Project_PsssT_Draft2 (1)

National Geographic / Stillness

From Australia to Alaska, through the jungles of the Amazon, across the peaks of the Himalayas or the Congo River, if you put a finger across your lips and say pssst, everyone will understand that your gesture means ‘silence’.

The warming, pollution and destruction of Earth is just as universal as a problem as pssst is universal as a symbol!

For the past 25 years we have talked about this issue, discussed it, reported on it, debated it and signed agreements that no one respects. It is the time to stop that now, time to think. It is the time now for … a minute of silence.

We have to understand this. Today. Everything changes. And everything will change. The desperate struggle for natural resources and land, the strife between humans and animals, has assumed incredibly brutal proportions. Scarcity for the many and abundance for the few stand hand in hand, fueling selfishness and greed and unspeakable violence against the innocent.

Instead of the future cities of glass and green, as we imagined the 21st century would be, most of the urban world today lives in dust and dirt, surrounded by pollution and waste. Two thirds of all homes on Earth today are built from recycled plastics, discarded bricks, cardboard and scrap iron.

There is no turning back. It is no longer possible to prevent the arrival of the climate change — it is already here, clear and visible. Nevertheless, one should not be pessimistic. It is not too late yet to avoid the worst. It is not too late yet to start changing — ourselves for a start, in order to become less cruel to others. We will unfortunately have to give up some things; we will have to forgo some luxuries, habits and desires we have thought common.

The crisis is big, comprehensive; it changes everything. It is changing even the things we can do today, but also the things we can hope for. The formula of progress, alas, still includes exploitation, pollution and, in the end … destruction.

There are 55 million migrants in the world today, the largest number since World War II. Not all of them flee war. If you were born as a peanut farmer in Senegal, or a fisherman in Indonesia, the information that Germany annually discharges more carbon dioxide into the ozone layer than all of Africa is no longer just a number; it means the barren land in your hands and the empty nets in your boat. Statistics becomes drought. Or flood. Or an earthquake. Or erosion. Or war.

Many are thus forced to leave their land because of our progress. Yet, our governments continue to produce even more modern weapons, build ever more technologically perfect walls and adopt ever more stringent anti-immigration laws.

Shall we be reasonable enough to use the wealth wisely and heal the wounded and divided planet, put an end to the suffering of the people trapped in poverty, and forge a bond of humanity, security and common goals over and above all the differences, cultures and religions?

Nature speaks but the Man does not listen. So, let’s stop just for a moment. The Earth says pssst to every one of us. Quietly. Asking us to give it a minute. A minute of silence. Let us imagine, let us conceive, that something great, wonderful, and much greater than ourselves is disappearing.

Let us listen to the Earth … for that one minute could otherwise turn into eternity. And there will be no chance to escape.