The Wallace-Wells brouhaha has been fun, and it deserves its consternations – and like all of social reality, it is damn hard to sort out all the truth from the defensive articulations on most sides of the sane, thoughtful scientists and honest readers – forget the deniers and the Republicans, they are bigoted lunatics who have nothing but arrant noxious noise to offer/contaminate (arch-idiot Jeff Jacoby in the Boston Globe upon meeting a Greenpeace door-to-door activist “Climate change is way overblown.” Yeah, it’s nothing but a trifle, right?).
The basic problems are that the climate scientists can’t do sociology; the sociologists can’t do politics; the politicians can’t do science; humans can’t process too much information without retreating into irrationalism; and the overall problems are much too complex and immutable for any movement into “hope/change.”
The facts are also stark: 1. the IPCC has been issuing multi-national task force recommendations and position papers since 1992, and the C02 numbers have climbed steadily. 2. The environmental “movement” has seen the concomitant rise of anti-environment trans-national capital in the last few decades, so that the world’s ecosystems are being degraded and polluted despite every effort of Big Green, recycling, nature shows, organic locavoring, back-to-the-landers, NTE Facebook communities, Transition Towns, big-screen documentaries, mass arrests and protests, solar panel affordability, countless climate change books and discussions, and the united aspirations of the world’s regular folk for a clean, eco-righteous world. 3. There is no working framework to regulate the political actions of the world’s nation states – no Green Police, no governmental anti-corruption force scaring Big Business, no United Nations resolve beyond timorous unarmed volunteer forces. 4. The existing neoliberal order, reaching its denouement of awful, hideous mutant business/religious mismanagement, is certainly collapsing, but it has a long way to go before it is superseded by the next iteration of a liberal stopgap. The US judiciary, the US Chamber of Commerce, the weapons manufacturers, Big Pharma, religious institutions, phony debt-producing Higher Ed, monolithic consumer culture, disconnected art, economic warfare against the poor, all need to go, out the door to offend and conspire and destroy no more, but the combined social power of these deformed, irrational constructs is preposterously large. 5. Fossil fuels are us, our global economy, our institutions, our constant daily companions – even NTE doomers switch on lights, check their 401 (k)s, drive, work in blatantly compromised sectors of the economy.
Worst-case scenarios are not the province of social nihilism. What is going to happen based on an understanding of all relevant social institutions and human instincts is its métier – and who better to turn to understand today and tomorrow than the social nihilist.
Who was right, after all – the social nihilist who foresaw the awfulness of nearly all of our social institutions, or the liberal academic, who thought education the answer? Or the Marxist, or saw the triumph of the proletariat? Or the Christian or Muslim or Jewish or Hindu, who saw a deity racing in to save us? Or the scientist, who saw human victory in weapons and big business chemicals? Or the techie, who was raptured by the phony hucksterism of Bezos and Jobs, Gates and Ellison? Or the litbiz writer, who envisioned a hipster’s paradise ushered in by artiste manqué novels and large-frame art installations?
Sorry – these were errant prophets, and the only one left standing to claim the mantle of worthy social critic is the social nihilist.
What’s next, then, o seer of the global Future that all but he or she are blind to?
To be fair, that dramatic evocation of humanity’s destiny would have to cost a lot of money to be shown – a lot of money.