SOMEONE ELSE’S WINDOWS: Melting Point: Grappling with Sea Level Rise (Last of a series)

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/23 May) – Science says planet Earth is around 4.5 billion years old, and the universe at least 13 billion years old. Interestingly, many of humanity’s technological advances have happened less than 100 years ago, in particular during the second half of the previous century.

On a cosmic scale, this is just a wink in the eye of time. Yet, it was also the same period that saw the world come closer to the brink of environmental damage the magnitude of which humanity may find hard to accept. And mainly because we believed in the assurance that fossil fuel did not pose a risk to the environment. As early as the 1970s, climate experts who began studies on the behavior of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet warned the opposite is true. Nobody seemed to listen then, but they have been vindicated with the new finding that the collapse of that ice sheet has become irreversible.

The unfolding global catastrophe may be likened to the fate of Mathilde Loisel, the main character in Guy de Maupassant’s “The Necklace”. Mathilde, a girl born to a family of clerks, gets married to a clerk (M. Loisel), although she dreams of a flamboyant lifestyle.

Mathilde finds a good time to shine when one day her husband comes home with an invitation to a party thrown by his boss, the Minister of Education. She buys herself a dress and – this is where the couple’s woes begin – borrows a diamond necklace from her friend, Mme. Forestier for a night of vanity.

The borrowed jewelry makes Mathilde a stunner at the party, where they stay until the break of dawn. But upon going home, she is shocked to know that the necklace is gone! After failing to find it again she and her husband decide to buy a new necklace worth 36,000 francs to replace the lost one, forcing them to go heavily into debts. For the next 10 years, the Loisels find themselves stripped of their house and what little comforts they have just to be able to pay the debts. And when it is over Mathilde is hardly a shadow of her once beautiful self.

That is not where the sad story ends. After the debts are paid, Mathilde tells Mme. Forestier about the lost necklace and the suffering they endure because of it, only to find out from her friend that it was a fake and worth only 500 francs.

The “progress” we have had made with the wanton use of fossil fuel may well be the lost necklace that costs the Loisels the little money and comforts they have. Like the clueless husband and wife who never bother to ask Mme. Forestier about the jewelry’s real worth, we have been enthralled by its deceitful glitter.

But there are real gems that we have taken for granted: the crystal sheets in Antarctica and the Arctic that ring the poles like necklaces. Sadly, there’s no stopping the meltdown. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at