Sunday, November 27, 2016

Monbiot's Impossible Crises

George Monbiot lists 13 crises, but warns you should only read the list if you're feeling very strong. It's an appropriate warning.

He's barely even talking about climate change here, so this list could be so much longer including the degradation of the oceans, poisoned waterways, messed up ecosystems...  His list is more political in nature: Trump and his new team running a country with a powerful military and unbreakable corporate ties. On the other side of the pond, there's concerns with the effects of Brexit, the financial stability of Italy, and the French election.
If Le Pen wins, the permanent members of the UN security council will be represented by the following people: Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, Theresa May and Marine Le Pen. It would be a stretch to call that reassuring.
Everywhere, there will be fewer jobs as automation takes over, and with the Paris agreement likely trashed, the new landscape will create "a mass movement of people that dwarfs current migration" and an accelerated increase in the extinction rate of mammals. The scariest one in my books is that soil loss alone relegates us to only sixty years of harvests left.

So even if we can keep the politics working, without intervention we have six decades of food.

But we're so totally blind to all of this. I don't think there will ever again be a good time to have kids, yet my daughter's doctor still won't let her get her tubes tied because she might change her mind later. There are so many little things we do that reveal a profound disconnect with the way the world is headed. We're keeping this information in a different place in our heads and not letting it seep in, protecting our emotional core from knowing about it gnostically.

Monbiot says his goal is not to depress us, but to "concentrate our minds on the scale of the task," but without power to effect change, I'm not sure what he hopes focusing his readers will do. At Standing Rock they have a task, stopping the machines, and that task carries the symbolic weight of stopping the power of big business, exploitation, environmental destruction, and the pursuit of profits over people. It's a vitally important fight on the ground. Those who aren't near there don't have a task. We can donate to them, and then write our letters, but it feels impotent. We could drop everything and join them. In a movie, hundreds of reinforcements marching up over the hill would be the climactic point where the music swells, but there have already been problem with white people joining only to use it for their own means. Man, we suck!

I think one thing we really need to be proactive about, that unfortunately might be more possible than being proactive about climate change, is to generate an influx of books and articles and teachings and preachings and an entire marketing scheme / mythology on getting along during a crisis. If we're lucky, we'll only need it to learn to be kind and respectful shopping for bargains on Black Friday. Well...we can keep telling ourselves it's about luck.

At this rate, we're likely to go out fighting, like in so many extinctions and collapses of the past. I'm not sure that can be changed, such is our nature. But while we're continuing to work on convincing the powers that be to implement solutions already, we can continue to work to foster more connected and inclusive lives, vigilant with our own character when we might waver and our drive for survival tries to override our compassion. Can we do this with grace, kids?

4 comments:

  1. The task before us is enormous, as you, Owen and The Mound have pointed out. I share a conclusion similar to what you draw, that our only real impact can be in our daily lives. To try to live with grace, dignity and compassion while the world plunges headlong and heedlessly toward the abyss takes character, knowing that such efforts will not avert the large disaster awaiting all of us.

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    1. I'm hoping those who are in disbelief or denial can at least work on that compassion part. It cost anything to be kind.

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  2. It seems that playing nice is not part of the usual collapse scripts. But perhaps we are getting ahead of ourselves. I've been thinking g for a long time that our situation is a "back to the future" scenario in which great powers justle for position, power and (dwindling) resources. It also entails a slide to right wing populism, as Trump, Le Pen and other demagogues show. Wait and see.

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    1. I think the powers will fight for their places, but many will take care of one another while the lot of them let the masses fall to the wayside. In the end, we're all just animals struggling for a bit of food and shelter and trying to avoid being someone else's dinner.

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