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Inuk: Chikyū Chigiri

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Julia Santillan
Julia Santillan

Editor's Note:  Julia Santillan, Grade 12 student at ICS, submitted this piece to the 2022 Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Contest and won the Silver Award in the Senior division of the Creative Writing category. The 2022 contest theme, "The Funny Thing about Climate Change", challenged participants to use unique strategies to communicate the urgency of the climate crisis and be changemakers who are advocating for a healthier and more sustainable world. 



The names in this story are not random. As I was brainstorming ideas to write, I researched countries that were most affected by climate change and chose the Arctic, Japan, and Ethiopia. Much of the climate crisis is essentially caused by human doing. I thought to myself, what if animals, who suffer from the rashness of human behavior, switched lives with us? Because to me, what is more humorously ironic and satirical than humans getting a taste of their own medicine?

"Inuk" in the Arctic's traditional language, Inuit, translates to "human." In Japanese, "Chikiyū" means "Earth," while "Chigiri" is "problem" in Amharic, one of Ethiopia's main languages. To put them all together into the formal title of this piece: "Humans: Earth's Problem." In the Arctic, polar bears are dying from the melting of the glaciers, which causes them to lose their habitat. They are dying from malnourishment, homelessness, and most importantly, from global warming. The salmon fish in Japan are becoming more and more scarce because of the carelessness of many manufacturing businesses when disposing of food waste, and plastic discarded into the ocean endangers the livelihood of aquatic creatures. Lastly, the white-tailed swallow, a type of bird from Ethiopia, is becoming extinct because of rising global temperatures.

In this piece, I want readers to feel the pain we bring onto our land, our waters, and our skies. It is then, when we come to the realization of the damage we do to our planet, that we become united to rewrite our legacy for a brighter future.


Inuk: Chikyū Chigiri

The Arctic, 2022

When Inuk first saw the humans wandering by the garbage dump behind his factory, he immediately emailed his assistant to coax them out with food before the media blamed him again for supposedly contributing to a worldwide problem.

But that was years ago, and the situation was just getting worse. Starving humans imposed an “irresponsible” label on Inuk’s company.

Inuk let out a heavy sigh, incredibly bothered by the thought that he could be closing a business deal instead of attending an interview. This was not to say he did not care. It was abominable to think in such a way—heartless, in fact. Inuk simply thought the humans could live another day if he postponed it until tomorrow.

Inuk wondered why in the world he had to wear such ridiculous attire in the sweltering Arctic heat as he struggled to button the last hole on his suit over a full belly. As if having a thick coat of fur wasn’t enough, he grumbled to himself. Inuk exited the comfort of his air-conditioned helicopter and was greeted at once by the unpleasantry of warm humid air. Sweat began to build up in his paws, so he decided to stretch to his full ten-foot height.

Inuk trudged not far a distance from his vehicle to the designated interview site. The iceberg he stood on was really the only one stable enough to hold a congregation of polar bears without breaking apart. He did not dare say it aloud, but the area reeked of death. Not surprisingly, the humans floating on chunks of melting icebergs looked like it: malnourished, bloody, and unresponsive.

“Mr. Inuk!”

When the reporters saw him, it became a race to get the first news. The surface rumbled and shook furiously. Inuk prayed to God that he didn’t fall into the water with the floating bones of human remains.

“Mr. Inuk,” a stout polar bear started, “can you let us know what efforts you are making to address the severe melting of the glaciers?”

In a smooth, rehearsed manner, Inuk responded: “As the biggest producer of energy in the world, my factories are doubling their efforts to produce eco-friendly products that will soon be available for purchase in every country. This way, after usage, it will not contribute to the harmful effects of carbon emissions.”

“Are there any plans on helping the dying humans directly?” one reporter asked while snapping pictures at an angle that included Inuk and the suffering humans in the background.

With a solemn expression, Inuk replied, “Certainly.”

Inuk paused to make it seem like he was distraught, but really, he was racking his brain for what his assistant had provided him to say. Did they really expect him to hand-feed these wild creatures with fresh fish?

“My social media team is working non-stop to promote a company fundraiser to provide the humans with food. As a matter of fact, for every ten likes on our post, one dollar is donated to help feed the poor creatures,” Inuk revealed.

After Inuk answered a few more questions and urged them to continue sharing the post with everyone they knew, the polar bears returned to their vehicles. Inuk was watching them coast across puddles of murky ice when his phone pinged with a picture of him perfectly aggravated and nearly in tears as he pointed to a skeletal human.

Inuk posted the picture on all platforms, expressing his dying concern for the existential situation in the Arctic, and began flying away in his helicopter.


Japan, 2032

As Chikyū swerved hurriedly past dining customers towards the filtration system, he had only one thing in mind: whoever was responsible for the change in water quality was getting fired. One of the most renowned food critics had almost immediately tasted a tang of salt in the air, and it was certainly not from the fresh humashimi served at the restaurant.

Chikyū burst through the boiler room at such an exhilarating speed, he left a trail of large bubbles behind him. “Oi! Yamero!” he shouted to the janitor, a bluefin tuna who fumbled to flip the switches back to where they had been originally.

“Gomen-nasai, sir,” the janitor frantically apologized, not meeting the eye of his boss, the salmon fish. “The impurities from the filter have been flowing out on land so I—”

Before he could finish, Chikyū dismissed him with a flick of his fin, knowing the manager would tend to his immediate termination. Impurities on the land! Chikyū scoffed to himself as he inspected the damage done by the janitor.

Chikyū not only owned the restaurant but was a proud founder of the food manufacturing business that specializes in high-quality, thinly sliced raw humans. Why, even a passerby could try the humashimi samples right next to the restaurant overlooking the land crawling with the human populace. Plastic-wrapped, of course, to ensure freshness and uphold hygiene standards.

To curate a unique experience for diners, instead of typical saltwater, Chikyū created a filter that turned public water into freshwater. Such “impurities” that naturally came along with water were responsibly discarded. Chikyū should know— he enforced the policies! The janitor, who clearly was an elderly fish, mistook human feces for a clump of dirt particles.

A sudden uproar of commotion crept through the openings of the boiler room. Giddy from excitement, Chikyū rushed out expecting the grand reveal of the freshest humans, specially caught by Chikyū’s head chef. As part of the presentation, the humans would be sliced open right in front of the diners and served on a platter that exhibited an assortment of cuts.

The horror in Chikyū’s expression matched those of every fish in the restaurant when he entered the dining room. A salmon chef holding a knife still had his fin suspended in the air as if in permanent shock from what lay open in front of him. The room was filled with an atrocious stench of a rotting odor, and though Chikyū did not look back, he heard a diner repulse their meal. What was inside the delicate slices of human flesh was completely unappetizing junk: shreds of plastic takeout containers mixed with chunks of unrecognizable food that had been discarded by the restaurant.

Chikyū swam to the nearest window, where he had just seen the healthy humans wandering in their habitat the previous day. What welcomed him was not dissimilar to a graveyard.

“Those poor humans,” a fish who had appeared behind him sniffled. “I’m going to be a seaweed-arian.”


Ethiopia, 2042

“Chigirrrriiii! You’re going to be late for school!”

Chigiri woke up with a startle, unable to place the eerie feeling that dawned upon her. She glanced at the clock on her bedside table, and immediately flew out of the comfort of her blanket, then hopped down the wooden stairs of her tree house.

Cobwebs laced each corner of the house, and beneath one was a breakfast of plump worms and colorful berries resting on a plate made of sticks. Chigiri wondered where her mother was, then grimaced as she heard a car start in the driveway. The small bird swallowed what she could and then hurriedly flew around the house to look for her school bag.

When Chigiri opened the car door, she made no move to get in. “Inati, I can fly to school! It’s 15 minutes away!” A strong gust of wind had blown the exhaust fumes towards her direction, and Chigiri gagged from its intoxicating smell.

Her mother shook her head. “It’ll only be five minutes if we drive there. Get in the car and be grateful I’m even bringing you,” she chirped, eyeing her warningly from the rearview mirror.

Chigiri began to groan until she was suddenly aware of the absence of humans. They hadn’t woken her with their songs in the morning.

It was the silence that bothered her.


Earth, Now

The last of the human race remains unavailable for public viewing. It has been formally declared that Homo sapiens are endangered, many being kept in undisclosed facilities to preserve what is left of the near-extinct species.

Special note: the temperature in Iceland has dropped to almost 45° C, allowing for the legalization of nudity in the country.


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