Exploring the Human Civilization Enigma - Episode 3

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Having stopped because the very tall, the very short, and the very fat are all staring at the window, you attempt to draw their attention to continue the conversation, but to no avail. They are fixated at the window although it is shut from the inside and the outside and the blinds are drawn. You ask yourself: What are they looking at? Are they fascinated with the tiny strawberry and grape patterns on the blinds? Maybe; after all, we have just been discussing human health and healthy eating.

No… They are listening to something important; a voice from the outside getting persistently louder, and as it gets louder, you become more curious. You open the window to encounter a cloud of thick white smoke that persistently rises from the right, the left, and the front. When you look back, you cannot find the three; you look at the window, but you cannot see anything. The sound gets louder and louder; the smoke threatens to enter the room. The people in the house wake up because of the loud noise; they shout: They are destroying the palace at the street’s corner… close the windows tight; the smoke will suffocate us.

You hear the neighbors exclaiming: How can they destroy the palace? It is more than 300 years old… It is built in the Greek style…It is an artistic and architectural gem… It can be a touristic sight… What is happening? Who allowed this? It is a city landmark… This is chaos… You interject, objecting: How can they destroy the palace? In this way? At this hour? The smoke threatens to suffocate us as the dust bombards us!

Closing the window depressed and defeated, you return to bed to find the three ghosts under it looking up at you from underneath the bed in sadness and misery. What is this? Do they feel fear and sadness? Do they have feelings like ours and are affected by what affects us? The three sneak out, their facial expression changing from sadness to surprise to puzzlement, so you ask them: Do you feel fear and sadness as we do? Aren’t you advanced creatures with supernatural powers? Why did you hide under the bed? Will the bed protect you from what is happening outside?

The very tall one asks you: What is happening outside? You answer him surprisingly: Haven’t you heard? They are destroying a house on the street. The fat one screams: This is a crime; if you have the right to build on this planet these ugly buildings that pollute the sight with their stupid designs and horrible material with which they are built, then you do not have the right to destroy, polluting the air with this suffocating dust, and polluting the ears with these disturbing noises.

The very short one interrupts, repeating the same sentence: I want to leave this planet… I want to leave this planet. The very tall one pats him on the shoulder: Calm down my friend, we will leave very soon; but we have not completed our mission yet. The short one continues repeating the same sentence: I want to leave this planet… You intervene conversing with them as you did before: I cannot but apologize to you for what you have seen on our planet; we are good creatures, but what you have seen is the behavior of some people, not all people, who want to…

The very tall one interrupts: Calm down our friend; we know very well that what we have seen is none of your fault. Since we landed on your beautiful planet… excuse me, your once beautiful planet; since we landed on it, we have seen very grave images. He then moves towards his colleagues, continuing his speech: Do you remember the beautiful river in that far away continent where they were dumping animal carcasses? Do you remember that green ethyl factories in the northern continent dumping their wastes in the farms?

The very fat adds: We remember very well those lunatics burying radioactive wastes near beet and plum farms; they are condemning their own selves with their own hands. The short one continues repeating his sentence: I want to leave this planet… The very tall one continues directing his speech at you, still patting the short one’s shoulder to soothe him: The environment is not just a beautiful calm sea to look at, or a spacious house overlooking a blue lake surrounded with vegetation and lemon trees from all sides; the environment if all this planet you are living on, and as we told you before when we were talking about civilization and what it means…

The fat one intervenes repeating his earlier speech: You have inhabited a paradise full of God’s wealth; who ruined it like that? You cannot help laughing in misery and sadness, responding: You have all the right, and I agree with you; the environment is not just the destruction of this house. The talk about the environment and planet Earth is endless; we, the inhabitants of this planet, have held numerous conferences and endless debates on protecting the environment; but, as you can see, it is Man’s unawareness and greed…

The very short one explodes: I want to leave this planet… I want to leave this planet… The tall one speaks with focus: My friend, slackness and negligence in protecting your environment have their indirect negative consequences, which are much bigger and much more dangerous than their known ones. Environmental pollution and lack of environmental balance maintenance will lead to the gradual disintegration of the feasible limit that allows you to live on this Earth healthily and safely… Environment, my friend, is… The very short one interrupts in a voice that is louder than the sound of the demolition in the street: I want to leave this planet… I want to leave this planet…

Illustrations by Mohamed Khamis.

The episode was published in SCIplanet printed magazine, Summer 2014 issue.

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SCIplanet is a bilingual edutainment science magazine published by the Bibliotheca Alexandrina Planetarium Science Center and developed by the Cultural Outreach Publications Unit ...
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