I did a little light reading over the last weekend. I started with an essay about defeating learned helplessness, then read the latest from Chris Hedges, "Rise Up or Die," and finished with a story with this snappy headline: Human race "will be extinct within 100 years," claims leading scientist.
Now this last story sounds like one of the screaming headlines from one of the tabloids clogging a supermarket's checkout counter but no ... this wasn't a variant of "Bat-child Found in Cave!" or "Donnie & Marie are Aliens!" This was a three-year-old article from The Australian, the biggest-selling national newspaper in Australia.
The leading scientist interviewed was Professor Frank Fenner whose Wiki entry reads, "... an Australian scientist with a distinguished career in the field of virology. His two greatest achievements are cited as overseeing the eradication of smallpox, and the control of Australia's rabbit plague."
"Frank Fenner doesn't engage in the skirmishes of the climate wars. To him, the evidence of global warming is in. Our fate is sealed.
"'We're going to become extinct,' the eminent scientist says. 'Whatever we do now is too late.'
"'Since humans entered an unofficial scientific period known as the Anthropocene -- the time since industrialization -- we have had an effect on the planet that rivals any ice age or comet impact.'"'Homo sapiens will become extinct, perhaps within 100 years,' he says. 'A lot of other animals will, too. It's an irreversible situation. I think it's too late. I try not to express that because people are trying to do something, but they keep putting it off.'- Advertisement -
"Fenner's colleague and long-time friend Stephen Boyden, a retired professor at the ANU, says there is deep pessimism among some ecologists, but others are more optimistic.
"'Frank may be right, but some of us still harbour the hope that there will come about an awareness of the situation and, as a result, the revolutionary changes necessary to achieve ecological sustainability,' says Boyden. 'That's where Frank and I differ. We're both aware of the seriousness of the situation, but I don't accept that it's necessarily too late. While there's a glimmer of hope, it's worth working to solve the problem. We have the scientific knowledge to do it but we don't have the political will.'"
I don't know about you but the phrase "there's a glimmer of hope" doesn't quite fill me with optimism when it's followed by ..."we don't have the political will."
I went back and re-read the Defeating Learned Helplessness article, decided it was poorly written satire, and turned the computer off. I went into the TV room and submerged myself in surround-sound high-definition movies for the rest of the weekend. Our new 60-inch television is great. Almost as good as heroin.
There is just something so goddamned fundamentally awful about reading how my grandchildren could witness the extinction of humanity that transcends the wonders of a well equipped home entertainment system.
But ol' Fred wasn't exactly crystal clear about what happens next. What are the real world ramifications of abyss gazing as a full-time hobby? We all know what it's like when you get a song stuck in your head but what do you do when that sneaky abyss slips an idea into your head? Well ... what I do is flip on the computer and get on The Google to see what's going on.