Intercultural Extraneity

Giving the Earth a break

This post explores how meaning is negotiated and created. To do so, it examines a meme and includes at least one alternative interpretation. It also reflects on the cognitive bias that can affect how we generate and disseminate meaning in our own social networks.

The meme

Shortly after the lockdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, pictures showing dolphins returning to Venice canals and the Himalayas being visible from India for the first time in decades started circling the Internet. This was followed by numerous memes depicting these phenomena. We came across this meme which illustrates what the world looked like before COVID and what it looks like after it.

Environmental problems such as climate change, global warming, pollution, and species extinction have been major issues for society during the last century. However, this year, with the lockdown happening, and people having to stay at home, thus not exhausting the Earth’s resources as much as they normally do, the Earth started to heal itself. With no tourists on the streets and fewer cars on the roads, the air became clearer, rivers and seas cleaner; all in all, the environment became healthier. And we were rewarded for “giving the Earth a break” with a peek at how beautiful our planet actually is.

What is the message?

We are behaving rather irresponsibly towards our environment, and because of it, our planet suffers. The burning dinosaur is an extremely precise comparison to what we are putting our planet through. We are torturing it. However, with just a few months without us abusing it, it started to flourish again.
This video shows in what ways the world has changed in the last few months.

What goes without saying?
This just shows humans as a species have become self-centered and uninterested in anything that doesn’t concern them. We grow up learning in schools that in order for us to be healthy we need to keep our environment healthy as well, but we don’t seem to care very much about it when we became adults.

How can its symbolic content be interpreted in a different way, through a different lens?

If this meme was viewed through a different lens, e.g. from a point of view of an asocial person, he or she might interpret it in a way that depicts the world before Covid-19 as a scary place that they had trouble engaging in, while after not having been allowed to participate in any social activities for a few months, they came to think of it as a magical, thriving place that they’ve missed.

Reflecting on the article “Why speculate” by Michael Crichton

The media are full of stories that talk about the possible effects of current events, however, these stories are all speculations. Nobody knows what the future holds, and thus nobody can claim what might happen after a certain event. One of the problems that stem from these speculations is the problem of credibility of the news presented to us via media. There is a general belief that if something appears on television, for example, it must be true, because “it is forbidden to lie on national television”. When looking at it from a broader point of view this can be very dangerous, because it can represent a powerful tool for those in power with which they can influence people’s choices. Moreover, if a person reads an article about something he or she is an expert in, and they see that the things written make no sense, they tend to move on to the next article completely forgetting about the one that made no sense, and taking the information in this new one seriously. Another problem is that if there are so many speculations around us, does that mean that they must be valuable in some way. Although the analogy with the pony joke is funny, it perfectly explains what happens when we are swamped with endless possibilities of future scenarios. We give them value and meaning when in truth there is no way of anyone knowing what the future holds. However, with speculating you “can’t lose”, because whatever you say today is forgotten by tomorrow. Nevertheless, there is a way of avoiding speculations, and that is by going the extra mile in making sure your information is correct.

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