Humanism is a doctrine of salvation — the belief that humankind can take charge of its own destiny. Among Greens, this has become the ideal of humanity becoming the wise steward of the planet’s resources. But for anyone whose hopes are not centred on their own species the notion that human action can save themselves or the planet must be absurd. They know the upshot is not in human hands. They act as they do not out of the belief that they can succeed, but from an ancient instinct.
For much of their history and all of prehistory, humans did not see themselves as being any different from the other animals among which they lived. Hunter-gatherers saw their prey as equals, if not superiors, and animals were worshipped as divinities in many traditional cultures. They humanist sense of a gulf between ourselves and other animals is an aberration. It is the animist feeling of belonging with the rest of nature that is normal. Feeble as it may be today, the feeling of sharing a common destiny with other living things is embedded in the human psyche. Those who struggle to conserve what is left of the environment are moved by the love of living things, biophilia, the frail bond of feeling that ties humankind to the Earth.
The mass of mankind is ruled not by its intermittent moral sensations, still less by self-interest, but by the needs of the moment. It seems fated to wreck the balance of life on Earth — and thereby to be the agent of its own destruction. What could be more hopeless than placing the Earth in the charge of this exceptionally destructive species? It is not of becoming planet’s wise stewards that Earth-lovers dream, but of a time when humans have ceased to matter.
The preceding paragraphs are extracted from the opening chapter of John Gray’s 2002 book, Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals. In this space, I last quoted from Gray’s book in an essay posted in September 2007.
Consistent with my recent approach, I’m pasting below an essay from long ago. In this case, I posted the essay in this space on 14 December 2007. The title is identical to the one posted here today. This essay, and the date it was posted, indicate how long I’ve been writing about near-term human extinction. Although I reached this conclusion in 2002, I dared not discuss the idea for more than five years. The essay is followed by an embedded video clip created by Ivey Cone of Fuki Cafe.
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.
I’ll be interviewed by Doug Bennett for Unspun radio on Saturday, 3 October 2015. The show will air for an hour, starting at noon Eastern here. It’s a call-in show, so please ask questions when you connect with us at 530.337.1885.