Our memory originally evolved as a survival tool. In its most biological definition, you may say that our memory has merely been there to help us learn from our past, so that we can recognize danger and avoid it in the future. Almost all species have some level of memory installed, for this purpose.
But at the same time, memory is like a borrowed video camera. We are all given one at birth, without any explanations or a manual on how to use it. We sail off into the world with our empty film and begin recording everything in our sight: images, conversations, sounds and smells. Initially there is no sorting or “filing system” to process this, as the millions of images come pouring in, flooding our hard drive. Just for a moment, we become crystal-clear Mirrors of the Earth.
But then the judgments begin. Our raw memories go through the filters of society, and what we are told is right or wrong. Images become flagged as “danger”. Others become revered, idolized, earning the flag “be more like this”. They become etched on the top of our memory forever as stereotypes and ideals that we need to follow.
The vast majority, by far, earn the flag “ignore”. With just one swipe, they are archived into the back room of our consciousness. But they are not deleted, they are still there. They may have been shamed, neglected, cast aside, but they are part of us, part of the world we’ve seen and the places we’ve been. They are the true, unbiased and unfiltered image of the world, and of who we really are. Sometimes you need to open an old, dusty photo album to remember who you are and where you came from, and see the same exact images, this time without the filters. Suddenly things become much more clear. You begin to see them for what they really are.
Those of us in the environmental movement know this all too well. We have had our wake up call one way or another, when others are still preoccupied with putting out the fires constantly springing up in their day-to-day existence, unable to see the much bigger fire of climate change that is burning already. They are growing their families, their incomes, their homes, when the planet itself cannot support any more growth. And rather than the fires, it is the smoke that is the most dangerous: it is the smoke of denial, apathy and complacency that billows thicker than ever. Reason gives way to the flames of vitriol, anger and frustration on all sides. The memories that matter become lost. Our video camera is stuck on repeat, playing the same message over and over again like a propaganda mantra.
The more smoke enters our field of vision, the more our world becomes blind to its own memories. The more humanity is overtaken by multiple simultaneous crises, the more irrational and blind it becomes. As the flames of vitriol begin to die down, grief sets in. And then defeat, as the smoke finally clears and an endless charred landscape is revealed, as far as the eye can see.
This book is my own, personal, Noah’s Ark of memories. I wrote it for myself. It is my photo album. It is there to remind me of why I love my planet. It is my record of how I would like to remember it, whatever the outcome. There is no rhetoric, no well-constructed arguments or vitriolic rants in this book. Just pictures, make of them what you wish. They speak for themselves. Thank you for reading.