The Garden of Earthly Delights A moral warning

The Garden of Earthly Delights


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We have been warned.

This year across all continents, we have seen an unprecedented level of flooding from melting polar ice and supercharged rain-bombs that deluged towns and cities, heat waves roasting hundreds of millions of people with sizzling temperatures, unprecedented levels of drought on track to be the worst in 2000 years, and uncontrollable raging wildfires that released record amounts of carbon dioxide to further heat our planet.

These extreme catastrophes have wreaked havoc on the lives of billions of people, with staggering costs in human suffering and economic loss, incurring costs that are borne disproportionately by the most vulnerable people.  To many climate experts, these events offer just a glimpse of what lies ahead in our future because of climate change. The accelerating scale of the crisis is stark and terrifying.

It brings to mind the triptych oil painting in the opening scene of the 2016 film ‘Before the Flood’ that inspired its name – The Garden of Earthly Delights. Painted by Netherlandish master Hieronymous Bosch around 1500 AD.

It connects with the time just before the narrative of a great flood, which more or less wiped out humanity because of its sinful ways and gluttony – the over-indulgence and over-consumption of food, drink, or wealth items, particularly as status symbols.     

Bosh paints with deep insight into humanity’s desires and fears, shedding light on the chaos and sins of man’s soul. Its narrative in the second and third panel stages a view of paradise with humankind before the flood and the frightening consequences of damnation, a moral warning in a series of events so eerily similar to the global turmoil in the 21st century.

We are seeing how fragile civilization is in this era of human caused climate emergencies as floods, heatwaves, fires, droughts and polar vortex accelerate in power and regularity, posing increasingly tough questions about the way we live. The transformations in our landscape and its impact on people is traumatic and overwhelming. The most worrying part is that climate scientists have been repeating the same dire warnings since the late 80’s and there is still a disconnect. In our insatiable desire to consume more, we are now living through the long forewarned crisis as we turn our planet Earth into a hellish landscape.

The deadly extremes are now at our doorstep and it is going to get worse unless we do something about it on a large enough scale to make a meaningful difference.  

Climate change is not just a scientific, economic and political issue, it is also an ethical issue that reflects our morals and values. Many of us who are privileged have chosen not to take responsibility for our wasteful and carbonized lifestyles that enjoy short-term conveniences, status symbols, gas guzzling vehicles, food for all seasons, fast fashion, and jet-set travel … and the cheaper, the-better.

In a divided world where climate and financial pledges made during COP 21 have not been kept, there is a huge crisis of trust. COP26 in Glasgow has been called ‘the last chance to avoid the worst effects of climate change’ before it becomes unmanageable and all countries must focus sharply on reducing emissions till 2030, rather than the too distant 2050 goal when most government leaders making these pledges will no longer be around. 

Many people have found it easy to ignore the ethics of climate change and this fact raises difficult questions about fairness and justice.  For governments and persons in the developed world, do we have a moral responsibility for our carbon footprint and …

… should we support countries devastated by climate change?

… should we support the 1.2 billion climate refugees who will loose their homes in the next few decades?

…. should we protect the planet for future generations?

Absolutely YES and it must be NOW!

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