There is something supremely weird about the environmental crisis. The Washington Post publishes a story reporting essentially that the planet is likely to be uninhabitable within a few decades, and the next day the story is forgotten. It’s not front page news. There’s no follow-up story. There’s no collective warning from Nobel Peace Prize winners. The president doesn’t make an announcement. Nobody does anything other than watch the Al Gore movie while trying to figure out how to cash in on carbon credits. How could that be? No matter how you look at it, it is dysfunction of the highest order. We’re all going to die, but nobody cares? Or there are too many people who don’t believe the environmental crisis is real? If it’s not real, how could it be that we can’t come to agreement on this basic question of survival?
It also seems to me that there’s no middle ground here. Either there’s a crisis and we’re all going to die if we don’t revert to a pre-industrial age lifestyle or find innumerable technologies to resolve every contributor to the crisis, or there’s no crisis. Assuming the crisis is real, a simple reduction in modern lifestyle is not going to be enough. There has to be no more cars, no more factories, no more everything. Back to the 1700s. If carbon is destroying the planet, there has to be no more carbon, not just less carbon. If pesticides are killing the bees and the oceans, there has to be no more pesticides, not just less pesticides. Less pollution, rather than the absence of pollution, will only slightly delay doomsday. Or is the environment crisis like the Malthus population crisis? Something that will resolve itself?
Why is nobody asking these questions? Why is nobody posing the questions in the stark terms they deserve? Why are there no definitive answers and decisions? It’s sheer madness. Yes, we must take this problem out of human hands and place it in the hands of the algorithm.
The nonchalance concerning human survival is nothing new. In the time i was active in the environmental movement it was, and remains, difficult for the majority of people to give it any importance. What crisis? Those in power and at the top of the heap are concerned only with maintaining the status quo and fattening their already obese accounts. It was easy for them to dismiss environmentalists as doomsayers, tree-hugging hippies and commies. At the same time, even the most strident alarm sounders, from Al Gore to Richard Heinberg, Bill McKibben, etal, are themselves inextricably embedded and ensnared in the monetary system. It is the only world view available to them, no fault of their own really. So they say their piece, publish diligently their critiques and continue taking care of business ensuring that all-important income flow.
The middle class is tethered to the wage slavery treadmill, provisioned just enough to function in order to maintain the 70% share of GDP attributed to consumption. They are kept distracted and diverted by Kim Kardashian, NFL scandals, identity slights, conspiracy theories, yada yada, all fed by a compliant media, Hollywood, and Madison Avenue so as not to get the import of the existential predicament but to keep the growth wheels turning.
Those at the bottom suffering from the lack of tokens that allow participation in the game are too busy trying to keep fed, healthy, and sheltered to be concerned about our species’ demise that is not immediately evident. It is a remote and abstract notion that, even if real, is the government’s/somebody else’s responsibility. Not until there is no food in the market, no water in the tap, no lights when the switch is clicked, will they wake up. By then it will be too late.
It is social dysfunction in the extreme, the result of cognitive dissonance, mass hypnotism even. This underscores why it is impossible and unthinkable to proceed by way of public education, consultation and consent. The Enlightenment precedent of benevolent despotism, but of a technocratic elite to re-jigger the system is necessary, and in my view, the only way out. Let us put forward the highest and best of human intelligence and capabilities, not the demographic/democratic average. The effects of PI will be negligent at first, grow incrementally until critical mass is achieved, then explode exponentially until the monetary system is displaced along with the world view it supports.
Wholesale death or reversion to a pre-industrial age is a false dichotomy typical of linear/binary thinking. Not all will die; nor will we revert to a pre-industrial age. Consciousness, awareness, knowledge cannot be undone, reversed or lost, but accumulates in one direction following the arrow of time in layering complexity and higher orders of coherence. Rather, it will be a post-industrial age in which we re-align with the impetus of evolution for the first time since we graduated from hunting-gathering. The invention of mono-agriculture on a wide scale accompanied by forest clearance was the beginning of environmental decline. We now have all those lessons to draw from.
In fact, this is the most exciting time to be alive, present at a crucial moment when we are at a pivot point of whether to continue on our blind descent into extinction (just another of millions of species to disappear, the earth will carry on regardless), or make the critical turn toward ecological integration and wholeness. The few specimens that survive may evolve into our replacement species, just as the Neanderthals and Denisovans were replaced by Homo sapiens. Of course, their DNA would have selected to cope with the toxicity and radiation levels we leave them.
A New Dawn. As the World Turns. (Pity we won’t be here to see it.)