It’s just one of those days where you don’t wanna wake up. Everything is Fucked. Everybody sucks. Yes, I’m quoting Limp Bizkit’s, Break Stuff, which as lame as that is, seems appropriate. In fact, I have it on repeat right now as I write this. In my last post I wrote about wanting to keep more up to date on the news. Turns out that may have been a mistake, because when absolutely 100% of the news you read is totally fucked, it starts to get to you. No matter what source I turn to (Mother Jones, Wired, Economist, Slate, NYT, ProPublica, CNN, Forbes, Huffington Post, Rolling Stone, Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, or even Fox News), it all paints a disgusting picture of American greed, lies, and contented ignorance. What happened to us that we
let made this happen?
Some much more disturbing reading I’ve done brings me to realize that nothing has changed over the decades or centuries, but that we’ve always been this way: destructive, uncaring, small-minded, and short-sighted. Even tens of thousands of years ago.
The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert is a deeply troubling, nightmarish novel that kept me awake at night for two weeks as I slowly and cringingly made my way through it. And by novel I mean non-fiction. Over the course of five or six years, the author followed various groups of scientists as they investigated dwindling numbers of frogs, bats, insects, coral reef, forests, etc. The gist of it is that we’re sending huge numbers of species into extinction every year through deforestation, climate change, overpopulation, introduction of invasive species, overfishing, and other human-caused problems. But we haven’t even glimpsed the devastation to come.
By the end of my life, assuming I don’t prematurely get run over by a car on my bike next week, I will witness the extinction of elephants and most other large land animals, all large cats, almost all amphibians, coral reef and god know’s the number of aquatic life that depends on them, huge numbers of the bird population, and untold quantities of insect and plant life. The total populations for a lot of these animals are currently at a fraction of what they were just 25, or even 10, short years ago.
75 percent of all current species will be extinct in a little over 150 years, if not sooner. But cheer up! Some of the larger animals’ existence will be “saved” by zoos, while the DNA of others will be kept in lab freezers across the globe for that nonexistent time when we are able to fix the world.
By the end of this century, climate change will also wreak havoc on humankind as well, and I find it hard to believe that society will continue to exist as we know it. Sea level rise of up to two meters is predicted by 2100, the acidification of the oceans will wipe out most sea life, crops will fail from drought, forest fires and tropical storms will worsen. War, disease, forced relocation, and famine will wipe out hundreds of millions of people and today’s chaos of the Trump administration will, in comparison, seem like a time of easy peace and prosperity.
I have little hope that things will change, for one because of America’s ignorance and shortsightedness (not to mention Europe’s), as seen in this past election. We have to take action now, and we’re not doing that. We’re taking measures to make things even worse. More so, I think it would be against our human nature to change for the good. Ever since humans have existed, we have invaded other lands and, in so doing, wiped out other hominoid species and most large megafauna. Mammoths, giant armadillos, moas, aurochs, megatheriums, smilodons, giant beavers, giant rabbits, giant elk, woolly rhinos, and hundreds more large to small animals were wiped out by tiny, pitiful numbers of humans. We’re only talking about tens of thousands of Homo Sapiens in an entire continent wiping out animals 50 times their size over the span of a few thousand years. These people were living as “green” as you possibly could. Virtually no carbon emissions, no agriculture, no pollution, no hunting to excess by wasting meat. But even their seemingly small presence and the slow process of each clan taking a few big animals a year was enough to force most of the earth’s large animals into extinction over a relatively short time frame.
All the cool animals are dead. Stupid cave men.
So what hope do we have now, with soon to be eight billion people crowding the world, all farming, polluting waterways, driving cars, dumping plastic in the ocean, eating meat, using coal-powered electronics and HVAC systems, flying to bike races, etc? In the last 50,000 years, humans have caused extinction rates to rise, aside from other mass extinction periods, to unnatural levels. In the past few hundred years, that rate has multiplied by hundreds of times. Now, species are going extinct 1,000 times faster than they should. That extinction rate will continue to increase to 10,000 times faster than normal in the coming years. There have only been five other mass extinctions since multi-cellular life formed on earth 600 million years ago, so this is rare, to put it lightly. Assuming that humans wipe themselves out in the next thousand years, it will then take millions of years for the planet to heal from the greenhouse effect if carbon dioxide levels come anywhere near the worst mass extinction of the end Permian, and tens of millions more for life to fully return.
Apparently 70 percent of Americans have never talked to their friends or family about climate change. This doesn’t make sense to me, because one would assume that the 50 percent of Americans that doesn’t believe* in anthropomorphic climate change would discuss it with their fellow bible thumpers, arguing why they believe it’s a hoax or a conspiracy theory perpetuated by Google and Apple.
*I hate the word “belief” when discussing science. If you’re not a scientist you should have no belief or opinion on the matter other than what you’re told by the scientific consensus, if there is one. Why? Because the general public does not participate in research. The general public doesn’t even have an understanding of what science is or how it’s done.
Even if we were to somehow get everyone on board with the fact that climate change is the single greatest threat to our existence, and we began making drastic changes immediately, most animals would go extinct over the next few hundred years anyways. Maybe not 75 percent, but given that so many animals were wiped out by tiny bands of hunter gatherers, there is virtually no hope that a planet full of billions of us can have less or equal impact as them. But maybe we can work to make the wold at least habitable for most animals, as well as ourselves.
This would require a monumental shift in power away from industry and to the people/environment. Our carbon emissions would have to be cut to a fraction of what they are, we’d have to stop eating animal products or at least create them from yeast or other less environmentally taxing sources, and we’d have to stop reproducing at the rate we’ve been going at. Population control in China was seen as a horrible human rights violation by some, but it worked (though many aspects of it were certainly horrible). Some animals have a way of keeping their population in check so that their resources don’t become depleted. Humans apparently do not have this ability. We consume until everything is depleted, then move on.
None of these environmental issues can be tackled without first addressing and fixing income and other inequalities among races, genders, religions, and nations. People in this country will not agree to fix something they can barely comprehend when they can’t afford healthcare or college, and don’t have a chance at a decent future. Poor people in Africa or the Middle East will never care about animals in a rainforest they’ve never been to when they don’t have clean drinking water or are living in a refugee camp. We will never work together when the majority of the world’s wealth is held by a handful of old white men.
Disaster pulls people together. The most recent example in my mind was the huge success of Women’s Marches world-wide. I have to say that partaking in the Denver march was the first time I’ve viewed humanity in a good light for some time. But will the neccessary social and political changes happen before it’s too late? I truly doubt it.
However, futility should never be an excuse for not trying. The Polynesians wouldn’t have been populated by insane people on balsa would rafts from South America with that kind of rational defeatist thinking. Giving up before trying to address climate change, the environment, and inequality would be selfish.
“I have a good idea. Let’s leave this perfectly good, safe tropical beach, hop on a raft, and head randomly out into the ocean with zero control of where we’re going! What have we got to lose?”
PS I have been reading Fox News, and I could see how if you only read (or even worse, watched it), you’d have absolutely no idea what the fuck is going on.
PPS I did not write this with the intention of offending anyone, even though I’m sure it is not what many of you would like to hear. This topic is important enough that it needs to be discussed by everyone, regardless of personal political opinion. Because unlike politics, the facts about climate change and the destruction of the natural world should no longer be debatable. There is only time for action, not thought. Wait, that doesn’t sound right…you know what I mean. And my next blog post will be about something positive!