Public social nihilism has a very limited shelf -life, perhaps a moment or two, and then the writer must back-pedal furiously. Who can be the public scourge of humanity and be free to go out for drinks that night?
David Wallace-Wells gets some doom notes right, then back-pedals at the end of his piece, then backpedals furiously in an interview with the Gothamist:
But personally it feels, the only responsible thing to do if you think there’s some really scary outcomes that are possible, to make those outcomes known so that people can make judgments and advocate for particular policy goals that make those outcomes less likely. That’s the ultimate goal.
He had weasel-waffled in his interview a few seconds before, calling the prospect of doom at
One percent, just to be clear it’s almost certainly not even that high, but there’s certainly a 1 percent or 10 percent chance that the planet gets quite, quite broken over the course of our lifetime.
1% or 10%, doesn’t matter, right? And at 1% or 10%, who basically cares, acording to this formulation, it’s an imaginary number set alongside his knife and fork so that he can go on eating and welcoming that next check from New York. There is no need for this cardshark number – the reality of immense suffering from the ‘Pocene’s arrangements of corporate devastation of the Earth’s natural systems and bases is bad enough, and should suffice for genuine social nihilism.
What “particular policy goals” do you have in mind, W-W, to enable “those outcomes less likely”? Stopping all car traffic tomorrow, in every street and road and highway in the world? Sending the oil tankers back into port for hosting ping-pong championships? Stopping the US military’s overseas Burger King coupon giveaways to its laptop bombers, and bringing the trained shooters back to become crossing guards? Stopping all fossil-fuel production and giving citizens free marshmallows?
Employed climate scientist Paul Beckwith applauds the more honest moments in W-W’s piece, and then instructs:
Civilization, more correctly humanity is going down big time, on our current path. Abrupt climate change all but guarantees that. Unless we collectively change course by:
1) Declare a global climate emergency.
2) Deploy technologies to remove carbon from the atmosphere &/or oceans.
3) Deploy technologies to cool the Arctic.
Like W-W, this is complete wishfulness that bears no relationship to reality. The IPCC has been blog-criticized (meaning: no actual weight to the criticism whatsoever) for having no social scientists among its vast hordes of science contributors, and while that is surely damning, the fact that no social nihilists were included is more damning still.
+Anybody can declare an emergency. There is ample grounds to declare a worldwide climate emergency -there, we just called one. Good for us. Qui cura?
++ Deploying technologies to either scrub carbon out of the air or to cool the Arctic is not happening. Technofixes are not arriving. The only scale at which they could arrive and begin to work is beyond even imagining humanity’s competence at running and regulating its affairs. What, again, happens to the unspeakably large investments of money and wealth in fossil fuel production and usage? Who gets all of humanity to stop being human beings in search of energy, fire, and advantage?
Humans are fully incapable of “collectively changing course,” as Beckwith tries to have it. Humans can look for ways out when its predatory ways cause immediate and palpable social destruction, and that is the best-case scenario for our species. That is the only way our ancestors succeeded in perpetuating their lives, even the bottle-necked one. That is the only prospect for “course change,” but that is a gravely horrible scenario nonetheless, a guarantee of enormous death and destruction, and is on its own no guarantee of species survival, let alone continued enjoyment of big screens and all year organic strawberries and1 dollar soft chocolate chip cookies.