According to environmental advocacy group Conservation International, every 20 minutes sees another earthly species shuffles off its mortal coile into extinction. The organization’s Web site even has a spiffy countdown clock indicating when another species of animal has made a permanent transition to the fossil record. At present (post-New Year’s Eve) writing, I’m unable to do the math in my head, but I’ll hazard that 2008 saw the departure of, like, a lot of endangered flora and fauna. As harrowing as such realizations may be, the pop-cultural blowback is similarly upsetting. Consider the remake of “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” in which Keanu Reeves is sent to Earth as an eco-Jesus with orders to terminate the carbon-emitting blight known as humanity, but instead decides to redeem us because Jennifer Connelly has a great pair of eyebrows. At least, that’s what I’m assuming – I had lost faith by the third act, when laser sight-scopes projected stigmata onto Reeves’ palms. “Klaatu barada nikto.” Translation: “Forgive Hollywood, they know not what they do.”
I know I don’t know what I’m doing, at least as pertains to how I’ve managed most of my years upon this earth. Looking back at the legacy of consumer waste I’ve trailed throughout my lifetime, I should just put my carbon footprint in my mouth and shut up. I’d put a bag over my head from the shame, but only if it’s reusable, 100-percent post-consumer waste. And from Bloomingdale’s. Yes, even the iconic “Big Brown Bag” comes in an eco-friendly, vinyl model – a socially savvy upgrade to the version first introduced 35 years ago. It’s so very, I daren’t cut airholes in it.
In some ways, the climate calamity and the current real estate bust are more cosmic providence than coincidence. To put it bluntly, we’ve trashed our astronomical real estate – like a global frat party, but without the benefit of space cop Keanu coming to bust it up. We’ve digested the world and are left with the results – a vast turd lobbed at the eye of all creation. Weren’t we supposed to uncover a monolith by now? Isn’t there some mysterious emblem of extraterrestrial otherness just beyond the event horizon to tell us just to jiggle the handle instead of flushing it all away? Where’s my bone-wielding monkey? Oh, that’s right – according to “Primates in Peril,” a joint project of the World Conservation Union, the International Primatological Society and Conservation International, “deforestation, commercial bushmeat hunting and illegal animal trading” have put “25 percent of the 625 known primate species at risk of extinction.”
First off, “bushmeat?” Sounds like a tape that should never have left the White House. Second off, have we forgotten that we too are primates? Don’t we all have opposable thumbs? We should be texting each other “kla2” rather than “commercial bushmeat hunting.” Considering that our genes differ from those of our primate brethren by a mere two percent, someone should tell the bushmeat aficionados that they’re 98 percent cannibal.
I think it’s telling that Koko the ape, who allegedly communicated with sign language, famously coined the term “animal-person” to refer to her species. She might have been pointing at a mirror, or perhaps, simply mimicking us. We are “animal-people,” a contradictory construct of nature and its defiance within ourselves. These aren’t novel thoughts – in this moment, I’m just the hundredth monkey with a typewriter regurgitating platitudes I learned from the movies. It’s fascinating how Hollywood continually finds new ways to kiss-off the world with apocalipstick. The current iteration – global warming – seems the most accurate to date, trailed closely by Cold War’s nuclear winter, which was the subject of the original incarnation of “The Day The Earth Stood Still.” Suffice it to say, Klaatu isn’t coming. Koko sad.