Writing and photos by Johnny Atlas
A melting glacier in your mouth. Elite bottled water for the rich. This is the world we are witnessing. The comic book Tank Girl come to life.
Every morning I read the world news online. Every morning there is insanity. A melting glacier in your mouth. Expensive bottled water from Svalbard, Norway.
Another day it was the mammoth tusk trade in Russia. Humans cashing in on ancient ivory now that enough arctic melting reveals long dead wooly mammoths.
One week it was an article about toxic caterpillars in Germany. The high heat bloomed their species. In ordinary numbers, these local caterpillars are no threat to human health. Multiplied, they became so toxic the German military stepped in to battle these overgrown future butterflies.
Reports stated people were getting emergency eye surgeries to remove caterpillar hairs from their cornea. Some citizens experienced intense breathing problems when multiplied caterpillar hairs got inside their lungs.
It is a circus, the daily world news. Climate crisis, formerly known as climate change, is a circus. A freak show.
My daily struggle as a human in 2019, is to read the world news and not freak out. My struggle as a citizen of the world writing this piece is to offer objective hope.
A giant chunk of climate crisis is where you, as a human, live. What land are you on? Where is home? Who is your nation? Can you remain there?
As ice caps melt into bottled water for rich people, borders are becoming more militarized against migration. Greedy pockets trying to protect ownership of often stolen resources.
We know about the great migrations across the globe. There are also more subtle migrations within nations. Humans climbing to higher, dryer, cooler ground.
Not often in the news, is the subtle American migration. An article I found said New Yorkers were headed to Colorado. Californians were headed to the Pacific Northwest.
The slow scramble. Humans preemptively trying to escape the heat. I live in the Pacific Northwest and notice people moving here.
There are many humans moving on the globe. I keep watching “Borders” by M.I.A. as I write this. There is no denying the racism in the migration border issues.
Migrant boats. More than an art exhibit at the 2019 Venice Biennale. Nationalist Italian Ports are refusing these boats.
Ports pushing out. People dying in the water.
For those that make it to Europe, there are migrant camps. In America, we call them detention camps. There are all kinds of camps across the world right now holding humans. Children.
I keep crashing into spirituality as a possible solution to climate crisis. As a solution to the migrant crisis. They are linked. They hold hands.
Kindness. The spiritual teachings of so many sky dads & earth moms. In writing this piece, I found a cool podcast by Reverend Mariama White-Hammond on the Climate-XChange website.
Struggles such as we are seeing now, are indeed new. However, many people of the world have long endured oppressive struggles stretching across history. Reverend Mariama speaks to this.
One might argue here, that part of the freak out concerning climate crisis is white people finally feeling the burn.
As I write these words, it is 85 degrees outside. Not too hot, but hot enough for my pale skin. Inside my rented PNW cabin, it’s so cool I am wearing a long sleeve cowboy shirt & my 66°North Iceland cap.
I have a giant hemlock tree to thank. The shade keeps my cabin freakishly cool. I read somewhere if we spent as much money planting tree’s as we did on space exploration, we could curb climate crisis.
I mentioned this to a friend, and they suggested we cut military spending, plant trees, and still check out space.
Space & spirituality are linked by the idea of a sanctuary above. There is a balance needed when we look to space as a solution. Feet firm on the ground as we gaze up to the stars. Open to dreams, but rooted in reality.
I love space and grew up with a top secret white military dad who chased the space shuttle from Florida to Texas negotiating rockets. I grew up close to space. The idea of space.
Recently there was an article about the protests of African Americans on the eve of the Apollo launch in 1969. The protesters were pointing out the inhumane priority of “whitey’s on the moon” when kids were starving in both rural and urban America.
NASA marked June 2019 as the HOTTEST on earths record. July is just as hot. It has been this hot many places on the globe, but now that heat is hitting America and Europe there is a white people panic.
In Nebraska, white people are baking biscuits in cars. East of Nebraska in Massachusetts, the police literally posted something on Facebook asking citizens to refrain from criminal activity until it cools down.
Humor is another place one can find hope. For better or worse, we’re all in this together. The sun doesn’t care who you are or where you are from. All the sun cares about is shining.
Ultimately, it is humans who are the issue. How we don’t know how to be humane. Not on earth. Doubtful we will figure it out in space. Perhaps this is why some are looking to an altruistic shift being needed.
Altruism is a simple concept. It is one you could consider at a rocket launch pad. The ship to sanctuary is there. A real Noah’s Arc situation. If you follow an altruistic path, you might consider giving up your seat to someone more in need.
There are many places we can practice altruism. It is an especially amazing practice for white people. For rich people. It’s as simple as sharing. Of thinking about someone else instead of yourself.
The climate crisis and migrant crisis appear overwhelming. Seemingly insurmountable issues. Spiritual altruism might seem simple at first glance, but sharing helps. Truly, sharing could be the solution.
Johnny Atlas is a gender queer writer living on stolen Nisqually Tribal land in the Pacific Northwest. He has a graduate degree in writing, but co-owns & is a line cook at an anarchist collective breakfast cafe with twelve millennial punks to pay the bills. The kids consider him the token old guy at the collective who doesn’t know how to use a computer. Most of his published works have been DIY xeroxed zines.