After the strange snowstorm this morning, great gobs of slush hurtling out of the blue, and then little foamy pellets, some in bright sunshine, it occurs to me that all talk of how many years we might have to deal with global warming is the voice of denial. It is here now, with bells on. At stake is the end of life itself. All life, anywhere, ever.
I've been working on a book about it, and if I had to say for how long, it's been six of my seven decades. Most of this has been a a life-long fact-finding mission. Now I would not trade this springtime for a private island built on a mountain of gold. And that's actually a pretty good description of what we're all doing now, on this island in space, trading away the seasons, the water and air and soil, and all the life of our home. For nothing.
For more than two years now, my text has been overtaken and made redundant by dramatic world events, over and over. I can take a hint. It's time to stop worrying about the book business. Books are in transition anyway, the way the guitar (a left-handed tool when you think about it) was turned upside-down and transformed into a new kind of instrument in the hands of Hendrix. Vico and Joyce and Kerouac, in logarithmic progression, centuries to decades, changed the essential nature of books forever. In our new networked environment this must happen again. But this change may take a generation, and I'm not sure there will be that much time left for, well, time itself.
As to that, the point of no return is already with us (as always, in one sense, but in a new way now). We may yet survive as a species, but at this point we are almost certain to endure the collapse of what we have called "civilization." We have energized myriad forces we cannot now contain or control, and we will have to roll with them. We knew that thirty or forty years ago. I did. So did every kid I knew. But now that extreme disruptions are a certainty, and may include the loss of our power grid and telecomms, it's going to be a longer, harder slog. If we make it at all.
There is no escape for anyone from this cascade of catastrophe, it doesn't matter how rich you are. If we manage to make the necessary fundamental change of direction, it will be many years before those changes show any results. Those will be very difficult years for everything alive. We're likely to be separated. We will probably have to learn how to live with some much older technologies, maybe indigenous ways if we're lucky. But that's better than the absolute end of all life in the known universe.
In any case this is going to hurt a lot. If we can avoid hurting each other, in our panic, that will help. Our so-called leaders are using the panic for their own purposes.
For decades so-called "civilization" has been deteriorating under the depredations of a culture that is self-parasitic to its core. It is not a question of parties or ideologies, but of our collective activity, called culture. Its impacts were not so apparent until it became global. But it has spread across the world and driven its mines and wells, its pipelines and supply-chains, deep into every patch of ground holding anything to extract. Millions of people have been uprooted and sent packing with the clothes on their backs, if that much. Untold millions of people have been slaughtered with unimaginable viciousness, in the name of values like "Freedom" and "Democracy" just in my lifetime.
There is no possibility in resisting any of the many forces we blame for the destruction of our world. That is just more of it. That will not change the fact. There isn't time to mobilize. No Great Leader can change our trajectory. There is only one way out of this accelerating failure, besides stepping on the gas and going out in a blaze of glory, as we seem now to be doing.
Culture denotes aggregated individual ways of being. Culture is only a label. Individual behavioral change, at scale, is cultural change. Scale may be reached very rapidly, as with any catalytic change. Human beings do this all the time.
It's how we got here. Natural Selection stopped being the driver of this ten thousand years ago. We have changed our cultures, and our cultures have changed our DNA. We have passed many a point-of-no-return. This will continue -- I hope. But as Bob Pollack points out in his wonderful edge.org talk, we have overrun what Natural Selection would have accounted for [click here].
In other words, we broke it; we bought it.
Our tendency is to see (and use) other people as things. Human beings are not things. People are creatures of promise and possibility far beyond personal survival. Language proves this by its existence. All of art and literature strives to express this elusive fact.
But I'm not talking about what you think of other people. You are probably a very nice person. Most people are. I'm saying that if you speak English, your language has you despizing speakers of Chinese; in Hebrew, your language has you looking askance at Arabs, and speaking Arabic, your language has you suspicious of Jews. If you speak any language, there is probably some chunk of humanity you look down on -- without ever noticing this.
Lest anyone find this difficult, here are two sources on which I base this conclusion:
(Note: You can view every article as one long page if you sign up as an Advocate Member, or higher).