The End of the Planetary Party for Homo sapiens

Ross Gelbspan finally figured it out: we’ve reached the tipping point with respect to global climate change. Welcome to the party, Ross. You’re late, but you’re still way ahead of the lamestream media and the American public.

British ecologist James Lovelock scooped you on this story about a decade ago. And NASA scientist James Hansen just keeps saying we have a decade left to solve the our fossil-fuel addiction and the attendant emissions tragedy. He’s been saying it for two decades, though, which makes me wonder if he’s ready to admit we’ve passed the point of no return.

Tipping point? Point of no return? What does those terms mean, anyway?

In my opinion, which echoes Lovelock’s, habitat for our species will be gone by century’s end. I strongly suspect this outlook, like most prior predictions associated with global climate change, is hopelessly optimistic. It would not surprise me if our exit from the planetary stage were complete within three decades. Will we make it to 2100? I’d give us about a zero percent chance.
There is a very human face to this tragedy. Actually, there are about 6.5 billion human faces. Let’s look at one of them.

A dear friend is about eight months away from giving birth. Assuming her child is born on its doctor-determined “due date” of 10 August 2008, it will face a truly Hobbesian existence. S/he will need to survive the terrifying years of rapidly declining energy supplies and the consequent chaos. Perhaps we’ll power down with the tranquility of Buddhist monks. History, however, suggests otherwise. If s/he survives the peak-oil bottleneck, s/he will need some amazing survival skills early in life. Then s/he’d better move north — think way north — within a couple decades. On foot or horseback.

And you thought you were having a bad day?

If s/he manages to eke out an existence for the life expectancy we consider “normal,” s/he’ll be among the last humans on Earth.

Some people have suggested a few humans are bound to survive. But I don’t think we’re quite as special as cockroaches.
Most of the respondents to Gelbspan’s article fall into one of two categories. They either deny we’ve passed the global-warming tipping point, or they deny our inability to solve the problem. Many respondents in both camps chastise Gelbspan for taking away our collective hope, which they believe will cause people to become hedonists.

Hedonists? Americans? Hard to imagine, isn’t it?

Since Oil War II, we’ve been partying like the End Times are here. The fiesta couldn’t get much wilder for the biggest consumers in planetary history. We view the seven deadly sins as personal challenges to be conquered. Daily, preferably. Orgy is just another word for daily life in the Empire.

When will the adults show up? What will it take to end the party?

Increasingly desperate pleas of our dire situation aren’t helping. Guilt stopped working a couple of Popes ago. And we can’t seem to spend our way to a solution.

Seems we’ll have to run out of alcohol before we’ll admit we’re alcoholics. The day’s coming.


Comments 2

  • “The key to preventing the next mass species extinction and preserving human cultures is one of creating the opportunity for humans to evolve at very low rates of energy (and material) consumption.”

  • I read the Gelbspan article with interest and some sadness. Every time someone proposes a new way of ‘being’ and thinking for humans, I can’t help but feel more hopeless. The problem is that how we are as humans and how we interact with our environs seems to be linked a great deal to how our cleverness, biological urges and conceptual misfires (see Aaron Lynch book on memetics) have bound to one another in a way that mindlessly replicates itself in each succeeding generation. The nature of language is such that even talking about this problem in our native tongue, English, distorts the realities. Our noun/verb/pronoun oriented way of seeing things ultimately chops the world into little pieces, including our actions within that world. What this means is that pious tirades about changing our ways is probably meaningless, until the way we see things and act is in itself transformed, and that would take, to reverse Dr. McPherson’s phrase, a powering up in Buddhist energetic tranquility to take on what we have done to our world. Is it too late? I don’t know. Rank pessimism prevents us sometimes from actions that could, ultimately, bridge over the catastrophic times to a vague but less troubled future. Silly optimism scares me. That nano-technology or somesuch would turn the tide in our favor has so many enormous unforseen consequences…well, we’d best be hyper careful about employing draconian measures before we understand at least in some small part what would ACTUALLY happen. What to do? That is the 64 dollar question. I’ll turn sixty this year. A milestone in my own life. Yet I feel I’m facing the greatest challenge yet, to look forward for my children and wife, at a time I’d much prefer to be painting and raising bees. Heart attacks and cancer (which I’ve survived) seem petty in comparison. Somewhere, in the notion of restructuring how we think and speak, and in re-educating us about our natural world, there might be a way of threading the needle. Perhaps some sort of Foundation, with a Harry Seldon of our times, could begin the planning necessary. It’s a thought. Not any more overwhelming than the ones I’m reading here.