Do We Really Understand The Climate Emergency?

the globe as the center of a clock, whose hands are lighted matchsticks, showing nine minutes before midnight. Image by Kai Stackowiak from

Do we really understand the climate emergency ? Has it really gotten though to us, is it just beginning to break through all our other concerns, our loves and our money and our struggles for status and success, do we understand just how bad this climate mess is and how it may have the power to ruin every aspect of our “normal” lives?

I am not getting the impression that our wonderful global population of human beings really has an understanding of all the likely trouble we are creating for our continued existence on this pleasant green planet, because the overwhelming majority of us are still planning that everything is going to go on being “normal.”

We’re still thinking that we will be born and grow up and become adults in societies that are fairly stable, we think that jobs and careers are pretty well-established patterns that will be pretty much the same as years go by, we assume that all our relatives and friends will go on living as they have been, and nearly all of us hope we might find some sort of “retirement” before we have to leave this space. We think that piles of fancy new tech gadgets and basic raw materials and notations in bank ledgers can be relatively stable assets that will be there for us when we need them.

Most of us are the most concerned and involved with our own most personal hopes and dreams … who we will love, who will love us, what we might accomplish, in either our families or our careers or in “who we will become” in our personalities. I’m sure there are 8 billion different goals among the world’s 8 billion people, yet nearly all of us have formed clear pictures in our mind of what the goal is, what the path to the goal looks like, and how we are taking our steps on that path.

In short, it looks like nearly all of us are all still operating, inside our minds, on the assumption that “business as usual” will continue on, uninterrupted. We are all still assuming that the patterns we have learned for “being successful” in our societies will continue to be the patterns we need to be following today and tomorrow and ten and twenty years from now.

It’s hard for us to grasp that just about everything we believe in today, everything in our lives that has an economic or social value to us, all those things ares at risk from the climate emergency. That especially includes the assumption that “things will still be normal 10 years from now.”

There are plenty of sources to fill you with the facts on how we’re being very bad to our collective futures. Yet of course there is still plenty of uncertainty about what will happen on any specific day.

However, it seems highly likely that by 2030, we are going to be seeing massive disruptions in food supplies in large regions of the earth, it is highly likely that there will be population displacements and refugee flows in the multi-millions affecting some regions, and it is very, very likely that we will be experiencing all sorts of extreme weather events – hurricanes, droughts, floods, severe heat waves. All of these events will be disrupting our economic assumptions and patterns, it is highly likely that prices of all the items we want will be rising while supplies will become less reliable.

The accelerating climate emergency – that word “accelerating” means it gets worse and worse as time goes on – this emergency is occurring because we are, as a global society, poisoning our children’s air with over 30 billions of tons of heat-trapping gasses each year. It’s coming from the cars we like to drive, it’s coming from the steel and cement and plastics our “civilization” is built from, it’s coming from the way we grow and process and distribute the foods we love to eat every day. And it doesn’t look like we”re easily going to quit doing any of those things – which is going to have serious consequences for any of us who think we’re going to be living in human societies on earth ten years from now.

Can we grasp that “business as usual,” which is exactly what all the conservative voters and the business lobbies and the politicians who serve the business lobbies want us to keep on doing, can we grasp that “business as usual” today very likely means “disruption, disaster, massive population displacement and death” in our upcoming tomorrows?

It is hard for us to grasp a coming emergency of any kind, we want things to be mostly the same (depending on our relative levels of privilege and handicap.) Our minds are trained to be optimistic, to imagine fine futures. I have known for a long time that I have to be an optimist in my daily life, I need to think that things are improving to keep putting out my efforts. It really hurts me deep inside, to confront the evidence that we are so short-sighted and so greedy that we, as a global human society, are apparently about to poison ourselves in the next 10-30 years.

I need to believe that all the intelligent people now forty years old or less will soon realize that they don’t want to end their lives in a disaster, that they will soon join the millions of young climate activists already demanding an end to fossil fuels absolutely as soon as possible, they will demand the end of politicians, governments and corporations who support fossil fuels, and they will organize and make the necessary sacrifices to re-organize economies and win votes and overturn autocracies and put an end, relatively soon, to the fossil fuel economy that is going to kill us all, if all of us don’t take a lot of action to make it stop.

I need to feel hopeful, which means I need to feel that there may be some escape from the locked-up cage of greed and stupidity and “business-as-usual” that we have built for ourselves, that threatens to wreck the whole human project and end all our lives – just maybe, if we all fight as hard as we possibly can against the rich people and powerful politicians who can’t accept change.

Do we understand that the climate emergency means no asset is ever guaranteed to be “safe” ? Even your guns and your gold in your “prepper’s palace” in some rural badlands is just going to make you a target for someone crazier than you… and the thing that brings you down will probably be some ecological change/failure you couldn’t foresee. Do we understand that the increasing small local disruptions and floods and droughts and refugee flows will make all of our personal hopes and dreams more tentative, more challenging and difficult to achieve, more likely to be disrupted and denied?

It’s not easy to understand the immense scope of the coming climate emergency. It’s so easy to go along with “business as usual.” There’s just enough doubt and uncertainty for the deniers to spread their disinformation and propaganda. After all, increased CO2 can make plants grow faster. And maybe some tech genius will figure out a way to suck billions of tons of CO2 out of the sky and neutralize it, and all the extremely selfish and short-sighted tech-bro financiers will give that magic solution all the billions it will need to get running in 2 years.

But those idealistic dreams are even less likely to come to pass, and less likely to lead us in good directions, than our dreams that we will still be driving 3-ton gasoline-powered vehicles anywhere we want to, at little cost to our wallets or our children’s lives when we reach the year 2030. Goals to merely “reduce” fossil fuels by 2030 are a feel-good exercise that may be killing our children by 2035. A goal by a very large and very poor country to end coal burning by 2070 sounds like a sick joke to many of us; don’t they realize it’s their own country (already being hit by severe droughts, floods and pollution) that they’re condemning to greater, life-threatening disruptions ?

As I write this, major American TV shows are featuring advertisements for a video/computer game based on the idea of anarchistic urban warfare in broken-down America, in the year 2042. I understand that a lot of young Americans have really bought into the concept of anti-utopian future fantasies, and that books and movies and games may be influencing some (very short-sighted) people to take an attitude of “it’s all going to break down, we can’t fix it, we’re just gonna wallow in our privilege and cynicism and negativity and laziness as long as we can.”

Can I convince you how sick and stupid these attitudes are going to appear when real disasters start occurring ? Do you understand that the breakdown of our unsustainable economic structures is NOT going to fun in real life? If it happens, it will be inconvenient and painful for many many days on end, you will never come to a happy ending in that game.

We need to face the facts: our concrete and steel, high-tech economic structures are in fact today killing the atmosphere we all must breathe. We need to face the fact that the climate emergency we have created requires drastic actions, and probably requires severe sacrifices from all of us. We need to face our future: BUSINESS AS USUAL MEANS DISASTERS, DISPLACEMENTS, AND DEATH.

There’s still a lot uncertainty about how it will work out, thee is still a chance that our concerted, effective action may save a reasonably-pleasant world for our grandchildren. But we need to accept the most likely results of our current situation: BUSINESS AS USUAL WILL MEAN DISASTERS, POPULATION DISPLACEMENTS AND MANY DEATHS.

That includes our own deaths, probably occurring in ugly and unpleasant ways. Isn’t it time to get to work ?

About philosophical Ron

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