I’ve said it before, and I’m not afraid to say it again. I was strangely at ease with the idea of the end of the world as a youngster. The end under which we lived in constant danger was Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD!). It was very real, since there were several tens of thousands of nukes locked (in launch positions) and loaded (ready to fire at a moment’s notice) at any given time. On missiles; carried on planes; loaded on submarines. Multiple warheads! All at the mercy of those ancient Cobol punch-card computers, in control panels with vacuum tubes in them, and at the mercy of human beings, whom, let’s face it, tend to be accident prone. A nuclear exchange of that magnitude would probably scrape the planet clean of almost all life. Probably even the roaches and the ants, gone. Pigeons? Definitely gone. Rats? Forget it, gone. Fish? Maybe something left at extreme depths, but even that’s a maybe.
As catastrophes go, total nuclear destruction at that level would have been the most egalitarian catastrophe in the history of the earth. The fatality rate would be one hundred percent of ninety-plus percent of the species on the earth. Indulgences would not be sold! There would be no paying someone to take your place among the dead! Prayers would not be answered! I still don’t think that it was a strange thing for me to be drawn to. We all must die sometime, and the personal death of one individual is such a lonely, banal thing. I was completely okay with dying along with every one of my fellow human beings, over the course of a couple of days. There’s not a drop of, “why me, Lord?” in that. We’ll all go together when we go. Wouldn’t that be nice?
I’m also on record as being much more threatened by the slow-motion death of most living things that we are now in the beginning stages of. I would much prefer the deaths of 100% of humankind almost instantly to the deaths of only 50% of us over the course of one hundred years.
Yes, I am talking about climate change, so if any of you dear readers are Breitbart fans hoping for a “Liberal policies will cause the end of the world!” fix, you’re barking up the wrong tree.
We are already witnessing massive die-offs in the animal kingdom, whether land-based, marine, or airborne. We are already seeing delighted, enthusiastic responses from the invisible kingdom of the bacteria and the viruses. We are already seeing formerly fertile swaths of land drying out and sending millions of the former farmer-inhabitants running for more food-secure locations. We are at the same time watching hitherto unheard-of amounts of rain washing out farms in other countries, including our own, and leaving devastating floods in their wake.
(Interesting language, English. Wake, as in from a boat that has recently passed this way, or wake, as in a memorial for the dead, or wake, as in wake up! Which I wish our slow-witted statesmen would do, wake up and smell the coffee. This problem is real.)
People are missing the message here. They hear about temperatures going up by what seems like a measly few degrees, and all they can do is laugh and say, “big deal!” They’re not scientists, hell, they’re not even people who read anything beyond photo captions on the phony hit pieces that are posted to Facebook by Russian bots. They have no idea that those few degrees are almost always given in Celsius, so roughly double it for Fahrenheit, nor do they have any idea of what that inconsequential seeming difference can due in terms of real-world effects. It doesn’t mean that your summer days will top out at 98 degrees instead of 95, no, not at all. Those are averages! Your summer day may go up from 95 degrees to well over 100. There may be more days over 100 in a row than ever before. Your winter temperatures will go down accordingly. What had bottomed out around 20 degrees Fahrenheit may now go down below zero. The average of these extremes will be going up by a “few” degrees. The entire life-cycle of the flora and fauna of your city or your state will change. You will have bugs that you’ve never seen before that used to stop at Georgia. You may see tree die-offs in your forested areas due to invasive pests, or simply from the lower overnight temperatures in the winter. And that’s only the beginning. The real fun starts when young children or old people in your family start to die from newly ascendant diseases. (Don’t forget! While all of this is going on, all of our pharmaceutical companies are concentrating on pills for male erections or everyone’s depression/ anxiety. Those are the long-term profit drugs, after all. Who needs antibiotics? And forget cancer drugs. We’ve got plenty of those to sell you already. They don’t work, but while you’re “fighting cancer,” the drug companies and the medical providers make a fortune.)
Oh, it will be getting lively before too long. Food items disappearing, and prices for many items sailing up into the stratosphere. Hunger-driven migrations will make the mostly war-driven migrations that we see today look mild. Climate change is already driving people to leave Africa and try desperately to get into Europe. Take a look at the fire-maps and the desertification-maps of central Africa and you’ll see why. This is all happening already. And this is only the beginning.
One could be forgiven to wonder why no one in authority seems to care about this. No one in America, anyway. The ruling class in a few countries believe their scientists to the extent that they will make small concessions to alleviate the problem and give it lip-service in international forums. In America, we have Democrats, who provide some similar lip-service but at least admit that man-made climate change is actually happening, and Republicans, who deny the whole thing, claim to believe that there is great disagreement among the scientists, and insanely push laws that will definitely accelerate the degradation of our biosphere. Right now, the United States is firmly in the “part of the problem” group of nations.
It was somewhat heartening to see a lot of mostly young people demonstrating openly last week, demanding that their elected officials wake the fuck up and start to do something to help us remain alive. I’m guessing that this outpouring of youthful energy will generate some additional lip-service from government officials, a few cries of “here-here!!!” from the scientific community, and maybe even the formation of a committee or two.
The bad news is that the basic problems militating against anything really being done are related to the nature of money. Money wins most arguments these days.
First, there is the fact that budget items that MUST be paid for this year always take precedence over budget items that SHOULD be paid for this year. In America, the MUST list even included every penny of the huge, bloated, useless military budget. Then there’s what’s left of some social programs and loads of other things. I predict that protecting Saudi Arabia from Iran will take precedence over the contingent existential threat to the island nation of Tuvalu that is just one likely effect of climate change.
Second, there is the fact that our super-rich citizens, and even our merely very rich citizens, and even our only slightly rich elected officials, obviously believe that although climate change is real, and many people will be “inconvenienced,” they will ride it out just fine! They are not threatened by higher food prices, or the need for more expensive medical care. They stupidly fail to take the threat seriously, thinking that their money will protect them.
Third, and for America most important, is the fact that many of our largest, richest corporations depend on the use and sale of things that by their very nature exacerbate the climate change problem. Fossil fuels, etc. Corporations, as I now believe, have no real existence of their own, being only a false-front for those rich people that I mentioned in item number two. Those people want their money streams to continue to flow, and they believe themselves immune to the problems that they are causing. They ensure that our greedy elected officials will maintain the status quo by paying them off with a small fraction of the money that the current system allows them to keep. (The politicians are a bunch of saps, another favorite topic of mine.)
My expectations for solutions to all of these interrelated problems are low. My guess is: Slow Motion End of the World, here we come! Maybe some precipitous degradation of our food supply, or a sudden world-wide health crisis, or some other unambiguous sign from God, will get our response mechanisms into gear. I’ll let the optimists answer that “maybe.” I have depressed you enough already.