Everyday we wake up to a new crisis. We’re running out of water; 3 in 10 people don’t have access to clean water. We’re running out of food; millions and millions of people across countries are facing acute hunger. Yet, enough waste has been produced to surpass all of humanity’s combined weight. All this has been further amplified because of climate change. We know all this. We’re aware. Then, why don’t we talk about it? The challenge we’re facing is not only scientific or technical; it’s psychological.
Did our survival instinct not survive?
We’ve evolved because of our survival instinct so why isn’t it kicking in at the possibility of our planet being destroyed? About 80% of news surrounding climate change is done in a catastrophe tone of voice. Being surrounded by negativity constantly has desensitized us to it; we’re going through something called “apocalypse fatigue” – we’re literally tired of the negative narrative being told to us. And so, we turn to a quick, easy, most definitely silly meme – Storming Area 51. The meme culture is our generation’s coping mechanism.
Memes - nonsensical yet meaningful?
Living in India, a post about storming Area 51 that’s far far away seems unrelatable but add the context of government keeping secrets from the people – boom! almost everybody can relate to it. We’re social animals. When we see somebody post about our irrational fears, we feel less alone. The climate/water/food crisis consequences seem too abstract and distant. It’s not anymore. Yet, we continue to distance ourselves from the risk. If my city were to run out of water, it’ll first affect the poorest, then those living on the outskirts. It’ll be many years before the crisis actually gets to me. The reason why we may not see a lot of climate/water/food crisis memes is because we’ve distanced ourselves from it.
The Bystander Effect
TBH, 21st century has its own 21st century problems. Anxiety and depression are at an all-time high. Stress-related diseases have become the norm. So, we look for ways to shoulder less responsibility. We compartmentalize. We know the damage single-use plastic causes but we shift the responsibility from ourselves to the restaurant not keeping sustainable alternatives. There’s a cloud of ambiguity over who should be held responsible. And so, a lot of time is spent arguing over who should be taking action rather than taking action ourselves. So let’s ask ourselves this: “Am I doing something about this crisis? Or am I just a bystander watching the crisis unfold?”
I have a dream
I have a dream that we will win this challenge – gloriously. I have a dream that we will overcome our “apocalypse fatigue” and talk about how we really feel about the challenge in front of us. I have a dream that we will have more people band together to positively talk about the climate/water/food challenge than the Area 51 meme did. I have a dream that we will not be bystanders, we will be active change agents. I have a dream that we’ll receive many many memes talking about climate/water/food challenge.