We live in a post-colonial Empire which uses violence - drone strikes, bombing raids, assassination, military invasion, extraordinary rendition - to impose its will on the world, as well as employing sneakier techniques, like the ballooning debts that countries across Africa, South America, and Asia must pay their European and American overlords, while their resources are strip-mined away. This is already terrible. The even worse problem is that our industrial civilization has unleashed an ecological mega-crisis. We are threatened with imminent planetary cataclysm that could drive us to extinction.
“Across the world today, our actions testify to our belief that we can go on like this forever, burning oil, poisoning the seas, killing off other species, pumping carbon into the air, ignoring the ominous silence of our coal mine canaries in favor of the unending robotic tweets of our new digital imaginarium,” Roy Scranton writes in Learning to Die in the Anthropocene. “Yet the reality of global climate change is going to keep intruding on our fantasies of perpetual growth, permanent innovation and endless energy, just as the reality of mortality shocks our casual faith in permanence.”
For reasons we will explore, there is a link between our unjust economic system - which forces constant growth while it disempowers the multitudes - and the ecological catastrophe that will soon engulf us. We can’t solve one without solving the other. As things go increasingly haywire, our species could easily join all the other species we are currently driving into oblivion. This could happen within this century - within the next decades. Right now, all bets are off.
Meanwhile, the corporate elite and the technocrats continue to promote the promise of new technologies to solve humanity’s problems. This sounds great in theory. Unfortunately, however, our engineers have no legitimate response to many of the ecological problems we have created. Many of the “quick fixes” they promote - like geo-engineering - could make things far worse. As a whole, humanity is sleepwalking toward catastrophe, waiting for something or someone else - Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Donald Trump, Richard Branson, Indigo Children, the Pope - to take care of it for us.
As I’ve focused on the ecological crisis over the last years, I have sometimes felt like Chicken Little, freaking out as I pointed to a seemingly blue, changeless sky. But as a quorum of scientists metaphorically agree, the sky is falling. We can feel the changes taking place all around us. Many of the solutions are blindingly obvious. But we are not applying them.