“We are not going to be saved.”
From John Halstead
“The Awakening” by J. Seward Johnson, Jr. (National Harbor, Maryland)
In yesterday’s post, “‘What If It’s Already Too Late?’: Being an Activist in the Anthropocene”, I faced the fact that we are … well, f**ked. Our civilization is rushing toward its inevitable end. And it’s going to take out a big part of the biosphere with it.
Cap and trade is not going to save us. Renewable energy is not going to save us. Nuclear energy is not going to save us. Carbon capture is not going to save use. The politicians are not going to save us. The scientists are not going to save us. The activists are not going to save us.
We are not going to be saved.
For so many reasons, we are going to fail … and fail badly.
Once we come to…
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“Conscious self-creation.” This is the nostrum Roy Scranton offers at the end of his now notorious piece, “We’re Doomed. Now What?” Conscious self-creation is the ‘now what,’ the imperative that we must carry across the threshold of apocalypse. After spending several weeks in the company of children I very nearly wept reading this in his latest collection of essays. I laughed instead.
I understand the logic well enough. Social coordination turns on trust, which turns on shared values, which turns on shared narratives. As Scranton writes, “Humans have survived and thrived in some of the most inhospitable environments on Earth, from the deserts of Arabia to the ice fields of the Arctic, because of this ability to organize collective life around symbolic constellations of meaning.” If our imminent self-destruction is the consequence of our traditional narratives, then we, quite obviously, need to come up with better narratives. “We need…
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In the last 540 million years, five mass extinction events shaped the history of the Earth. Those events were related to extreme climatic changes and were mainly caused by asteroid impacts, massive volcanic eruption, or the combination of both. On a global scale the main forces behind climatic change are: solar forcing, atmospheric composition, plate tectonics, Earth’s biota, and of course, us. Human activity is a major driver of the dynamics of Earth system. From hunter-gatherer and agricultural communities to the highly technological societies of the 21st century, humans have driven the climate Earth system towards new, hotter climatic conditions. Until the Industrial Revolution, the average global CO2 levels fluctuated between about 170 ppm and 280 ppm. But with the beginning of the Industrial Era, that number risen above 300 ppm, currently averaging an increase of more than 2 ppm per year. The average monthly level of CO2 in the…
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The authors of the new booklet argue that although radical change is needed, it faces key obstacles. Much of human society is locked into a high-consumption culture, energy-intensive infrastructure, unequal power relations, and an economic system dominated by finance that fails the poorest and takes infinite growth for granted.
Other barriers are more in people’s mindsets and attitudes towards change. Opponents of radical change argue that it is impossible because of powerful incumbent interests, high costs, the lack of a detailed blueprint, or the unwillingness of governments or citizens to act. Others pin their hopes on a smart, technological fix to environmental problems.
Despite these barriers, there are examples of change that might give us hope. History is full of examples of rapid transition in the face of new challenges. Society shows a brilliantly adaptive ability to change and still meet its needs.
The extreme weather events of the summer of 2018 are not just symptoms of climate breakdown. They are early stage warnings of a protracted process of civilisational collapse as industrial societies face some of the opening symptoms of having already breached the limits of a safe climate. These events are a taste of things to come on a business-as-usual trajectory. They elicit a sense of how industrial civilisational systems are vulnerable to collapse due to escalating climate impacts. And they highlight the urgent necessity of communities everywhere undertaking steps to achieve a systemic civilisational transition toward post-capitalist systems which can survive and prosper after fossil fuels.