While reading the Van Wyck reading “Signs of Danger: Waste, Trauma, and Nuclear Threat”, there was a recurring question of mine as to why human beings choose to disregard foreseeable dangers to the environment. The nuclear waste monument featured in the reading seemed to be horrifically beautiful in nature: “For what lies beneath must never be celebrated, yet in some fashion must always be remembered” (p.2). This related to the disregard seen in current society. Car emissions, trash pollution, smoking, and many other bad habits are still commonly seen simply by walking outside. Although it is seemingly well know that all of the variables result in the slow breakdown of the ozone layer, cancer among users and those in close contact, and the breakdown of natural elements due to the lack of concern seen within those living on earth. Considering we see that we are going to one day expect a huge collapse or reprimand for our behavior, we look to the future for solutions. Instead of understanding the importance of our actions we hope that those in the future will have more knowledge to fix the issues or we think, simply, that it’s not a current problem affecting ME.
“Ecological threats are awkward and dangerous and lively, and very difficult to picture. They cannot be adequately contained within an arithmetic of risk and probability. As ecological threats they threaten the very basis of what supports organic life, and they threaten too the very symbolic universe within which threat itself has meaning” (p.3). The quote from the reading speaks to why there may be such disregard. It’s hard to understand, for example, what will actually happen if the ozone layer disappears: scientists tell individuals, studies predict the drastic dangers, but there is no one who has seen the actual result. Nor does anyone know the exact time or variables needed to cause the event. Therefore, humans are simply waiting for their own destruction, hoping that it will be more future tense than present.
On page five of the reading, Van Wyck claims that large steps would be made if there was not as much of a focus on what has not yet happened. “ Not history as the site of the now (Benjamin), but the present as the site of the “not yet.” This is the particular messianism of threat. Not yet” (p.5). Belief in the ominous statement is what is truly needed to change the present-focused mind of the average human being. “Not yet” implies that something will happen. It’s not a question of if, it’s a statement that determines the future based on actions that are done now. Ecological threats do not neatly cut along lines of class or location, victim and perpetrator, and do not adhere to assumptions about sovereignty or geopolitical regions. Unlike previous industrial threats that could be located and circumscribed, understood and written off, ecological threats are chimerical” (p.3). In other words no one is safe. If there is not a group effort to stop the detrimental effects of human life on earth, there will be no future to look to. Instead of thinking of what may happen because of actions done in the present, humans should expand their minds to understand the true damage their actions WILL cause to themselves or someone else in the indefinite future.