by Daniel A. Drumright, a lifelong radical environmentalist who has followed climate science for the last 24 years, and has been a feral “collapse theorist” for the last 12 years
Considering this very long essay attempts to address what is without a doubt, the greatest phenomenal event in the recorded history of our species, I will definitely fall quite short in the endeavor. And this would still be true even if this essay were a hundred times in length.
This essay is written in acceptance that humanity has now crossed numerous irreversible climatic thresholds. It is also written from the perspective that by so doing, we have ushered in intractable near term extinction (NTE) of most of life within the next several decades. (If nature fails to bat last, nuclear containment pool fallout from grid collapse surely will.)
I have absolutely no interest in attempting to persuade anyone of this conjecture being either true or false. No one should allow themselves to be persuaded by anyone regarding this subject matter. The decision to accept this, is ours and ours alone. Anyone who is putting the onus of NTE on Guy’s shoulders, or anyone else for that matter, is doing a great disservice to both Guy and themselves. The available evidence is easily accessible, the writing on the wall doesn’t need to be deciphered. The theory of runaway climate change has been around for decades, and now the whole world is able to watch this catastrophe unfold in real-time. But this by no means implies the world is watching.
This essay is SOLELY written for those who are already familiar with a majority of the available evidence, and who’ve subsequently come to a similar conclusion for themselves. As such, this essay is not intended to be informative, but rather entirely commiserative.
I am of the opinion that all dialog post-acceptance of NTE is manifestly commiserative. Post-acceptance of NTE, as opposed to our pre-vacillating acceptance, logically equates to defeatism, plain and simple. This is a critical distinction, and probably represents a primary schism within this new body of awareness. The post aspect of acceptance could be consider THE critical distinction, for it’s the difference between the sublimation of having come to terms with what we consider to be inevitable, compared to our wavering refutation of such inevitability, which still affords us a great many fantasies. It’s the acceptance of the inevitability of NTE which lays waste to all else, which is why this is a key factor in determining how we live our lives from here on out.
What is the meaning of NTE? Literally, we all know what those three words connote when strung together. But we don’t live in a literal reality, we live in a wholly subjective interpretive culture, where the red pill literalism of something like NTE rarely sees the light of day. This disparity obviously has a massive influence on our bias as to how we interpret everything, including the science contributing to our understanding of the significance of tipping points.
I suspect most criticism of this essay will come from those who have yet to fully accept NTE … and rightly so! But please be mindful, the following is written from a post-acceptance perspective. If this is a judgment you do not share, then the commiserative intent within this essay will simply elude you.
As of right now, the entire concept of NTE is still the most profound abstract concept the human race has ever been confronted with. Even though the signs are everywhere one decides to look, the totality of its cumulative impact is still enough off in the distance for entrenched self-preservation to render it an abstraction in our daily lives. So again, the following is written from the viewpoint as to when this is no longer true, when NTE breaks through abstraction, and detonates in full acceptance of the most profoundly devastating reality we’ve ever had to both live with and through.
(Disclaimer: I no more want to be writing this, than you probably want to be reading it, however, as curious disciples of ferocious truth, here we are … where none of us ever expected or wanted to be.)
I may be wrong about this, and as with almost everything concerning NTE, I very much wish I am, but as far as I’m able to discern, the comment threads on Nature Bats Last (NBL) might be the only place within the English language that are rationally and emphatically discussing the near term extinction of most of life on earth — at least in the public domain. What a dubious and overwhelming prospect that truly is, if it is in fact the case, or for that matter anywhere close to it.
It is not surprising that Guy’s blog, which has for years been dedicated to collapse preparedness, would eventually serve as the springboard into the deep end of the recognition of NTE, given we’ve already done our share of quantifying the minutia of contributing factors to the collapse of industrial civilization.
However, NTE is a classic example of emergence, where something becomes greater than the sum of its parts. It has now become an event unto itself, irrespective of its causation. I believe this is just one of the many aspects that makes this new reality difficult for us to fully comprehend, because our past precedence is, and has been, completely focused on the individual linear contributing factors, which have now compounded in creating this emergent nonlinear post threshold paradigm. The amalgam of discoveries leading up to this moment in time, are now effectively immaterial, which is the actual consequence of tipping points.
Hence, it’s not the potential of extinction that is foreign to us, but rather the “acceptance” of the near term timing of it. In my opinion, it is our highly subjective and indeterminate acceptance of NTE, which again, is the crucial distinction of how we frame our responsiveness to the ominous implications.
This dire acquiescence has now effectively catapulted “us” even further out unto the barren wastelands of the radical fringe. But for many, this has been our masochistic stomping grounds for quite some time, whereby we are most likely the first embattled assemblage of like minds in the history of our species to seriously attempt to elucidate the meaning of life amidst the ever-increasing probability of our pending disappearance.
If this is indeed so, it only stands to reason that we are as well, the first to propose what might be considered the greatest conundrum in history: How do we live out the rest of our lives in light of such acceptance? Especially, when it undermines every aspect of our future-oriented culture, as well as our private life.
While many of us here have written extensively in attempting to accurately describe the sheer scale of the dilemma we’re facing, the staggering severity of the circumstances before us has made this nearly impossible for us to accurately surmise. Its inference is so emotionally ruinous, with the precise timing being impossible to predict — thus making it highly suspect — our sense of uncertainty can’t help but override our better judgment, in demanding a degree of assurance that we rationally know doesn’t exist.
However, we’re all too aware that the evidence is quite explicit in detailing that the Holocene is exponentially drawing to a close. The geological epoch which has housed the entire history of civilization … is ending, if it hasn’t ended already. We are literally looking at losing the entire arctic ice cover — one of our planet’s primary thermal regulators — during the melting season, within only a few years … if not this year!
We could write similar words to those above a thousand times, and still be suspended in utter disbelief, for we are attempting to detail an event that is so remarkably outside any form of past human awareness, it’s either just a passing idea that flies through our minds like a frightened bird, or it levels everything like a daisy cutter. There is no in-between, it’s either a fleeting thought or it’s absolutely devastating.
Every single story we’ve ever been told, in effect, just careened into the underworld. Everyone’s Rube Goldberg collapse preparedness scheme, just theoretically failed right out of the gate. What part of our lives didn’t just suffer a massive body blow from which we will honestly never recover?
Nonetheless, our desire for doubt still rages against the evidence. Our past moral imperatives still rile against corporatism’s fait accompli in spite of ourselves. But it’s not as if we’re fabricating either the facts or the science. It’s not as if we’ve unknowingly cloistered ourselves in solipsistic groupthink. It’s not as if we’re not all desperate to have someone/something prove us wrong. I mean who in the hell wants to be right about near term extinction!?! It’s just that the degree of acceptance, which we are being forced to bear, completely undermines the very act of acceptance itself. If this isn’t the greatest cause of universal cognitive dissonance, then I don’t know what could be.
The less-than-subtle shift in our thinking on a subject we’ve all thought very long on, has had an enormous — albeit understated — side effect on our past “ecological moral imperatives.” Deliberating on the inevitability of collapse, has for many of us, strangely been the force that has given us meaning in life over the last decade(s). But now having to accept that the rates of climatic change have greatly superseded even the most dire predictions of only a few years ago has effectively dissolved the impetus of our past imperatives, mutated all sense of urgency and completely redefined the very concept of time itself.
It’s a self-determined path that leads one to the comprehension that our culture is addicted to hopium. It’s a path that also continues to lead us far from almost everything in our culture. But it’s quite a different course to attempt to live outside the garden of anticipation, where hopium has flowered for all of our lives.
As with most addictions, it’s seldom the drug itself that’s the cause of our dependence, but rather any number of undisclosed societal factors that drove us to it in the first place. This is what makes kicking the habit incredibly difficult, for once our system is “clean,” all the reasons for having been under the influence to begin with come rushing back with a vengeance.
Kicking the drug is the comparatively easy part, kicking the habit of dependence is far more challenging. And the same is to be said about hopium. Knowing our culture is addicted is one thing, living without it, just might prove to be impossible … even for a motley crew of cynics such as ourselves.
Curiosity could easily be considered one of our species’ greatest traits, but in many ways, acceptance of NTE with its relentless correlation to every aspect of our lives could be considered anathema to the very driving force behind our desire to be informed. And it is this unfolding psychological dilemma that I believe is quite new to many of us, for how could it not be?
Sometimes even the slightest hope can be enough to sustain us, but once even the dimmest light has been statistically snuffed out, we suddenly find ourselves in an exceptional kind of darkness, unlike anything even us denizens have ever experienced. NTE is the antithesis of Plato’s cave. It’s as if we stumbled out of the shadows, only to blindly stare directly into the sun. I wonder how long it will take for the long-term consequences of such overwhelming contrarian awareness to eventually take its pound of flesh?
Therein lies another unbelievable fact, that “we” here, at the dawn of the greatest transgressive discovery ever made, might represent the first generation in the history of our species who have ever attempted to reconcile such irreconcilable academic despair.
No, we aren’t being tortured, nor put to death. We aren’t imprisoned in some hellish hole. We aren’t starving in a refugee camp. We aren’t having to kill our children to end their suffering. We’re not being ganged raped or hounded in a genocidal “cleanse.” No, we are “currently” living out none of these brutal existences, which have always been a facet of civilization. We’re on the other end of the disparate spectrum; we’re the terribly privileged folk, still basking in the relative afterglow of global empires, who have had the opportunity to know more than most of the people who have ever inhabited this planet. We have had the wealth and time to build our own cerebral constructs/prisons.
The precipice before “us” today, is but the ledge of the idiosyncratic ivory towers we’ve constructed for ourselves. It has allowed us to see further than anyone has ever seen before. However, the universe has an inherent equilibrium to it, and as with most things, there is a price to be paid for such excessive and fruitless erudition. We are in the throes of a superlative first-world cultural dilemma, of what it truly means to know too much. The tsunami we can clearly see rushing toward us from our lofty perspectives might as well be a raindrop in a puddle as far as our dominant culture is concerned. Therein lies the root of most of our frustration and our ever-ascendant alienation.
I don’t believe anyone here, including myself, is honestly capable of accurately framing the very ethos we’ve created at NBL, given it is unconscionably unprecedented to the very letter of the word. This becomes painfully obvious, every time, anyone of us finds ourselves in any group of people. For there is only one thing that is more maddening than NTE, which is that for whatever reason, the vast majority of our fellow citizens just aren’t capable of caring beyond their immediate needs, which is probably why we find such solace at NBL — even if it’s a remorseful succor.
This is why I suspect that probably no one here would respond well to someone telling you/us to be careful, that maybe we’re wrestling with a deceptive awareness, which very well could prove to be beyond all of us. There must be any number of unidentified limits to what our tribal minds can endure, and we here, are surely in the process of testing those boundaries, without having much of a clue as to its intuitive repercussions.
I often now have the sense of receiving some subliminal transmission with my daily dose of disaster, as if “we” are now playing with an extraordinary internal bonfire, which could have within its conflagration, a latency that’s keeping us from realizing we’re being burned alive.
I suspect that for many of us, through all our past tribulations, activism, adversity and endless cultural negation, see ourselves as possessing some kind of hard-bitten warrior spirit. Call it the environmentalist’s thousand-yard stare. We are all too aware that the path of a self-anointed “truth seeker” — that trespassing inclination that has consequently led us here — isn’t a gentle winding path through a spring meadow. It isn’t the road less traveled. It’s not a revolutionary act. It’s not measured by greatness. It’s just a cruel bottomless hole that once ventured into, eventually leaves the light of modernity, but a pinprick in the night sky for anyone hoping to return to the complicity of our dominant cultural pretense.
Truth is a life sentence for anyone who values it, and this was self-evident, well before we happened upon nonlinear rates of climatic change. Now, we are being challenged in a way that no minority faction has ever been before.
Again, the shift in our thinking has been profoundly acute: Being aware of the potential of an unprecedented future reality is one story. Living in full acceptance that the unprecedented has come to pass is poles apart from anything that came before. It’s the difference between objectively analyzing lab rats as they run through a maze, and running either to or from what remains of our life in an inescapable labyrinth.
There are thousands of literary quotes, which either exalt or disparage our perception of TRUTH, yet not one infamous citation was ever written in context to the Gordian knot of existing empirical evidence of our species near term extinction. We are truly in a place, where literally no one has ever been before.
But the more we reflect on this demoralizing reality, the worse it gets. And yes, this has always been the case with political realism, but never to the degree it is now — not even close, not even remotely close. No, we’re initiating a diabolic consciousness to which no living human being has ever had to bear witness. It is an awareness which requires a degree of emotional maturity that’s almost indistinguishable from insanity within western culture.
It truly does seem like we’ve finally dug deep enough to crawl through the center of the world like inquisitive children, only to come out on the other side to discover everything is actually upside down. Where past concepts of truth play out like every other figment of our imagination. Where knowledge becomes but a fetish. Where denial comes to sublimely make sense. Where apathy and hedonism now vie for ethical stakes. Where somewhere along the way, our moral imperatives just became another hit of hopium.
Dig for the truth long enough, and one becomes a miner. And now, decades down the mine, here we all are, like virtual grave diggers at the bottom of a hole we’ve dug through the world, gathered around a cage of canary bones, guessing how long it’s been dead.
It’s as if decades ago we formed an old-fashioned bucket brigade to douse our burning house. However, all the buckets have always had holes in them, and they are empty by the time they reach the end of the line. But, since we’ve no other recourse other than continuing to reinvent our past theoretical civic daydreams, we just keep passing the buckets along, while patting ourselves on the back for having done our little part, pretending that it somehow matters because … we imagine we couldn’t live with ourselves if we didn’t act as moral agents in a game we fully know we’ve no agency. Truth no longer sets us free, and it’s highly debatable if it ever has, or what from.
The whole history of social activism has been along for the ride right into the abyss. While there have always been competing theories as to “our” underlying nature, there has never been a parallel terrestrial reality, which civilization has played out. We’ve never been anything other than violent, avarice primates. Game theory was probably a dilemma even for Neanderthals. The totality of humanities generosity, empathy and compassion has already been collectively factored into our ecological dilemma. Societal capacity to be sympathetic, curious, informed, proactive and sacrificial has played alongside all the ruling elites’ abuse, corruption, subterfuge, violence and death in collectively depositing us pass the thresholds we’re at today.
What else is NTE other than the final acceptance of the consequences of our species’ fundamental inability to live in balance with our environment? The answer to virtually every question we are ever going to ask, from here on out — post acceptance — can’t honestly be anything other than: “It no longer matters.”
We are currently attempting to live through the overlying of two completely opposing paradigms. The entirety of all our past lived experiences, identities and vested interests are hopelessly ensnared in a recalcitrant culture that very much exists, but wholly and erroneously on borrowed time. All our past wisdom now exists in a state of unending irrelevancy. Our sense of self, our perception of reality is entirely deceptive, and this was true long before any of us were ever born. And now even this fraudulence is flowing away from us. The observable physical universe is literally passing us by within our lifetime!
NTE is a complete intellectual dead end unless we are able to somehow attempt to creatively manifest this awareness in the time we have left. Such awareness will most likely come at a great cost to our existing means … but more about that later.
Think of all our countless past endeavors and harebrained dreams throughout our lives that we no longer support or believe in for whatever reason. Think about the source of what originally birthed whatever moral imperatives we have been compelled by over the years. Then ask yourself, how does the acceptance of NTE not completely undermine the basis of that imperative? What becomes of a moral necessity, if the essence, prospect or vitality that spurs its urgency has been lost completely? What exactly are we doing, in still attempting to fight “the good fight,” if we fully accept all has been lost?
And now, we’re ruminating on the essence of our ethical obligations, in full acceptance that the whole concept of anthropocentric morality will soon be completely erased?
All the lights behind our cultural projectors have burned out, all our stories will soon be lost. Time to put our sacred cows out to pasture, for how can our continued belief in the urgency of our past imperatives — post acceptance of NTE — be considered anything other than anachronistic?
We were too late in discovering our species had been unknowingly charged with the stewardship of maintaining a precious equilibrium, and due to the absence of our collective wisdom, our remaining time is now beyond this natural world, where we are but subjects to the wrath of thermodynamics.
I’m coming to suspect that the cognitive dilemma of NTE might merit an entirely new branch of ontology. What does it mean to be present with NTE? How does one reckon the end of everything? The science has delivered us, but unto what … other than our knees?
NTE is a cultural event horizon, that once we allow ourselves to fully accept it, nothing else in this life will be able to escape its ruthless draw. From a macro perspective, nonlinear rates of climatic change, as it applies to humanity, is a Singularity. It will in all probability be the first and last the human race will ever experience. We are both observers and participants in a game of incalculable factors against impossible odds with an inescapable blunt ending. And this is what we’re attempting to make sense of?
This is not a truth that comes to reveal any hidden sacred bond. It is the obliteration of all social bonds. It is not just more of the same, but worse. It is not the past made present, but unprecedented. It is an acceptance, which is a wholesale life-changing event on an unfathomable scale that will eventually lead us to ruin, starting with severe ostracization from everything and everyone within our culture … as many here can already attest.
The fumes from our vested interests and our past ethical bearing can sustain us for only so long, until the very fabric of our presumed consciousness starts to unravel in light of such disquieting imminence. The entire conversation on NBL in regard to NTE is an evolutionary process in reverse. We will not continue to evolve under its appalling shroud, but digress over time into incomprehensible states of being.
We can only contemplate such staggering amounts of present and future death up to a point, until we start to thoroughly emulate it in our private lives. But this isn’t necessarily something we should avoid. It might just be a step within a process that leads us to a degree of equanimity we can’t yet perceive. But then again, it could easily lead us in the opposite direction.
Either way, the time before us now will soon be considered the halcyon days of sweet objective conjecture, where we “the randomly statistical chosen few” deliberate on the greatest catastrophic event in human history while we still have the luxury and methodology to do so. Not unlike some virtual reenactment of Boccaccio’s The Decameron, where instead of waiting out a medieval plague, which is ravaging the masses, we are prognosticating our encroaching demise from a virtual safe distance.
This moment, right now, is but a very short window in time. There isn’t a soul here who hasn’t battled a legion of closed minds by now. All of our backs are against the same damn immovable wall, and no matter how informed we are, or imagine ourselves to be, that entrenched wall is tumbling us off the cliff along with everything and everyone else.
But even as the endless futility mounts, where some of us are still imagining “resistance to be fertile,” there is a growing concern in the back of my mind, that by way of our compulsive truth seeking, we are closing in on upending our ability to continue to function in this world for whatever amount of time we have left. And I suspect that it is the psychosomatic blowback — for lack of a better term — from having become aware of NTE, that is coming to primarily occupy our thoughts as we reluctantly settle into the surreal parameters of this new paradigm.
Without a doubt, there is no going back. The clichés are running rampant, a parade of metaphors is spilling out of our collective imagination in attempting to make sense of what is otherwise unfathomable. No, we can’t un-see what has been seen. We can’t undo what has been done. All we can do is attempt to live with knowing that we will not live through it. But I’m not convinced this is even possible, unless one is already well advanced in age.
Concerning NTE, what wisdom can an old rich white man possibly have for a young mother of three? While NTE is universal, how it personally manifests in each of our lives is anything but.
The understanding we are attempting to ascertain will make it absurd for having sought it out, the moment we find “it.” We might as well be nakedly roaming the quarantined grounds of Chernobyl with Geiger counters looking for the hottest spots.
We’re currently inhabiting a state of theoretical prospective famine, which will seem serene once civil chaos and genocide resulting from both starvation, and just the threat of it, starts to eventually decimate our world city by county, state by region, country by continent.
NTE is an cerebral journey into a vacuum. The surreality is replete with epic vistas and abysmal depths, but how can the final destination be anything other than an indescribable black hole of resignation that will eventually steal all meaning from our lips?
A part of me almost feels obligated to re-frame any conversation about NTE as an impossible warning for anyone to heed, but one I believe must be acknowledged nonetheless. The forewarning would read as an epitaph over the entrance to a tomb: “The analysis of NTE is the path to your eventual suicide.” For I would wager that anyone who bears the cognizance capable of accepting NTE, today, is seriously undermining their self-preservation in ways not yet known to us. As Montaigne figured out centuries ago, all philosophy does is prepared one for death … and we’re all reluctant philosophers now.
We have inoculated our hearts with an insidious realization, that will eventually devour everything we hold dear … even our children. How long will it be before the ethical dilemma of infanticide starts being seriously discussed, given it’s already on our minds?
We have inadvertently and figuratively stumbled into our own La Brea Tar Pit. Our prescience of the full scale of the dilemma we’re in will not serve us well if it has no passage. I wonder if it will serve us at all as the news only continues to confirm our greatest fears. Knowing both the short and longer term consequences, eventually will become an insufferable burden to carry. I suspect that for many, it already is.
We’re dealing with a discovery of such epic proportion that it simply reduces EVERYTHING in existence to nothing. It is literally impossible to overstate what we’re currently in the process of attempting to delineate.
Aside from perennial Malthusianism, our awareness that we have the potential of self-extinction has only been with us for about a half century, give or take. It’s hypothetically the default bases of the entire environmental movement. All that’s effectively changed over these last fifty years, is that we’ve watched in horror that potential become an ever increasing reality. And where starting around thirty years ago, we discovered the ultimate cause of our extinction would be climatic. Around twelve years ago, we realized the climate Leviathan would most likely rise out of the Arctic. Around 3-6 years ago, we discovered that it had already awakened. And only about 9 or 10 months ago did it become empirically probable that our extinction could transpire within our lifetimes. (And again, that’s not even talking about nuclear containment pools.)
We have witnessed over just the last three years, hypothetical Abrupt Climate Change become empirical, where the evidence is so overwhelming, it barely has anything to do with actual observable science anymore, and has everything to do with human psychology, or rather, our shared pathology in the hopium of indefinite growth and progress. And this is why the whole concept of climate change will be, very soon, completely refashioned in context to geo-engineering, if for no other reason, than it sadly now has both the logical and moral high ground compared to doing nothing. Amazing!
Though it seems as if 2,500 years of pessimism has finally come home to roost, nothing could have prepared us for this! While to some degree, the concept of NTE is nothing new for many of us — it now has its own wiki page — this however, is a false sense of familiarity. Our entire framing of this approaching cataclysm has always been couched in a degree of emotional immunity, simply because none of us ever thought we would actually live to see it, not alone, have to live through it. Of the parade of elephants in the climate change room, this one just spit in our face.
It’s as if some apparition has just passed through our soul, and has left us but a shell of our former selves. Though we are all still acting as if NTE is just another sad fact to be compartmentalized amidst the litany of dismal daily news, we are in fact dealing with a monstrous cultural disconnect, which is wholly impossible for any of us to either resist or rise above, although this is exactly what we are all desperately attempting to do.
What difference exists between a known end, and it’s ending, but time? But what is the value of such time? The momentary appreciation as to our fortune of being able to die, because we were fortuitous enough in beating the incomprehensible odds in having existed? That is a degree of philosophical reflection that eventually leads to economic destitution in this culture. Fully live with that realization for too long, and one will end up quoting Diogenes while sleeping with dogs under an overpass, or find ourselves on an unsolicited express elevator to Sannyasa.
The irony of honest living is it rarely pays the bills. A fairly high level of self-deception has always been required for Homo economicus to make ends meet. It is not by accident that the majority of contributors to NBL are the equivalent to retired landed gentry, which affords some of us the relative detachment from the daily mind numbing demands of capitalism. This seriously taints any presumed wisdom we might be projecting. In our culture, destitution is a fate almost worse than death, and often it is far more terrifying.
We obviously are all in different living arrangements with entirely different responsibilities. We all have different coping mechanism that unconsciously keep us persevering in this life, even while we seek to prove its utter meaninglessness. We are all trapped by any number of demands, limitations as well as illusions.
The financial stress of staying in the rat race is easy to rebuke, if we’ve now a large enough nest egg as a buffer. However, the crucible of NTE makes playing the game nearly impossible, and this is the reality for the vast majority of humanity.
Plant the seed of NTE in the mind of someone who is economically under the thumb of the system, and it could very easily grow to poison them. What “we” often fail to acknowledge is that over the years of our Mithridatic pre-TSD and depression, we’ve unknowingly developed a certain immunity to otherwise fatal truth.
As we continue to role-play our past imperatives in holding the notion of brutal truth above all else, I suspect that we will soon discover acceptance of NTE to be a proxy to mental illness, for it is without a doubt the epitome of inconsolable despair. It is barely a topic that can be shared among those who even accept it. At some point, something must succumb in such an incredible conflict of competing daily interests.
I’m not sure who or what we have a responsibility towards anymore. I can’t even argue if we have a responsibility to ourselves or the rest of life at this point. So I write this today as a cautionary tale for those who may still be circling the rim of the abyss that is NTE, and only occasionally looking down, while still entertaining the prospect of more hopeful alternative outcomes.
Acceptance of NTE is a massively limiting undertaking. It has zero compensation, unless the acceptance of our inevitable predation, starvation or suicide (and, my friends, that is all we’re actually enlightening) can be considered either an interim survivalist fantasy, or a means to peaceful quite resignation … for there are no other outcomes.
“All ye who enter this ethos, will most likely, eventually take their own life.” If this account can in some way be considered offensive, then in my opinion “you” most likely have no business being “here.” Especially those with youth still on their side. In fact, “you” should take what love you have, and run as far from here as you can … and learn from the error of Lot’s wife and never look back.
For this is a place, whether we’re conscious of it or not, that’s engaged in meticulously eroding the very essence of our Being, no matter how we choose to define it.
Again, I am of the opinion that all future discussion post-acceptance of NTE, is now an inherently commiserative experience for no other reason than it’s inevitability.
The moment we truly accept NTE is not the overwhelming sensation of excruciating sadness, but the eventual release that comes after. Acceptance of NTE is nothing but surrender. A surrendering of our life force. We are now speaking of two entirely different world views. Our pre-acceptance arguments are non-transferable, they do not translate. Everything post-acceptance becomes meta-physical. It’s all mysticism from here on out, and I say this as a staunch atheist.
But old habits are hard to break, our combative intellects probably make for much of our identities after years of needless acrimony and cultural resistance. But because “our acceptance” is totally subjective, in a collective forum such as this (NBL), our collective understanding of NTE will probably be kept in a permanent embryonic state, as a constant stream of new adherents reluctantly, haphazardly and gradually come to terms at whatever pace our individual acceptance takes to run its grieving course.
Whereby, as everyone’s mind implodes at different times and at varying degrees, it will effectively keep the conversation in a nascent stage of maturation. Our shared patterned behavior will repeat again and again, as we all jump back and forth between the oscillating highs and lows, where some days we achieve a peak of lucidity, only to lose ourselves in a trough of despair as we attempt to wrestle with the unfolding magnitude of the discovery we’ve unearthed.
But I suspect a time will eventually arrive, where the totality of NTE will have finally worn through all of our emotional defenses, washed away all anticipation, utterly crushed our egos, rendered our past intellects redundant and finally deposited us unto an alluvial plan of resignation of there being no way of escaping a brutal end, once global famine is set upon us. There truly is no preparing for what is coming.
But today, we are still recoiling, we need to catalog the destruction, we still bear enough incredulity that we need support, validation, confirmation and commiseration as our past paradigm continues to play scrimmage with all of this unprecedence. It’s still enough of a novelty for disbelief to keep a foothold. Even as we attempt to wrap our minds around this, I suspect we are still far from grasping “it.”
I like to imagine that when that time finally arrives, when all hope truly fades, when even the remote prospect of rural tranquility is lost, we will have come to terms with our personal ending and see the concept of suicide, not as a stigma of cowardice, or a failure of character, but as altruism in the last ethical act left us.
Carpe diem sounds exquisite — it always has — but it’s just another illusion, especially in a world of debt. We can pretend that we are living in the moment, all the while worrying how we will continue to afford the roofs over our heads, but honestly, we know deep down that carpe diem demands wild abandon and mindfulness that there may be no tomorrow. Carpe diem does not facilitate mortgage payments.
If we are to truthfully “seize” the time we have left, from the clutches of what now appears to be a hopelessly inane future, this will be, as it has always been, impossible to achieve while being overly concerned with the future of money. This is just a ubiquitous fact that most us try to ignore the best we can, because the only alternative, is the risk of destitution. This dilemma has always been present in a culture dominated by capitalism, it’s just more apparent now as we come to terms with the fact that every narrative has ended, and regardless of our means, they no longer justify any end.
Money is still the force that gives us shelter. It is what keeps us fed and warm at night, regardless of who we are, or where we live. Therefore, for us to embrace our inner Epicurean, truly, we must first come to terms with our inevitable destitution, or rather, we must overcome our fear of destitution, if we’re to grasp whatever “meaning” there is to be had in the face of NTE, beyond just writing about it today.
In our hyper-monetized culture, this is obviously easier said than done, but this is where the perception of suicide can, once again, eventually come to be seen as an elemental gift from the universe. NTE is unprecedented in every sense. It completely alters our opinion of everything, including the end of our life. It’s highly debatable whether there has ever been “meaning.” Many would argue, there is nothing but what IS, completely indifferent to any human moral valuation.
So, what becomes of the meaning of suicide in the face of NTE? As with everything else, it clearly isn’t what it was before. It too has been altered. I believe the concept of suicide — a chosen death — will over time, prove to be one of the only fertile grounds of self-discovery still open to us. As Vaclav Havel said, “Sometimes I wonder if suicides aren’t in fact sad guardians of the meaning of life.”
Of course, I’m not speaking of how we’ve come to frame this exceptionally taboo subject in the past, but how — in light of our incredibly recent acceptance of brutal extinction — there will be a considerable semantic shift in the very meaning of the word/act.
In light of NTE, think of suicide as a double negative.
I believe that this acceptance will not only become the gateway that we must all one day pass through to fully live with the recognition of NTE, but where ultimately it will be seen as our last chance at some semblance of salvation amidst the ensuing chaos. Or rather, NTE is what frees us completely from the concept of salvation. In the words of E.M. Cioran, “The certitude that there is no salvation, is a form of salvation, in fact, it is salvation ….”
There is an emergent ethical imperative surrounding suicide in context to NTE that can’t be denied, no matter how disreputable we still considered it be. Its importance will only continue to grow as society slowly comes to terms with the incredibly limited choices within the dilemma now before us. Again, NTE ends in only one of three ways for everyone: predation, starvation or suicide.
The Absolute-ism of humanity’s collective ecological destruction has always been a bur under the saddle of moral philosophy. Those who are inclined towards biophilia sadly understand that it is simply a value/desire that is not universally shared within western culture … by any stretch of the imagination. It just isn’t something you can teach someone. It’s a “value set” that might as well be considered a talent; something inherited by chance. One either possesses it, or they don’t. After decades of being in the ideological trenches of radical environmentalism, I have finally lost all faith that the essence of biophilia is something that can either be taught or learned, and the few exceptions that exist, are just that: exceptional.
So, now here we biophiliacs are, having to finally accept what we’ve probably long suspected to be true, that the human race has so run amok through the vertical ascension of exponential growth that we’ve irreversibly destroyed our planet’s habitable biosphere. Yes, it took us 200, 5,000, 12,000, or 300,000 years to finally achieve it, but whether or not this is something “we” could have avoided, is beside the point … at least at this point. Damage long done, the latest web of life has been broken yet again.
Lamenting as to the cause is irrelevant as well, other than attempting to personally alleviate our sense of culpability in choosing to believe it was inevitable one way or the other. Attempting to deduce exactly when Homo sapiens fell from earth’s grace has the familiar stench of original sin. And given that many, if not most, here are more driven by fiery belief in morality, rather than cool apathetic indifference, the emergent ethical imperative of suicide, is going to gain ever greater currency over the coming years for anyone who has been burdened with having once cared about wilderness. In fact, it’s impossible for it not to. In the words of Friedrich Nietzsche, “It is always consoling to think of suicide: in that way one gets through many a bad night.”
It might sound strange — how could it not — but I believe the question of what suicide becomes, is what circuitously guides us through the cacophony of dead and dying dreams and leads us to whatever “magic” is left to be found in this disintegrating world. The cultural emancipation that comes from overcoming our fear of death, in accepting that we will eventually choose our death, is what ultimately frees us from all attachment, particularly, the fear of destitution and the tyranny of what we consider NOW constitutes our immediate needs.
We must remember that every single vested interest we possess was formed prior to acceptance of NTE. The entirety of our physical existence exists in opposition of the acceptance we’ve now initiated … and it is far from its finality.
In knowing that whatever may come, that it simply doesn’t matter, is the freedom that will allow us to truly leave everything behind, which is what we all must eventually do. Frankly, I don’t believe it’s actually possible to “let go” without having done this.
There is a significant difference between knowing that tomorrow could be our last, and living in full acceptance that if tomorrow is indeed our end, that we know we are ready to go. That knowing is what will allow us to live without fear and truly be present in whatever amount of time we do have left, whether it be a few weeks or a few decades. Once the undulating emotional trauma of NTE runs its acidic course, we begin to glimpse that such forced perverse acceptance, remarkably has within it, the capacity to become the most profound numinous/existential experience the human race has ever “produced.”
What makes something tragic? Isn’t the whole notion of tragedy an anthropocentric cultural construct?
Could the past five extinction events be considered a tragedy? Is the cycle of life a tragedy?
What separates expected loss from unexpected loss, other than what we’ve been conditioned to expect?
How do we reconcile our sense of the tragic loss of life, resulting from human activity, with the fact that the vast majority of life on earth has already succumbed to extinction, and where if it hadn’t, we most likely wouldn’t exist?
Are other life forms blameworthy for having driven their competitors into extinction, or do we somehow morally hold our selves apart/above, in believing “we” had a choice, due to our higher cognitive faculty?
Is NTE only a tragedy, because we’re aware of our culpability?
And exactly, who is “we”? What evidence is there of our species possessing the necessary collective wisdom capable of overcoming our collective destruction of the natural world? Is there any evidence that our species possesses collective wisdom at all?
Or more importantly, when has the ruling elite ever acted altruistically, since the entire history of civilization has always been controlled by a ruling class? Whatever exceptions may have existed for a brief time, there’s an obvious reason they are statistically irrelevant.
Therefore, is NTE only a tragedy, because “we” presume it could have been prevented? This is a crucial question in regard to our acceptance of NTE, for if it couldn’t have been prevented, can it still be considered tragic? Because how much does our sense/belief that it could have somehow been averted, still affect our sense of culpability in dictating our moral imperatives? And if we do believe it could have been prevented, how is this anything other than just a fantastic article of faith in Utopianism? And how could such a utopian society been effective without becoming an oppressive totalitarian State?
I ask these questions having spent decades foolishly projecting my ecological values unto an utterly indifferent citizenry. It is all too easy for us to isolate ourselves in minority enclaves and overlook that the vast majority of our species has, nor will they ever, possess the macro ecological values capable of overriding our biological imperative.
In my opinion, the degree we continue to measure NTE in preventable-tragic terms, will mostly likely determine our sense of moral imperative vs. hedonic resignation.
As radicals, at what point does our sense of culpability as to the crimes of empire just become a shell game because our past identity/vested interests can’t let go of what we know is completely lost, or that regardless of our morality, it couldn’t have been prevented?
But hold on, what of our personal responsibility to the natural world, whose destruction we’ve all profited from? What right do any of us first-worlders have in being able to seek enjoyment, in light of an extinction event we’ve all done more than our share in creating? What of all the life under our collective industrial thumb, still struggling to exist? What right do we thieves have to go quietly into that good night? Can’t the remnants of our past imperatives still find more proactive forms of dissent, civil disobedience and rebellion even in acceptance of NTE? Wouldn’t the most ethical choice be to dedicate our lives in helping ease the suffering of the less fortunate? As moral agents, are we not obligated to swim upstream to the bitter end, regardless? Isn’t “secular morality” solely based on the righteousness of the act itself, despite its outcome?
Are the answers to these questions obvious to anyone who considers themselves to be driven by a moral imperative that is rooted in a sense of culpability? It has been the driving force in my life, for my entire adult life. I have by no means painlessly come to the acceptance I can no longer deny.
The driving wedge of course is NTE, which completely flips the script as to the “meaning” of everything, including what is and isn’t an ethical act. For how ethical is it, for us privileged few to actually continue to live, full well knowing that it is our relatively obese existences that are the ultimate causality of the degradation of the natural world? As ecologically minded moral agents, what right do we have to continue to consume … anything, in full acknowledgment that we’ve already consumed far too much? In a world of permanent scarcity, what isn’t stolen from someone who has been victimized by our empire? How much more energy will all of us consume from here on out, in spite of how we live? How much basic material goods will we continue to plunder while we breath, regardless of the morality of our behavior?
From a purely logical point of view, in a reality of gross ecological overshoot, isn’t altruistic suicide actually the most ethical act any of us first-worlders can now affect, or rather, impart? If living by example is our moral goal, couldn’t it be argued that whatever ends our continued consumption of the natural world, is actually the highest ethical objective?
Clearly, there is no one way of answering any of these questions. Again, even before the advent of NTE, resolution as to “meaning” itself was philosophically unquantifiable. What is or isn’t considered anthropocentric truth has been literally debated for thousands of years. Hume’s “is, ought” conundrum has never been resolved, nor will it ever be, and this was true even when humanity at least had the illusion of “progress.” What physical act, or belief system regardless of its morality, isn’t hopelessly anthropocentric?
As breeding, consuming, polluting animals on a planet choking to death from our affluence, wouldn’t it be considered the highest display of human consciousness, to willfully end our self-destructive lives as a testament to the highest level of anthropocentric conscientiousness?
At least for me, there is only one question we need to ask ourselves in attempting to reconcile our past-present-future perspectives: In a post-acceptance reality of NTE, what doesn’t become relative?
For me, nothing … anymore. NTE is an astonishing equalizer. Everything, all of life in existence, just became relative to everything else, including all the life that has already passed into extinction. Our presumed disconnect between life today, and the 98% of life that no longer exists, has ended.
Those who still continue to hold onto their past sense/construct/modality/illusion of morality, again, probably have no business contemplating NTE. All of our past ethical dilemmas were involuntarily reconciled the moment we accepted it, which is why “our acceptance” of such an utterly demoralizing event, is/was the unconscious fulcrum point which leads to the ethical downfall of every thought here, or thereafter.
Once we begin to frame the meaning of NTE in context to our personal life choices, it instantly stops being an abstract concept, which again, is all it’s been up to this point, and we’re forced to seriously confront the single greatest dilemma in the history of humanity, whereby face up to the reality that we simply haven’t much longer to live.
How do we draw the ultimate conclusion of our life, while we’re still filled with vitality? When we all still have so much life to live and share, how do we come to terms with the unprecedented reality that we will most likely soon be forced to take our life, for the sole reason of avoiding needless suffering?
Obviously, it is only natural that we avoid this dreadful conclusion for as long as we possibly can, which is what most of us are probably going to do, especially those who haven’t the freedom to act otherwise. We will all most likely play the waiting game, especially young parents, and continue on with our lives pretty much as we have up to this point, for as long as we can, and decide how we’ll roll with the punches as they come.
When in doubt, play it safe. Slow and steady wins the race. No point in making any brash decisions, while there’s still so much room for doubt. Right?
BUT, we can only continue to skirt around the issue of what NTE actually means to us personally for so long. I would suppose that for almost everyone here, our lives are basically still the same as they were prior to this dire sublimation. Little has probably physically changed as a result, yet, we all know that this will only be true for so long.
The remainder of this essay is a little more opinionated. It is written for those of us who have decided to be brash in our acceptance that we simply haven’t much time left to experience however much time remains. I have finally left my past moral imperatives to wither in the solar winds, and have now come down on the side of ethical hedonism as being the only way “I” can truly be present with NTE.
There is no right or wrong way of attempting to live through what simply can’t be. It is impossible for our individual sense of morality, to not be rife with false analogy in context to the incomparable unprecedence now upon us. We will all be victims of either deliberate or unintended consequence, some sooner, others slightly later, but there is no getting out of harm’s way. There’s no there, there.
Again, for those who consider there “might” still be a chance to turn this bloody ship around, then it logically makes no sense for those to even be considering NTE, for not only is it a false pretense, but its utterly self-defeating. Personally, I would rather the next cadre of activist know nothing of NTE, where they battled against themselves to the bitter end, completely blind of the insurmountable odds. What a far more preferable and enviable way to be alive.
But those of us who have spent far too much time down the rabbit hole, where are we in practical terms as to “now what?” If you’re either physically infirmed, too old to desire making any drastic changes, or you’ve either young children or elderly dependents in your care, or for that matter, you’re more than content wherever you’re at right now, then there really isn’t much left to be said, other than sit back or stand up, and watch the whole shithouse go up in flames in whatever manner you choose.
But I am none of the above, I have no dependents. I’ve seen collapse coming for a long time, and I have centered my life around it. I have almost no responsibilities I can’t walk away from. Some might consider me fortunate, but it’s been quite intentional and it’s definitely come at a high price. So how I or any of us come to frame Ragnarok, it’s going to be subjectively unique to our circumstances. But I suspect my circumstances are also shared by many here as well.
So, all things considered, I would suggest we start making plans to sell off everything we have while we still can, and roam this world and experience the natural wonder it still possesses, while our existing civility and privilege still affords us this last opportunity.
The most essential aspect behind this most unreal understanding, is for it to be done in full acceptance that when either time, money, or our Will simply runs out, we’ll have acceded we’ve reached the end of our personal journey, and it will be time to exercise the only free will we’ve probably ever had, in choosing whatever exit strategy we’re most comfortable with. A chosen death is a uniquely vague timeline for each of us, but one with a very common end.
In other words, start contemplating your eventual suicide today, so when the time finally does come, we’ll be able to fearlessly embrace the moment with open arms, and just maybe, before that day arrives, we will be able to live with a degree of ontological presence, literally never experienced across the entire arc of humanity.
For if we don’t, very soon, we will wish we had.
Here is why I think this is true.
My long definition of NTE is both descriptive yet hopelessly indistinct: It will eventually arise from a sequence of catastrophic global civic failure stemming from permanent food scarcity, as a consequence of ever-increasing extreme weather events, due to both the collapse and predictability of the Northern Hemispheric jet stream, as the temperature and pressure gradients continue to weaken in the Arctic. And lest we forget, NTE will be greatly aided and preceded by humanity’s murderous forte. It can also effectively be summed up in two words: Permanent drought! And again, I’m intentionally avoiding the subject of containment pools, which easily merits its own essay.
At least for me, the meaning of life is completely determined by the quality of life, which is why I’ve always considered life imprisonment to be far worse than a death sentence. I have always known that if the quality of my life was degraded to a point that it lost all meaning, then life would no longer be worth living.
Enter NTE. Ergo, enter the almost impenetrable awareness that it’s only a question of time, before each of us consider life to no longer be worth living. Aside from that being nearly an impossible acceptance to attempt to live with, it has become sine qua non from which every thought I now have must pass through. Therefore, all the remaining meaning in my life only has a limited amount of time between now, and some indeterminate point in the very near future for me to consider life worth living. This novel reality is the actual crux of this entire essay.
As cognitive filters go, NTE doesn’t let too much through. In fact, only one idea as how best to spend my remaining time has made it pass this mind-boggling juggernaut: Peacefully and quietly leave this world as a completely carefree drug-addled impoverished vagabond, who eventually takes a lovely one-way walk into the woods.
I have already accepted that today is as good as life on earth will ever be, it’s all downhill from here, the extinction event that is already terribly advanced can’t be stalled, so the clock as to my remaining time is already ticking along with all the rest of life.
And yes, that mortal coil started unraveling at my conception, and this is why age, will most likely be the greatest factor in determining the choices we make from here on out. If we feel we’ve plenty of life still in us, we’ll most likely feel inclined to stuff as many new experiences in the time we have left, compared to those who are well pass their prime, and naturally see ease and comfort as their best available option.
I am someone who would much rather die from a rattlesnake bite, after days of hallucinating on mushrooms in the desert, than sit behind my computer and continue to alphabetize the apocalypse until the power goes out, as I’ve done for far, far too long already.
All that is left is for me to discover the courage to truly live with this morbid conviction, but to be completely honestly, I haven’t mustered the nerve yet. My behavior is still one of passive deference, for reasons still unknown to me, but most likely it’s just a jumble of distraction, guilt, fear, melancholy and a little laziness thrown in for safe measure.
I’m still telling myself that I need two more years of trending data sets to feel confident NTE will transpire much sooner than any of us ever imagined. Logically, I have accepted it, but I have yet to emotionally resolve my manifold hypocrisy.
Finding the courage to willingly embrace our inevitable destitution unto death is the only purpose of accepting NTE in my opinion. If this is not our objective, then I can see very little reason for even taking it into consideration. Why initiate such a ruinous acceptance into our existing lives, if we’re not going to allow our past lives to actually be ruined?
I am not old enough to die of natural causes before global famine descends across the globe, given it is probably only a few years away at this point anyhow. Whether or not most of us die as a direct result of famine or genocide is a question that simply no longer interests me. At this stage of the game, it’s all equally horrific. So what’s the point in continuing to waste our precious time even thinking about the millennial pernicious power plays of hairless apes?
For not unlike our current gross inequality, as long as capitalism rues the day, and I fear it wretchedly will until the very end, food stuff will flow in only one direction, towards those who can afford it. Those who can’t, will either quietly starve, riot or be killed.
Governments will have only two options in addressing this, either disintegrate and schism into temporary competing factions, or become brutal oppressive genocidal police states of in-groups and out-groups, thus postponing complete civic collapse by a number of years, through vicious demand destruction.
Governments with large securities apparatuses will most likely become police states, while governments without advanced security forces will most likely collapse. Endless war between competing police states will be the only perceived surrogate for hope in a world of permanent famine. The global citizenry will willfully welcome tyranny, much in the same way we always have. And as many of us have already accredited, “what’s past is prologue” … it’s just going to be unbelievably atrocious for the world’s poor in the beginning, again, much as it is already.
We live in a hyper-interdependent global market place, completely irrespective of its sustainability. State currency valuation and exchange through central banking is the sum total of what our speculative civilization now reflexively strives to protect. Whatever means keeps liquidity in the markets and power in the State, will be kept in play for as long as humanly possible.
Entire nations will be sacrificed upon the altar of maintaining capital flow and investment, it’s just a question of trickling economies of scale on the way down. We inhabit an utterly amoral economic system that will sacrifice all of life to sustain itself. Capitalism will double down until it, or we, cease to be. As long as there is enough energy to allow capitalists to cannibalize all perceived assets in an indebted world, then even famine on a global scale will just be a game of attrition controlled by the world’s ruling elite, in a continuous charade of paying a well-armed Peter to murder an ever-starving Paul.
It dawned on me a few years back that after over a decade of intensely attempting to collectively network with others through a myriad of preparedness schemes that I had just lost the will to survive in the collapsing world I was proselytizing. This is quite different from no longer wanting to live, for I very much love life, and have no desire to needlessly cut it short. I have just always seen living and surviving as to two separate entities. I am also at an age where I feel I’ve already taken more than my share.
I have decided after decades of feral study, without any sense of certainty, and based only on my opinion as to what is and isn’t probable, that when the Arctic sea ice is completely gone during the summer, when the earth’s Holocene epoch completely loses one of its primary thermal regulators, we are probably only a few years at best, before the ruling classes of the world realize global agriculture is untenable, and at that point, the lack of alternatives will be rather self-evident. And I simply have no desire to live through that deleterious fallout, nor do I even feel I have a right to.
What an endless perverse decay of ideas we now embark, where NTE can be seen as a bizarre new lease on life for those who are in a position to access it.
I can’t yet claim I’ve achieved this, for I’m still terribly conflicted and immersed in a lifetime of despondent culpability, but I can see an entirely new transgressive identity rising out of the ashes of this phenomenal and ominous acceptance.
Only a few years ago, I would be the first to lead the charge in attacking the very perspective I now possess. But necessity dictates my moral imperative, and it requires at least some belief of a viable future for the remaining life on earth. But I am now without this belief, and it seems my long personal sense of insignificance, has finally caught up to my actions. I was weary long before there was no point.
So, I am not one for skulking through what remains of this life, only to carefully arrive at extinction. I am going out on my terms, no one else’s. But until that day comes, I’m going to embrace this endless redefining of life for as long as I desire, as I hysterically fall out of this world.
If NTE is a tsunami, I’m sure in the hell not going to wait for it to arrive, I’m going to swim out to it across the desert night sky.
Whistle-blower extraordinare Sibel Edmonds connects the dots brilliantly with respect to Boston and Syria. This essay is well worth reading, especially if you don’t believe in government-inspired conspiracies.