Most people, religious or not, know the tale of Noah and how the ants and all other living creatures marched two by two on to his ark to be spared an angry god's watery wrath. Like Hercules, chocolate-bearing rabbits, and a day's worth of oil lasting eight, Bible stories make for great reading. In our finite little physics-bound time on earth, it's exciting to imagine a planet at the mercy of celestial whims and mythic endeavors, to embrace a mysterious magical other (rest in peace, Gabriel Garcia Marquez).
The proximity of Easter and Passover this year to Earth Day -- the first two high-water marks for their faithful, and all three replete with renewal -- and the merciful end to the brutal snow and cold that marked winter on the East Coast has me walking in the welcome sunshine and thinking about our own epochal challenges, and how (or if) we'll manage the expected rising tides.
While the ark is only one small chapter in Noah's long story -- after all the man lived to be 950 years old, cultivated the planet's first grapes, and begat in himself the first cranky old drunkard -- it is the focus of Noah, the recently released Darren Aronofsky film. The movie is far and away Aronofsky's worst, sadly -- not even good friends, IMAX, and Humboldt's finest could save it. Still, it's no coincidence that Aronofsky -- Brooklynite, environmentalist -- chose now to tell this story. (If there is a god, she certainly has a powerful sense of irony; Hurricane Sandy tore directly through the film set in Queens, temporarily halting production and rendering the mock-ark inaccessible.)
Sadly, there are still large packs of greed-heads and throngs of the willfully ignorant who deny the dramatically changing climate and global warming, pointing to winter snow storms as proof that the earth isn't getting hotter. Climate change isn't something you believe in; you either know it, or you don't.
Unless you are the senior Senator from Oklahoma, work in Exon's PR department or have a brother named Charles Koch, the evidence of carbon-based climate damage is excruciatingly obvious, scientifically proven, and, like Easter bunnies in heat, mounting rapidly. Ice sheets and glaciers are melting at such extreme rates that it's removing the "perma" from "permafrost"; droughts and extreme weather are dramatically reducing crop yields; chemicals, fertilizers and pesticides have poisoned ecosystems, the majority of our fresh water, and are now decimating vital links in the food chain (see: frogs, bees). The global financial cost of repairing carbon damage is far outpacing the investment required to mitigate it in the first place, and yet, on we go, seemingly unfazed.
To recap: We're running out of food and water; we're rapidly extinguishing vital links to our own survival, and, in the next 30 years, we will host another two billion people. It's going to be tough to figure out what to do with everyone, since cities like Miami and Manhattan, Bangkok and Bangladesh, will have gone the way of Atlantis.
But back to the movie...
So there we were, Kip's Bay theatre, midtown Manhattan, and a night out with friends -- a banker, a brander, an archetype, a dame. It should surprise no one that my friends lean more left than right, more fact than fiction, more progressive than regressive. They're good people, conscientious, caring, kind. And yet they go through Ziploc bags like banana peels, the idea of re-using them anathema.
Now, I can't fault anyone a little indulgence -- to ignore the bounties of what we've created is to totally miss the point -- be it flights to warm beaches, a closet full of shoes, or the latest HDTV. That genie is out of the bottle, and there's no going back. But there is still a delicate balance to be had and the collective impact of a few small changes can make a world of difference. It requires a little effort from all of us, and understanding that your actions do actually matter.
Anyway, as we're walking out I notice the banker holding a copy of the Economist and the cover is an illustration of a futuristic landscape, metallic guardians for the young and old, under the headline "Rise of the Robots." It dawns on me that this, for some, is actually a reasoned, pragmatic approach. This planet is nearing its sell-by date, we're going to need some contingency plans, so let's innovate, right? Maybe that's what they meant when they said the meek shall inherit the earth -- what we didn't realize was that the powerful would destroy it first.
Martin Luther King famously predicted that, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." Well, unless we make some fundamental changes, we can only hope that Arc's an Ark, and one that comes with lifeboats and sandwiches because when the floods come - and lets not kid ourselves, they are coming -- I don't foresee a whole hell of a lot of justice. Bill Gates and Usain Bolt are gonna make that ferry. The rest of us meek had better do what we can now to protect our inheritance.