I have been writing for quite some time about disappearing islands, the dying coral reefs, the melting ice, the thinned-out tuna, plastic in the Mariana Trench and in the stomachs of albatrosses, as well as whales beaching to die, crushed under their own bodyweight. My mind is set on one idea; my friends can be certain that at some point every conversation will turn into a debate on the catastrophe. I feel that something frightening is happening, that we can stop it, and that we are not doing enough. When I am in a darker mood, I figure that we will all die anyway, no matter how many straws I refuse with my drinks, or if I say for the hundredth time: “No bag for me, please”. This is not enough. Just as the global school strikes are not enough, or Greta Thunberg’s charisma, or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s struggle for the Green New Deal. The Extinction Rebellion, the Birth Strikers, or the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement – all of that is not enough. Even more, science reports and the Paris Accords will not suffice either. On a bad day, I am convinced that we have condemned ourselves to extinction.
I regain balance in a house by the woods, half way to the East. In March, I sit on the veranda covered in a blanket, contemplating the black earth and leafless branches. In April, I take off my sweater, turn my face to the sun and take my first walk barefoot on damp soil. The madness has started: shoots, buds, stems, blades, crumpled chestnut leaves, like the little green ladies’ silk coats from Andrzej Bobkowski’s prose. The world is turning green, as if apologising for its frigid absence. And then colours explode. Tulips, phlox, aquilegias, weigelas, forget-me-nots, wisterias, apple and cherry trees. A neighbour is sowing rapeseed, lilacs go into bloom by the fence. And then you have the woods. A fifteen minute walk is enough to melt the teeming anxiety and the sense of loss, which I always recognise a bit too late. I meet deer with young ones, a fox sniffing on the road, and a hare hiding under a wild blueberry bush. The closer to summer it is, the shinier the spiderweb threads stretched across the ever greener branches are.
I find peace in Nature, just like many people before me.
“IT IS WORSE, much worse, than you think.” This sentence opens The Uninhabitable Earth. Life after Warming by David Wallace-Wells. The American journalist, who has been writing for the last three years about climate change for New York Magazine, does not play subtle. The climate catastrophe is the effect of ignorance, indolence, and indifference, he says. And he immediately adds that it is as if our entire civilisation has decided to lock itself in a garage, open the car windows and start the engine. In the last three decades, we have released more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than in all the time from the Lascaux cave paintings to the first season of Friends (Wallace-Wells mentions the premiere of Seinfield, but Friends are more my cup of tea). This means that more than half of the CO2 in the atmosphere has been released during our lifetime. And worse, we have been aware of what is at stake. As early as 1992, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change was agreed during the Earth Summit. It began:
“Acknowledging that change in the Earth’s climate and its adverse effects are a common concern of humankind, concerned that human activities have been substantially increasing the atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, that these increases enhance the natural greenhouse effect, and that this will result on average in an additional warming of the Earth’s surface and atmosphere and may adversely affect natural ecosystems and humankind…”
This litany of concerns spans over a dozen paragraphs. Even back then, The Convention assumed international co-operation to limit emissions of greenhouse gasses, and it recognised their ill effect on climate stability. Since that time – Wallace-Wells reminds us – environmental scientists have been drawing a succession of bright red lines with a warning sign Do not cross! But we step over them anyway. We are behaving as if we were deaf and blind. When the Kyoto Protocol was being signed in 1997, all parties agreed that a global warming of two degrees (to 2100) equalled catastrophe. Wallace-Wells explains what these two degrees mean: “flooded cities, crippling droughts and heat waves, a planet battered daily by hurricanes and monsoons we used to call ‘natural disasters’, but will soon normalize as simply ‘bad weather’.” Yet, in 2016, when the 21st UN Conference on Climate Change agreed on the text of the Paris accords, the two-degree global temperature increase was set as the limit which we cannot cross. Three years on, and it looks like the two degrees is our best-case scenario. If we maintain the current rate of fossil fuel consumption, if we fail to introduce swift and serious changes, then the end-of-century temperatures will increase at best by three degrees (this is three times more that the increase we are currently experiencing; in 2019, the temperature was hovering at around one degree more than in the pre-industrial era). The darkest forecasts envision eight degrees and more.
With an eight-degree temperature increase, people living in the tropics will not be able to leave their homes. Their bodies will not be able to emit the body heat fast enough, so they would boil to death within just a few hours.
In his book, Wallace-Wells presents his vision of a warming world. He delves into existing studies and describes what life on Earth will look like with growing temperatures. With a two-degree growth, which is still achievable if we limit our emissions soon, “the ice sheets will begin their collapse, 400 million more people will suffer from water scarcity, major cities in the equatorial band of the planet will become unliveable, and even in the northern latitudes heat waves will kill thousands each summer. There will be thirty-two times as many extreme heat waves in India, and each would last five times as long, exposing ninety-three times more people,” he says. Oceans will rise by half a metre, water will flood cities like Jakarta, Bangkok, Dhaka, Shanghai, Hong Kong, London, Miami and Houston, just to name a few; to say nothing of the island nations of the Pacific. Entire nations will be forced to search for new land. The World Bank predicts 140 million climate refugees, while the UN forecasts 200 million – quotes Wallace-Wells. Air pollution will grow and 150 million more people will die than if temperatures were to grow by 1.5 degrees.
Wallace-Wells wants to send shockwaves and perhaps this approach will work at last. 150 million people – he explains – that’s twenty-five times more people than there were victims of the Holocaust. So, our best-case scenario means 25 such Holocausts.
And what will happen if temperature growth exceeds the two-degree mark? Well, no problem, we can estimate that too. Wallace-Wells falls back on additional credible studies. If the temperature goes up by three degrees, the world will be plagued by drought. Southern Europe will suffer, but the most serious effects will be felt by nations closer to the tropics; the drought in North Africa will last on average sixty months longer than now. Sixty months is five years. Areas destroyed by fires will double in the Mediterranean and increase six fold in the US. A four-degree growth will lead to famine every year and eight million more dengue fever sufferers in Latin America alone. The Alps will look like the Atlas Mountains: parched and arid.
It’s hard to imagine the numbers quoted by Wallace-Wells:
“Damages from river flooding would grow thirtyfold in Bangladesh, twentyfold in India, and as much as sixtyfold in the United Kingdom. In certain places, six climate-driven natural disasters could strike simultaneously, and, globally, damages could pass $600 trillion – more than twice the wealth as exists in the world today.”
With an eight-degree temperature increase, people living in the tropics will not be able to leave their homes. Their bodies will not be able to emit the body heat fast enough, so they would boil to death within just a few hours.
Wallace-Wells paints a picture of an over-populated, hungry and frustrated world. He describes what he calls the elements of chaos that await us, each in a separate chapter. Heat death. Hunger. Drowning. Wildfire. Freshwater drain. Dying oceans. Unbreathable air. Economic collapse. Climate conflict. We can add: wars. Refugees. More people, less food. And as if all this were not enough, the journalist tackles those aspects which, compared to natural disasters on an unimaginable scale, may seem trivial. Climate change will not hit us with a hurricane or a flood just once in a while. It will creep into our daily lives. We will not be able to enjoy our morning cup of coffee, because there may be a shortage of coffee from the tropics. We will not feel the autumn blues, because there will not be any autumn. We will not spend our holiday in a beach hut, unless it is built on very tall stilts. Those fortunate enough to have been born in the wealthy North are probably secretly counting on their wealth to save them, confident that money will trump nature. But no amount of money can stop a raging hurricane. And you can’t make a wall out of money to save you from a landslide. Wallace-Wells reminds us that this was a lesson learned by the residents of Santa Barbara county in California, a small paradise for the affluent. There was nothing that could have saved their vineyards, stables and golf-courses, beaches and pretty white houses with pools from the mud. The landslide of 2018 killed more than a dozen of them. And along with them died the conviction that, as far as climate is concerned, there is a difference between the rich and the poor. Mud floods us all the same, whether we speak of American financial elites, or the tents of the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh – concludes Wallace-Wells. For the moment, the nations of the South are paying the highest price for the climate crisis caused by the rich North. But climate change, although slow, is certainly just; it will affect us all.
Wallace-Wells refuses to relent. He is alarming, and it’s good. The time of dispassionate presentation of facts is over.
I read his book and I think that it’s better not to believe in reincarnation.
But even those who don’t, are in a fix. Because climate change is not some mythical monster that we can study for years on end, planning our strategies to defeat it: a magic sword, a mirror or even the legendary Polish calfskin filled with sulphur (fed by a fearless hero to a fire-breathing dragon hiding in a cave below Wawel castle in Kraków; the dragon exploded and the city was saved). It’s not a case of who will win. Because even if we manage to destroy the monster, we will not return to an unchanged world. And neither will the world die the moment the beast defeats us. Climate change is not a binary option: either it happens, or it doesn’t. This is a process which has already begun. This is our reality. It’s all the floods, droughts (and yes, also that common Polish-grown parsley root that in 2019 cost a whopping 25 zlotys [5.4 Euro] per kilogram), hurricanes, heatwaves and snowstorms which we are witnessing already, as we shake our heads in disbelief, grumbling that winters and summers are not what they used to be. And these are changes on a gigantic scale. Wallace-Wells presents it all in biblical proportions. An apocalypse is unfolding in front of our eyes. A small town in Maryland was afflicted by a once-in-a-thousand-years flood in 2016. And in 2018, the same locality was hit by yet another once-in-a-thousand-years flood. Houston, Texas was destroyed three years in a row by hurricanes, which should only occur once every 500 years (Wallace-Wells makes his calculations, and I will make my own: five hundred years ago Poland was ruled by the Jagiellonians, a war with the Teutonic order was just beginning, the country extended from the Baltic to the Black Sea and no one suspected that our neighbours would ever divide it, that the United States of America would come to be, two world wars would be fought, that we would discover the atom and be convinced we can tame it, and that instead of a king, we would be electing a president in a free and general election with voting rights for all, not just the male nobility).
Wallace-Wells multiplies the examples: floods in Kerala, wildfires in California, hurricanes in Ireland, heat waves in Denver, Tbilisi and Glasgow. The list can be supplemented by disasters in 2019: cyclone Idai in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi, more record-breaking temperatures in Australia, the latest flooding in Poland. The world as we have known it is disappearing. The concept of ‘normal weather’ acquires new meanings. Wallace-Wells explains that we are not about to transition from a world with one kind of stable weather to another; a world with a worse, but also stable climate. No, with the rising temperatures of the Earth, we are entering a de-stabilised world, where each process will trigger numerous additional processes. And we have caused this avalanche ourselves. It was brought about by the previous generation. Yet ours has a chance to slow things down and mitigate the effects. As all reports suggest, doing things later will be too late.
“WE FACE a direct existential threat. Climate change is moving faster than we are – and its speed has provoked a sonic boom SOS across our world. If we do not change course by 2020, we risk missing the point where we can avoid runaway climate change, with disastrous consequences for people and all the natural systems that sustain it. ”
These are the words of UN Secretary General António Guterres from September 2018. A month later, scientists from the IPCC (International Panel on Climate Change), a UN advisory body, published a report in which they categorically stated that CO2 emissions must be cut by half by 2030 (another red line), if we still want to meet the Paris goal of the maximum two degree warming by 2100 (which still means droughts, floods, heatwaves and 25 Holocausts). The accord was signed by 194 nations, but most of them are still at the planning stage for lowering their greenhouse gasses emissions. An internet meme pointedly illustrates the reaction of the Polish Government to the climate crisis: it shows coloured squares which represent different European countries and their various energy sources. The greener the square, the more renewable energy a country consumes, the blacker the square, the more coal-generated energy it uses. Dark grey stands for other fossil fuels, while light grey means nuclear power. Poland is a black square with a grey band and a thin green line. Internauts comment: Poland may have been a green island once, but these days it’s nothing but a black square (the pun eludes to the phrase “green island” which Polish politicians coined after the 2008 economic crisis, as Poland, unlike other European nations, did not suffer a recession). Meanwhile, the current Polish Government considers the fact that Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki managed to prevent the signing of the pact on Europe’s carbon neutrality by 2050 to be a great success.
In May of this year, IPBES (Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services at the UN) published a report on biodiversity. And actually, it’s a cry of despair. A synthesis of fifteen thousand scientific publications shows that we have lost eighty five percent of the world’s wetlands. Our actions are destroying the Earth; we have already led to the decreased productivity of as much as twenty three percent of the world’s land areas. Human activity has affected seventy five percent of land areas and sixty six percent of ocean areas. The authors of the report write that we currently have more food, energy and materials than ever before, and all that is at the cost of shrinking resources and diminishing possibilities of renewing them (The Earth Overshoot Day, when we exceed Earth’s capacity to regenerate the resources we consumed that year, was on 7 December in 1990, and 1 August in 2018). Yet eleven per cent of people are malnourished. That is eight hundred twenty five million people who are hungry, although we produce enough food. 825,000,000. Your imagination goes blank after the third zero. Roughly calculating, that’s twenty times the population of Poland. And several tens of millions more than the population of Europe. But that’s not all. We have depleted thirty three per cent of fish shoals in the oceans, and we are exploiting sixty percent of them to their limits. In section A5, we read that “Human actions threaten more species with global extinction now than ever before. An average of around 25 per cent of species in assessed animal and plant groups are threatened.” Twenty five per cent equates to one million species. One million species condemned to extinction as an effect of our actions. Biodiversity is shrinking not only due to climate change, but above all due to our intervention on land and in the seas, the direct exploitation of species and the generation of pollution. The current rate of disappearance of many species, indeed their extinction, has been ten to a hundred times more than the average of the past ten million years. As Edwin Bendyk states in his article for Polityka magazine on the UN report, “we are treading the path of biological annihilation.”
One thing which catches your attention in the IPBES report is its language. In the very first section, the authors write that nature is also: “inspiration and learning, physical and psychological experiences, and supporting identities. [these] are central to quality of life and cultural integrity, even if their aggregated value is difficult to quantify.”
At last, all that surrounds us is not reduced only to an economic value or an object of detached observation. The report also emphasises the non-economic and non-scientific dimension of nature. And it is an aspect which cannot be assessed, yet without which our life would lack quality. At best. Because after all, we are also a species subjected to extinction. The authors are clearly telling us that only far-reaching changes will save us; a genuine transformation on all levels, from the economy to politics to society. A transformation which will start with systemic actions, change our consumption habits and affect our values.
Unless we start now, we will lose not only rhinos, frogs, and food diversity on our plates (559 of 6,190 species of livestock disappeared by 2016). Nature is indispensable for human existence. Some things cannot be replaced. And we must realize this as soon as possible. Otherwise, humanity will engineer its own extinction.
Two weeks after the publication of the UN report, The Guardian announced that it would change its vocabulary when writing about the upcoming catastrophe. “Climate emergency” instead of “climate change”. “Global heating” rather than “global warming”. “Climate science denier”, in place of “climate sceptic”. Language must reflect reality. The Guardian also started to add information on CO2 levels in the air to its weather forecasts. “We want to ensure that we are being scientifically precise, while also communicating clearly with readers on this very important issue,” explained Katherine Viner, editor-in-chief. “The phrase ‘climate change’, for example, sounds rather passive and gentle when what scientists are really talking about is a catastrophe for humanity.”
EACH DAY BRINGS new depressing news. The CO2 concentration in the air has been growing faster in the last seven years than we predicted. In Brazil, 739 square kilometres of Amazonian jungle was cut down in just one month. In Malaysia, the last male Sumatran rhinoceros in the country has died; around thirty individuals may still be remaining somewhere in the Borneo jungle. Poland has earned the title of the ‘black poisoner of Europe’, yet some Polish editors are critical of the attempts of many cities to go green, while Poland’s Prime Minister proudly vetoed EU carbon neutrality. In Northern India, temperatures have reached 50 degrees Centigrade. A new report by scientists from the 27 national academies in the EASAC (European Academies Science Advisory Council) confirms that the climate crisis is ruining human health and contributing to various diseases, ranging from ailments resulting from air pollution to depression.
There is no end to it. And there will be no end; we have thrown a stone, and nothing will stop the avalanche we have triggered. We can only try to delay it. And mitigate its effects. With so much apocalyptic information flooding us, the advice in Mike Berners-Lee’s book There Is No Planet B. A Handbook for the Make or Break Years looks rather naïve. Berners-Lee, a professor at Lancaster University and a consultant at Lancaster Environment Centre, has already written about the carbon footprint (How Bad Are Bananas) and the climate crisis (The Burning Questions). This time he produced a manual on how to live through the changes. He collected answers to questions asked by himself, his friends, family, and readers. They all boiled down to one: What can I do to help save the Earth?
Berners-Lee begins with a short lecture on energy. Energy consumption is growing with every passing year. And we’re becoming increasingly more powerful year after year. The 2004 tsunami, which killed 230 thousand people, had the power equal to “24 hours’ worth of human global energy consumption at the time. 150 years ago, it would have taken humanity about a month to acquire and use the same amount of energy. Today it only takes us 18 hours.”
This is where the 50+ per cent increase in CO2 in the atmosphere over the last 30 years comes from. From our warm houses, our cars, our avocados flown from the other end of the globe. Once upon a time we did not have to worry about the equilibrium between us and Nature. Berners-Lee stresses that even if we would have consciously declared war on the Earth, we would not have had the power to destroy it. We reached a balance of powers around 70 years ago, when we started playing around with the atom. We realised that if we made enough mistakes, the Earth would be in serious trouble. Today, we do not need to do anything more to destroy it, warns Berners-Lee. The tables have turned. Now we must try really hard not to provoke a total disaster. So why are we doing so little?
The climate crisis is putting us on an emotional roller coaster. Crushed by the dimensions of the disaster, we become cruel to ourselves. We regret every flight, castigate ourselves for our own passivity, for not enough new trees planted.
In this context, Berners-Lee’s advice to restaurants to offer vegan dishes at least “as delicious, tempting and inspiring as anything else they sell” seems fanciful. We are dying here, and he is writing about the taste of tofu? But in his apparent naivety, Berners-Lee is right: the change which is affecting us is total. And the reply must be total as well. We need a new lifestyle for new times. This requires us to be mature and take responsibility for the mess we had created over the last decades. Yet are we adult enough to face the challenge?
The author offers guidance on nutrition and the economy. The questions he hears touch on the smallest details of daily lives. How urgently should I ditch my diesel? Is nuclear nasty? Should I go veggie or vegan? How much deforestation do soya beans cause? How much food energy do we need to eat? Should I fly? How bad are boats? How can I work out who and what to trust? What is a culture of truth? How should I spend my money? And (my favourite): when might we emigrate to another planet? (Answer: we don’t produce enough energy to dispatch much more than one small space shuttle per year.)
Berners-Lee’s answers boil down to just one thing: consciousness. We need to be conscious of our choices and their influence on the environment. Since you fly around Europe several times a year, perhaps you could get rid of your car? And if you have a car, maybe go vegan? But before you do, trace the carbon footprint of the veggies at your local shop. Since you eat fish, maybe stop buying new clothes? It would be better for the Earth if 7.5 billion people did something not-quite-so-perfectly, rather than if 100 million did it impeccably.
But Berners-Lee fails to write about one thing: the depressing emotions that trouble us after we read more and more reports of dying species, destroyed landscapes, and crumbling eco-systems. The report of the European Academies Science Advisory Council on climate change and health notes that the crisis threatens not only our physical health, but also our mental well-being. Post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, substance abuse, and depression appear not only among people who have lived through natural disasters, but also those less directly affected by the climate crisis who are for the moment worrying at their desks. Therapists are beginning to use such terms as ‘ecological grief’, ‘climate depression’, or ‘climate trauma’. They speak of clients immobilised by fear, sadness, anger, despair, and helplessness. People feel paralysed and burdened by the dimensions of the crisis. The fear does not diminish when you sign another petition, participate in a strike, go vegan, or get rid of your car. Questions appear not about the way we should live in a changing reality, but about the moral aspects of our choices and about the general meaning of life. Can I have children? Will I accelerate the disaster if I do? And is it ethical to bring a human being into the world for a life in such apocalyptic times? What sense does it make to live, if the world is coming to an end? The philosopher Samuel Scheffler already wrote six years ago in The New York Times that he was motivated by his faith in life after death. No, not his own afterlife, but the lives of future generations – those that will continue to live, after we die, he says. It is for them that we act today. And what if they go missing?
The climate crisis is putting us on an emotional roller coaster. Crushed by the dimensions of the disaster, we become cruel to ourselves. We regret every flight, castigate ourselves for our own passivity, for not enough new trees planted. And we have feelings of aggression and suppressed anger towards a person in a local shop who puts a tomato in a plastic bag and a cucumber in another plastic bag (even though it is already wrapped in foil), and we are angry with ourselves for taking a cab instead of a tram, but it is only a sign of our helplessness. Because what can our individual choices change unless the US, Poland, India and China give up on coal? After all, we need systemic changes, and not just a few, a dozen or even thousands of individuals who will stop buying exotic fruit. When helplessness becomes too much of a burden, we jump into a whirlwind of activity again. We sign petitions at the rate of two a minute. We quickly calculate how much fuel our car with two people in it will consume if we drive to Spain. We buy special reusable vegetable bags for the whole family. And then inactivity descends anew. And we still feel that we are moving around blindfolded.
But maybe there’s an opportunity in these emotions? The climate crisis is acting out here and now. There is no escape. And finally, there is no escaping ourselves. There is no Planet B waiting with open arms for us to settle and destroy. The time for running away has ended. There is no ‘ahead’. Thanks to the climate crisis we are touching base with a deep existential fear. Some see an opportunity in it. Activists of the Extinction Rebellion – a movement which, as its members say themselves uses any method necessary to “pressure governments and corporations to take decisive steps in the face of the unfolding catastrophe”, believe the climate crisis is the effect of our alienation from the world, from Nature, from other people, and ultimately from ourselves. We have locked ourselves in a bubble of economic growth, driven by the incessant ‘better and faster’, deaf and blind to what is happening to the Earth. But we cannot pretend any more. What we can do, though, is to stop and look around. Look ourselves in the mirror. Admit that we are afraid. Admit that we do not know how to act in an unknown reality. Admit that we are getting lost in successive reports and conflicting information, that we really do not know whether to have children, and – if we have them already – that we wake up and fall asleep fearing for their future. That we really do not know whether it is better to fly or to drive to our holiday destination. That we do not know if we can afford to be eco-friendly. That we are signing all those petitions without belief that they will change anything. That maybe we would plant a tree, but we cannot do it on a balcony. That we are fearful of the crashing economy. That we are scared of war. That we are wary of mistakes, that we are afraid not just of death, but of life, too.
And that we feel very lonely in all that.
So we start to talk. Share the uncertainty and helplessness, admit that we do not know this, cannot manage that. In the face of the climate trauma, circles of mutual support are appearing, as are groups of climate mourning. Meetings are organised with scientists. Spontaneous help groups meet at the Powszechny Theatre in Warsaw, among other places. Anyone can start their own group. We are building a network and maybe this will allow us to create a stronger society based on co-operation rather than competition.
Janna Diamond is a New York based therapist who is a specialist in ecological grief. Her advice is to ask ourselves: why am I feeling this way? The reply may surprise us. Janna says that underneath our anger, sadness and fear you can find love.
I AM WRITING these words on the terrace of the house by the woods, half way to the East. A bumble bee is droning, frogs call on one another in screeching tones. A while ago, cranes flew overhead with their loud clanging. An oak and an old apple tree grow next to the terrace, and wasps drill deep tunnels in the crab apples each year. Irises have come into bloom at the edge of the pond: classic blue ones, and some fantastic varieties with meaty, wavy petals in purple and gold. Water lilies have already closed their white cups, the lavender releases its aroma when the cat touches it. I found a feather during a walk in the woods, I think it’s from a jay bird; half of it is sky-blue with stripes and glistens from afar. I chewed on some wood sorrel and I can still feel the fresh, lemony tang on my tongue.
We find a calming rhythm in nature which never fails us. Spring always comes after winter, right?
While I was gaping at the starkly yellow field of rapeseed, it suddenly dawned on me what Wallace-Wells was writing about. All this will disappear. Nothing will stop these changes; the process has already started. We don’t know where it’s leading to. But a lot still depends on us.
* The title of this article (Addio pomodori) refers to a title of a song composed by a famous Polish satirical cabaret during the 1950s and 1960s (in Communist Poland) – Kabaret Starszych Panów (the Elderly Gentelmen’s Cabaret). The song in a witty way mourns the loss of summer and love.
Translation by Grzegorz Drymer and Mark Ordon.
This text is part of the series Zmiana klimatu już tu jest. The patron of the series is Santander Bank Polska.
This essay appeared in the august issue of "Pismo. Magazyn opinii" (08/2019) under the title Addio, pomidory.