There’s a real Martin Niemoller “First they came…” sadness in Damian Carrington’s story in The Guardian.
This is another in a long line of stories warning that our actions are causing an extinction level event. People are slowly waking up to the facts, but a large proportion remain silent, either wilfully ignorant, or openly hostile to the idea that our behaviours need to change.
For some reason this makes me think of Martin Niemoller, a prominent Lutheran pastor in Germany, and critic of Adolf Hitler. He spent several years in a Nazi concentration camp, and after the war believed Germans had been complicit, through their silence, in Nazi atrocities.
He wrote this very famous speech.
First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.
I don’t think our crisis is quite as linear as Mr Niemoller’s, ours is more of a cascade, that gets exponentially worse with every pound of material extracted from the planet. You might describe our complicity in our own destruction like this.
First they destroyed an insect, and I did nothing – I was not an insect.
Then they destroyed an amphibian, and I did nothing – I was not an amphibian.
Then they destroyed a reptile, and I did nothing – I was not a reptile.
Then they destroyed a fish, a bird, and a mammal, and I did nothing – I was none of those things.
But that was not enough.
They kept on killing.
Until they destroyed all of the insects. And still I did nothing – because they are a pest.
Until they destroyed all of the amphibians. And still I did nothing – because they were in the way.
Until they destroyed all of the reptiles. And still I did nothing – because they are on my land.
Until they destroyed all of the fish, and all of the birds, and all of the mammals.
And still I did nothing.
Because there was nothing left.
That’s more of a word game than some lofty attempt at poetry, but unless we do something to stop our current trajectory there will be nothing left.
The earth will survive but we will not.