headlines related to climate change. Whodathunkit? I personally had my money on the coral reefs. But then I’ve never done well at casinos.

But to be fair about “functionally extinct”, experts do say that koalas in other regions are growing slightly in population so the pronouncement that they’re going, going, gone, is a bit premature. They’re just on the way out, not quite “functionally extinct” yet, but possibly soon.

Not RIP koalas. RIP soon koalas. So ... applause? Maybe not.

And yeah. I’m still tired.

Then the President of the Marshall Islands described how her home is on the front lines of the climate change battles as rising tides means evacuating people from their homes and these tides threaten to become the new normal. She ends by saying they “refuse to flee but they also refuse to die”. Then they’re probably going to have to flee.

Why?

Because there is no hero coming to save us from climate change. Too bad Dwayne The Rock Johnson can’t crash land a helicopter into Evil Doc Climate Change’s lair and hop out and punch the jerk in the testicles. One, because that would be awesome and two, it would save us all a lot of pain and trouble.

But what is the real world doing? Are we shifting our system to curtail the environmental challenges of our planet? Not so much.

Sure, Jeff Bezos just gave about US$98.5mil (RM410mil) to help the homeless. To which Jeremy Corbyn replied on twitter, “That’s 0.09% of your net worth”. To which author Qasim Rashid also commented on twitter, “This impacts his wallet to the same tune if the median American worker gave US$26 (RM110)”.

Wow. My 26 dollars is Bezos’ 98.5mil? That’s really, really rich. Dude, maybe throw 26 bucks at climate change while you’re at it or even 52 bucks! Or toss a Bezos 26 at me so I can join you on Mars when this world crumbles.

I’m just kidding – though I do wonder what they’ll be charging to leave the planet in ruins to make a last-ditch effort to live in space (you know that’s gonna end badly).

But then that’s the problem when society depends on philanthropy. Sometimes money doesn’t get allocated where it needs to get allocated, which is probably why Rashid ended his tweet with “TAXATION > PHILANTROPHY” which is a pretty nice use of the greater than symbol. I’m glad kids are still into math.

But kids being into using greater/lesser than signs is really a small silver lining in what is really an overflowing toilet bowl of faeces. And when I think of overflowing toilets, I think of cleaning the mess, and that makes me tired again.

Then I think about my wife and how she’s pregnant with our first child. Six months pregnant. And how every night, we hold her baby bump and feel the little guy moving about, somersaulting, happy to join us in this world we’re wrecking. Mummy and Daddy. That’s going to be us. And I don’t want the end of the world to be the new normal for my boy.

Earth is rare. Life is rare. We haven’t been able to find anything equal to either of these anywhere in the universe. As far as we know, this is it. We’re all there is, and all we have is each other and this beautiful rock. And there are people working to save it but it’s happening slowly. But maybe sometimes things happen slowly and then all at once. I have to believe this.

And I’m not so tired anymore. I’m energised. I’m determined.

My son is on the way, and I don’t have time to be tired.
Big Smile, No Teeth columnist Jason Godfrey – who once was told to give the camera a ‘big smile, no teeth’ – has worked internationally for two decades in fashion and continues to work in dramas, documentaries, and lifestyle programming. Write to him at lifestyle@thestar.com.my and check out his stuff at jasongodfrey.co. The views expressed here are entirely the writer's own.
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Jason Godfrey , climate change , bush fires , koala

   

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