Sunday, November 18, 2007

doom and destruction

so we've got ten years, give or take.

this is not a long time.

realistically, folks, it's not going to happen, is it? not as long as the global players - the Americans and the Chinese (the two who, between them, are quite happily contributing more than the whole of the rest of the planet put together towards the destruction of its ecosphere) continue to put their faith in the infinitely flexible prevarications of deniability and the Mr Fixit school of technology and free enterprise to - well - fix it. they've been caught a bit short in their hopes that the science would be proved wrong - although there will of course continue to be a few diehard morons who insist on retaining their face-saving mask of scepticism - but is the continuing untenability of their position likely to be affected by all this? really? you think?

it would be kinda reassuring to believe that the version of events that we've come to depend on from the movies - the charismatic hero's last-minute sidestepping of the unscrupulous corporations and politicians and damp-eyed people-power kicking in to save the day - will happen. but it won't. a) there's no hero sufficiently charismatic (sorry, Al, sorry, Jonathan, but it has to be said), and b) the movies are fictional, guys! in real life, everyone who, let's say, falls in love, and declares that their love is going to last forever (a common enough movie-trained assumption) is either going to be divorced or wishing they were divorced within three years. five tops.

so, almost certainly, by 2017, ten short years from now, deadline date, the steps which by then need to have been put in place in order to avert global environmental catastrophe will have been fully initiated only by New Zealand, Venezuela, Greenland, and the seceded state of California, and the rest will still be arguing about quotas. as if, by then, such will matter one iota. the die will have been cast. global temperature rise of 2° Celsius minimum, with all the attendant irreversible damage that that means. and if we don't know what that means by now, we really haven't been listening, have we? really. I'm serious. we haven't been listening, have we?

clearly, nothing ever changes for the better simply because it's better (as in morally better) - if that were the case, there would never have been slavery, cigarettes, or TV phone-in competitions in the first place. under the standing rules of the free market, the only reason for change has to be profit, otherwise the precious entropy of the whole system is challenged.

hence, whereas the comforting version of the history of abolition, for instance, has the abolitionists' righteous indignation finally being recognised and implemented - huzzah Mr Wilberforce! - the more complex truth is that the economic foundation of the eighteenth-century slavery/sugar nexus in Europe (and, incidentally, the cotton/slavery nexus in ante-bellum North America) was weakening under pressure from the urban immigrations attendant on the Industrial Revolution, when the wage-slavery of local factory production - exploiting the desperate need of rural farmworkers displaced by mechanisation for urban work at bare subsistence levels - was proving a more profitable alternative to the industrial exploitation of even slave-produced imports. the Christian principles of the abolitionists, therefore, were the icing on the cake: the cake was already half-cooked to the traditional recipe of Messrs Adam Smith et al.

similarly, whereas the health arguments against smoking had been fully exposed and in the public domain for at least forty years prior to this astonishing overthrow of the smoking culture that has taken place in Europe, at least, in the last five years, it took the final opening to imports of one very large, less scrupulous market to persuade Imperial Tobaccco and Philip Morris to finally let go their decades-long expensively tenured lawyers in prevarication and concentrate on what really matters - profit. Potential sales-loss in smoke-challenged Europe (est pop 728,000,000 in 2005) weighed against potential gains in still-happily-puffing China (population 1,321,851,888 in July 2007) - no contest.

as for oil and blood - let's not even go there.

the future of humanity seems, truly, to be in the balance, as never before.

in the long run, of course, doom is inevitable. the dinosaurs must have thought they were in it for the long haul - at their 150-million-year dominance to our puny hundred-thousand this must have seemed a fair assumption - until that pesky asteroid hit. and, let's face it, our species track record of making any civilisation last longer than a thousand years or so is poor, to say the least. so we're long overdue what the biologists would call a speciation adjustment - a winnowing of the genetic chaff to encourage more diversity to redress, in turn, the balance of all those extinctions our careless global husbandry has precipitated. and whether or not this comes about through chance - the usual method - the bolt from the blue - or through our own carelessness is of no consequence at all in the greater scheme.

maybe that's it. maybe we blew all the chances we had. we have, after all, known (that's empirically known, not just speculated about, as in "you know, there's some dude says there's gunna be another ice age unless we stop smoking so much of this shit") about this impending environmental doomsday for quite a long time. Rachel Carson's novel 'Silent Spring' - often cited as marking the popular birth of the environmental movement - was published in 1962, and was itself an artistic articulation of a set of concerns that had been around in scientific circles for many years before. no-one wanted to hear it, basically. or, at least, having heard, no-one could face the reality of it.

even now, when we're all recycling so hard our unheated homes have begun to resemble Steptoe & Son's back-yard, we're unwilling to face the truth - that, unless in the immediate - that's immediate as within the next ten years - future we're all prepared to accept a massive - that's to say, a HUGE degree of compromise to our accustomed lifestyle expectations - from travel to food to accommodation to family size - then there is, simply, no future.

of course, for the very rich, there is an extension - the usual methods of insulating oneself from the unpleasantnesses of the hoi polloi will continue to apply for a while. gated communities, gated lives, and gated minds with sufficient material reserves to ride out the kinds of social collapse that are predicted might revert to the sorts of baronial structures that, in the macro-social sense, the collapse of the USSR has precipitated in Russia. it would be nice to think that, in best Schadenfreude fashion, such micro-societies would quickly implode under pressure of aggressive rival factionalism. more likely, they would, eventually, survive (by the same principle as the floater in the toilet bowl), emerging finally, from their hellish enclaves, hirsute, lice- and halitosis-ridden, to become the temporary template for the revised future - one which, by the way, I for one would be most content to be dispossessed of - only to be immediately culled by some meanwhile-massively-mutated world-wide influenza epidemic that their in-house lab of top pharmacists had failed to predict.

what a shame.

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