• Mon, 11, Feb, 2019 - 5:00:AM

What would you save from a burning planet?

I kept diaries when I was younger. I leaned them against my knees and wrote in them nightly. When I was a child I wrote about my friends at school, the teachers in class, and the books I borrowed from the local library. When I was a teen I wrote about my friends at school, losing my virginity, having my heart ripped into a hundred thousand fragments, and slowly putting it back together, like a years-long puzzle in which the pieces had changed shape.

Those diaries, a cross-section of hot-pink journals, spiral notebooks, the odd 1B5, now sit at the back of my closet in an unceremonious tote bag. They contain the names of anyone and everyone who made an impact on me during those years. They contain all of my adolescent secrets. They are truer, and cringier, than any of the photographs my friends and I took. I’ve often said if my house was on fire, that bag is the thing I would save.

It’s not true, of course.

If my house was on fire I’d save my family. I’d save my cat. I’d save any creature breathing under my roof before I saved some words on paper. I’d save my worst enemy first. You would too.

‘We all want to help one another,’ said Charlie Chaplin, in the 1940 film The Great Dictator. ‘Human beings are like that.’  

It’s an undeniable truth.

In times of natural and unnatural emergency, human beings help one another. Human beings run into crumbling buildings. Human beings shield children from bullets. Human beings donate blood en masse. These are natural human instincts, they beat inside us, alongside our hearts.   

On the other hand… ‘People just ain’t no good,’ said Nick Cave, in the 1997 song People Ain’t No Good. ‘A thing that’s well understood.’

It’s an undeniable truth.

Human beings gun down kindergartners. Human beings abuse one another. Human beings are greedy. They value money over the survival of their home. Their planet.

But when wildfires threatened to destroy her home in 2018, Khloe Kardashian, a modern-day pillar of capitalist consumerism, left with the clothes on her back, and her infant daughter. Human beings are like that.

In the past four years, that’s 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018, planet earth has reached the hottest temperatures ever reliably measured.

2018 was the hottest year ever recorded in Antarctica.

In New Zealand right now, one need only make small talk with a co-worker to get the idea.

‘Hot, isn’t it?’

Bloody hot’.

Scientists now warn that without drastic action worst-case scenarios will become the rule, not the exception.

The statistics are disastrous, and hardly bear repeating, except for the fact our most powerful leaders are ignoring them.

Climate change – and the end of our planet – is too large a concept to wrap one’s head around. It’s like God, or eternity, or death, or outer space. But when your house is on fire, the instinct guides the way: you pick up your infant daughter and you run.

The time has come to pick up your daughter.

Perhaps that means voting for parties with actionable environmental policies. Perhaps that means lobbying your representatives to do better for our home.

Perhaps it means boycotting companies that actively destroy our home. Perhaps it means learning how to recycle.

To say ‘I’m only human’ is to admit that you are flawed. We are all flawed, but we are all also incredible. We have natural instincts and we have unnatural instincts. Inside our chests beats a human instinct to survive. Inside our chests beats a human instinct to help one another. Our diaries can burn. We must save our family. Pick up your daughter (whatever that means to you) and run. 


  • Climate Change /
  • Environmentalism /
  • Humanity /
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