At the Edge of the Apocalypse
As virtually all climate scientists agree, and as report after report confirm, it is a practical certainty that Typhoon Haiyan and other extreme weather events (like last year’s Superstorm Sandy, and Typhoon Bopha) not only result from climate change, climate change is anthropogenic. That is, not only are extreme weather catastrophes caused by climate change, climate change is caused by human activity. What should be added, as well, is that the activity that contributes to climate change is not just any activity. It is human activity of a particular type.
Much of the human activity of indigenous cultures, for instance (which in many respects recognize the degree to which our lives are intertwined in the larger enigmatic world, and consequently exhibit a degree of respect and care for the natural world – one at odds with the efforts of our present economic Order to turn every natural resource into a commodity) do not, in any significant manner, contribute to climate change. To be sure, many of these groups are at the forefront of battling it. Nor do these cataclysmic, extreme weather events result from various forms of sexual activity – as numerous superstitious preachers contend. Rather, these catastrophes are largely the result of activity that is inextricable from an industrial, profit-based, commodity economy. And as economies continue to grow, deforming the forests and mountains and other natural resources of the world into so many plastic cups, and hamburgers, among other things, these extreme weather catastrophes – as a necessary counteraction, or byproduct – are only increasing.
Derived from the Greek term Apo, which means ‘away from’, and Kalyptein, which means ‘hidden’, apocalypse literally means ‘away from the hidden’ – or, in other words, Revelation. But just what is being revealed? And how does this primary meaning of the term apocalypse fit with its secondary meaning – with its identification with the end of the world?
When our very way of life (organized by a coercive, plutocratic political-economic system) is revealed to be the utterly destructive, unsustainable, system that it is – that is, when what is still, to some degree, a secret becomes a broadly accepted fact, the first type of revelation will lead to the second. The revelation of this Order’s fundamental injustice will lead to the dissolution of popular support; and, as history repeatedly demonstrates, when popular support for, and faith in, a given order evaporates, that concrete order quickly collapses. In other words, apocalypse should not be construed to simply mean the end of the world. Rather than the end of the world in general, apocalypse refers to the end of a particular type of world: the unjust world. And as we breathe, this unjust, reckless, exploitative world is peeling away; and the real possibility of a new, just world is being born.