Stepping up to the Plate


Woodcut from Apocalypse by Albrecht Dürer. (1498.) (Image courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.)

Here’s a few facts to brighten your day:

It’s official: 2016 was the hottest year on record. Plus, to make matters worse, global warming may soon accelerate, and continues to broil the planet at an unthinkable pace.

Meanwhile, with the inauguration of a childlike multi-billionaire as the leader of the most powerful nation in the world, the U.S. government’s webpage on climate change has been removed from the White House’s website. (So have its pages on civil rights and LGBT rights.)

Note that Trump, a mega-rich narcissist, has vowed to scrap one of the few (and all admittedly meager) attempts at dealing with the oncoming apocalypse. (Obama’s Clean Power Plan.) He may also very well put an end to the Green Climate Fund, through which the U.S. [had] agreed to pay $3 billion to help developing countries maintain some semblance of social order in the midst of the Earth’s sixth mass extinction. (Although the American government, via Obama, only managed to commit $500 million and, in reality, the world will need impossibly large sums of money to prevent civilization from collapsing outright this century.)

Now add to this the claim by a Yale University economist that “devastating” climate change is no longer preventable because the world’s politicians’ response to the issue has mainly consisted of meaningless rhetoric.

Remember that in 2009 Kevin Anderson, director of the Tyndall Center for Climate Change in the U.K., submitted the horrifying claim that if the global temperature were to rise 4C above pre-Industrial temperatures (a rise which is slanted to happen this century), only 10% of humanity (around 500 million people) would survive.

Keep in mind that, in a worst-case scenario, we could reach 4C by 2060.

That means that, in a worst-case scenario, in just 43 years 90% of humanity will be wiped out.

If you’re reading this, that number probably includes you, me, and all of our loved ones.

Many may not realize it, but the primary question for the people of the 21st century has quickly become, “How can we prevent a collapse of civilization in the next hundred years?”

The answer to that question will doubtless require technological innovation and social change at a scale never before witnessed.

Humanity is staring down the barrel of a gun. When are we going to really step up to the plate? And, better yet, why aren’t we doing that right now?

We’ll All Learn to Love the Cold


(From Alpha Coders.)

This past year, it became clear to me that the vast majority of the world’s leaders are either suicidal, insane, or both. And not only that! When they go, they want to take you and me with them!

In the face of the current climate crisis very little is being done. It seems that presidents, prime ministers, kings, and chancellors would much rather take short-term economic ease over the long-term survival of the human species. This really is insanity—self-destructive, masochistic, damning insanity—considering that the IPCC’s warming limit (2°C) for dangerous climate change is perhaps only two to a few decades away. (And, according to at least one report by the IPCC, even if we stopped all greenhouse gas emissions today, we would still be “locked in” to a global temperature rise of 1.45°C above the pre-industrial average. (And considering that at the current 0.85 degrees (mean surface temperature above the pre-industrial) we’re already witnessing hugely detrimental effects to agriculture and the environment, a 0.6 degree increase will undoubtedly bring much more chaos.)

Granted, the view that what’s helpful to the environment always comes at the expense of the economy is decidedly wrong. (It seems that way to me, at least. Not to mention a growing number of politicians and corporations…) And it must be! Because we aren’t going to convince billions of people to revert to hunter-gatherer survival, or communal simplicity, when the alternative is a fucking flat screen and a smartphone and a dollar for a McDouble.

This is where anarcho-primitivists (who want or promote said reversion—effectively modern Luddites) and ultra-environmentalists (notably Derrick Jensen—although, to be fair, his critique of civilization is also bound up with notions of anthropocentrism and other, extraneous philosophical stuff) think the world should head (or should’ve stayed) if we want (or wanted) any kind of sustainable, and meaningful, future. They should, however, be aware that they are up against over a billion Chinese and Indian nationals eager to live the kind of unsustainable lifestyle enjoyed by most Westerners at this time. They should be aware that stopping this is next to impossible, and that the best that can be done is to adapt and mitigate NOW, to the best of our abilities.

This whole conundrum, of course, is alarming. And I agree with many of those concerned that modern civilization, especially with its hyper-capitalist bent, is clearly unsustainable. But what can and should be done, instead of a reversion, is an attempt at education, reformation, adaptation, and—as I say—mitigation. “Think globally, act locally,” the mantra goes. Yet the world is in dire need of a global answer to a global problem such as climate change, a problem which is both propelled by the unsustainable scramble for finite resources, and at once also accentuates the current and future lack. (Food and water scarcity seems unavoidable with current projections (including 9 billion+ people on the planet) unless something drastic is done.) The United Nations and the slew of experts behind the IPCC seem to have little effect on the policies of individual nations, and most of these countries are unwilling to do what it takes to save humanity from the inexcusable drove of suffering and death that climate change is sure to bring, should they not act.

It seems, then, that more than ever the future is in the hands of individuals. If we cannot rely on our governments to do anything useful, then it is up to us to make a change that is both local and global in its scope.

If we don’t do anything—and, actually, terrifyingly enough, even if we do something—we ought to learn to love the cold. Because it will get much, much hotter, and much more dangerous. People will be much thirstier and hungrier and the seas will rise and the world will burn. All the more so, I’m just saying, if nothing is done. We ought to take what we can get, you know? Even if we can’t completely stop climate change in its tracks, it’s just sensible to do what we are able to in order to make the future as bright as possible, under the conditions we’ve already brought upon ourselves. (And the rest of the planet’s biosphere.)

My fear is that even the most minimal efforts to combat this won’t really materialize. (Yes, the current pledges by world governments and business leaders amount to less than zero, as far as I’m concerned.) And why, then? Because no one gives a shit. In a lackadaisical epoch of Call of Duty and Oreos, very few muster the courage, resolve, and willpower to tackle the future. And if there is a future to tackle, it certainly is the one just ahead of us.

In summation: Let’s not crash head-on into oblivion, but ease ourselves into the world we want to have, and that we want future generations to have.