May 21st was supposed to be the end of times, according to many. Like Y2K, I assumed the world would remain, but, nevertheless, the idea of an apocalypse of sorts can sometimes be motivational. For one thing, our world is and has been on a downward spiral into environmental chaos for years. Some described the Rapture as a time when natural disasters would ravage the earth, causing pain, death, and despair, ultimately ending life on earth.
To me, this description is an eerie reminder of what is already happening. While these events are not occurring simultaneously, they are certainly happening more frequently and on a greater scale than ever. Most recently, areas of the United States have been devastated by deadly tornados. As death counts rise, questions about the causes of these storms are also asked. Who can forget the earthquake and tsunami that wreaked havoc on Japan earlier this year? This was just over a year after the Haitian earthquake of 2010, which killed over 200,000 people.
Of course, many would agree that listing off the natural disasters that our world has been experiencing is counterproductive. It creates a culture of negativity. On the contrary, I believe that these events, while horrific, are potential warning signs. They give us the opportunity, as humans, to reevaluate our place on the planet and our lives, in general. It allows us to be thankful for what we have and restore our faith in simpler things.
Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Lafontant of Port-au-Prince, echoes the sentiments of his followers: “You know, bishop, I became a different person after the quake because I’m alive and I realized that my possessions are nothing. Being alive is more than anything I possess, so from now on I won’t wear jewelry. I won’t be concerned about how I look.” Lafontant seems to suggest that events, like earthquakes, force people to see the world (and their own lives) in a different light.
I don’t know the true nature of these disasters. They could be the result of global warming, but that is merely speculation. Personally, I do not necessarily believe that everything happens for a reason. Did 200,000 innocent people die in Haiti to force a call to action? I certainly hope not. However, if we entertain the idea that the earth is retaliating, we may start to change.
I have been told, many times, that change begins with attitude. In recent years, the green movement has become increasingly popular. Still, there are far too many people who have the mindset that the damage is done and irreparable and that making positive environmental decisions will only delay the inevitable. I have to wonder what these people would have to say if they watched a hurricane or earthquake lay waste to their hometown or kill their friends and loved ones.
As Canadians, we have been fortunate enough to live in a sound geographical area, hardly ever exposed to natural disaster. We have become complacent with the way we live and, despite often elevating ourselves above our American neighbours, are very guilty players in our consumer culture. It is easy to brush these events off as inevitable and refuse to change. It would be interesting to see how the age-old phrase, “even an atheist prays in a foxhole,” would hold up if only we weren’t so fortunate.