The precise nature of climate change was understood back in 1965, in the Lyndon Johnson era, in reports to the government and to the largest utilities, and is known now – and yet nothing is being done about it. Whom do we blame? What can we do? Aren’t we good people, who just want to do the right thing? What about the children? What about the animals? What about technology – won’t it rescue us since it put us in this predicament?
Wallace-Wells’ “worse-case scenario” nY mAg cover story has occasioned an airing of these banal/grandiose questions anew, and the usual preachers/ameliorists/pundits have weighed in, including the fairly mild lecternist Richard Heinberg, who counsels the thinking slice of humanity:
Our best hope at this point would seem to be a controlled crash that enables partial recovery at a lower level of population and resource use, and that therefore doesn’t lead to complete and utter oblivion (human extinction or close to it). Among those who understand the systemic nature of our problems, the controlled crash option is the subject of what may be the most interesting and important conversation that’s taking place on the planet just now. But only informed people who have gotten over denial and self-delusion are part of it.
There is no force, anywhere, even remotely capable of seizing the controls of global nation/state humanity and “controlling” the crash. Who or where or what is having that “most important conversation” aiming for a controlled crash – some well-fed cabal gathering in the hotel that was the location for the movie “The Shining”?
A “controlled” crash is not a goal humans will sign up for – not if “controlling” means giving up their inherited temporary advantages. Heinberg rightly intuits in this same essay that climate change is as much about humanity’s conceptions of death as fate as it is about any technical matter, yet all he muster in response to the specter of the Grim Reaper also being the Grim Collective Extinction Reaper is bland nostruming:
The best we can do under the circumstances is to get our priorities and values straight (protect the vulnerable, preserve the best of what we have collectively achieved, and live a life that’s worthy) and put one foot in front of the other.
What defines living a life that’s “worthy”? No one conducts one’s life with the aspiration to be “unworthy,” yet the world has morons in charge of morons, epidemics of white-collar criminality fully unpunished, and 90% overfat males. “Protecting the vulnerable” – that’s exactly opposite from the workings of the supersystem. Anyone trying to escape the shadows of death and extinction through do-gooder charity will find the core of truth in the truism that “no good deed goes unpunished.” The poor, the vulnerable, the sick, and the gravely disconcerted want, more than money, more than free goodies, more than life-saving interventions, more than potent therapy, status, the one thing they cannot have through charity, the one thing that their poverty has denied them. What is the way out of climate catastrophe/death, that malevolent doppelganger? If it is just the ol’ “one foot” postulate, isn’t that social nihilism’s ultimate victory?