The methane burp that awaits: Ruminations on the ever-worsening threat of climate change.
By E.F Nicholson
My ability to take in bad news about climate change and not let it get to me seems to go through phases. I think, as a form of mental self-protection, you need to avert your eyes for a certain amount of time, otherwise it can be too overwhelming. Recently, upon reading about the potential methane burp that could end human civilisation, not in a hundred years, but over the next 10-20, it really, for obvious reasons, got to me. I have been feeling a surreal despair that this is happening. This is going to happen. The people making such predictions as these aren’t doomsday crazies, they are well-educated scientists coming to these conclusions from the data and research they acquire working in this field. So try I forget about it for a bit, yet the reality of our projected future just looms larger and larger, and articles like this just seem to really amplify that fact.
Maybe that global dire straits will take longer than 20 years to show itself, but the fact is some people are no longer asking, “Can we stop this?” Rather, the question is, “Will it take 20 years or 100 years to flush humanity down the toilet?” Like many people, what really gets me is the idea of what my kids, now aged 7 and 8, will be inheriting come their thirties. What kind of mad-max shit, crazy-type future awaits them? All this, and they have the privilege of living in a western country, as opposed to the children in poorer nations who will be hit first, hit hardest, and will absorb the first wave of climate catastrophe. The NTE near-terminal-extinction people really do believe it’s over for us, and like hundreds of species going extinct every day, the homo sapiens will soon be added to that list (metaphorically, that is, as there won’t be any humans left to make lists). Their mind-set is like accepting that someone has cancer and will actually die, allowing them to then stop fighting and start to make peace. They see humanity is in hospice and the prognosis is emanate death, so it’s now just a case of when our time will come. If the NTE camps position is capitulation or just realistic acceptance is open for debate. The fact that they have a link to “suicide prevention” resources on their homepage allows you to see just how cheery and joyous their predications will make you feel.
I personally don’t know enough about the science to agree or disagree. I remember when my father was about to die he seemed not to be able to just accept it and do then what he needed to do. Right up until the last few days he was hoping for a miracle. The fear of what awaited him, the fear of no control, of his ego, and of death seemed to allow him to rationalise this kind of false hope. On asking the doctor, “Why won’t you just tell him bluntly he is going to die?” the doctor replied, “We can’t take away someone’s hope,” which I understand, but what is hope and what is just denial and fantasy?
So it appears society is in a collective denial, as well as a collective indifference, as, for now, the pain of our frenzied consumption and ceaseless economic growth is only felt by poor people on the other side of the world. You can’t help thinking than when the petrol pump is empty or there is suddenly no food on supermarket shelves, the penny may drop, a little too little, a lot too late. So how do you process that in a way that doesn’t fill you full of bleak despair? I actually have no idea. Maybe expecting to feel anything else is just unrealistic.
I think what makes it all the more surreal and disheartening is how everyone is just pottering along like everything is just dandy. The media, in this respect, has failed on a cataclysmic level, and have revealed themselves to be a bought and spineless mouthpiece of the wrong in this world. As the truth should be, until something is done about climate change it should be on the front page of every newspaper, the first story on the news, and dominate all of what gets published and filmed. The media should be frantically sounding the alarm, bringing people’s attention to how bad it is and how bad it’s going to get. That’s supposedly their job, you know, reporting the truth. We are way past worrying that people could get into a panic; we need people to get in a panic, as a climate tsunami approaches and the media’s response is to top up their cocktails and put on more sunscreen. Discussing who won the X Factor or if a rapist should be allowed to play professional football again solidifies the delusion that we needn’t worry. The media presents climate change as just a sub-section of their reporting on the environment, rather than the heralding of humanity’s potential extinction, which is what it truly is.
Now, it’s true that I don’t know for sure that cataclysmic climate change awaits us all. You could argue living in fear or despair for a future that is yet to happen could be seen as an illusion in and of itself. Yet I really do believe humanity is dumb enough, greedy enough, and asleep enough to fuck this thing up. There is also massive science showing this is exactly where we are going. Let’s face what we are already doing to the third world anyway. They live in abject poverty, work as the West’s slaves, live with a structural violence that kills 30,000 people a day from curable diseases. (Could you imagine 30,000 Americans a day dying of starvation or some preventable disease?) Their shafting began a long time ago, and climate change will just add salt to those wounds, all for us to continue living the way we do. The population of the third world, just due to the bad luck of being born there, will endure all of this and more. I can’t help thinking that type of collective karma, at some point, will reach our door. You can’t move things into such an unbalanced state and not expect some kind of shared correction. Maybe climate change is the beginning of some kind of wider correction.
So to combat that despondency all I can do is try to live day by day, to be with my girls in the here-and-now, and to come from the point of view of “I’ll deal with that when and where it happens.” For now, all I can do is try, at least, to sound the alarm, which was the original idea of myself and Tim starting this blog. We wanted to be on the record for saying, “This is bad, this is fucked up, and this is wrong,” independent of whatever deaf ears it may fall on. Also, staring up at the starry night and reflecting on what forces constructed this universe and what its ultimate function is, I have absolutely no idea, and that ignorance, in a weird way, I find comforting. I do believe in something meaningful behind the fabric of life that I have discussed here, I just have no idea what it is. That feeling of the mystery, magic and otherworldly helps me remember that, as the world plummets to its terminal demise, there is a wider view, a cosmic view that I am not privy to that may put that into broader context. At the same time, the fact I can only take consolation from some unnameable and unknowable mysterious presence in the face of a fixable problem shows you how absurd all this has become. I shouldn’t need to draw down on anything otherworldly. I should be able take some kind of faith that those in a position to make a difference aren’t dumb enough or amoral enough just to let this happen. Yet evidence points to the fact they are doing exactly that.
So I can just try, at least, to absorb the information about what’s happening, yet process it with those understandings in mind. I need to surrender to the fact that, beyond my own very small and personal space, things are the way they are and things will be the way they will be, and what appears to be a catastrophic collapse, like the caterpillar goes through before it morphs into butterfly, is the death knell required for something new to be born. Maybe , maybe not, yet supposedly I am entitled to my ray of hope, and a better, more loving future for humanity is where I choose to invest this hope of mine for now.
12 thoughts on “The methane burp that awaits: Ruminations on the ever-worsening threat of climate change.”
Reblogged this on listen to the babe and commented:
This post sat open and unread in my laptop since it popped up on my Reader. I couldn’t bring myself to absorb another doomsday piece on climate change. Not that I don’t believe it’s going to happen– I used to work as an activist on the issue and I burst a vein trying to convince people it was real back in 2000. I just didn’t want to be reminded of where we might, no, where we are heading– because in all likelihood we have breached the 2°C target that’s been the main policy narrative in this debate. I’m reblogging this not to cause anxiety but because the author is right– we need to sound the alarm. We need to push harder than we have ever pushed because we are running out of time to protect not just ourselves but the vulnerable populations of this planet.
“So it appears society is in a collective denial, as well as a collective indifference, as, for now, the pain of our frenzied consumption and ceaseless economic growth is only felt by poor people on the other side of the world.” He’s fucking right.
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Mythological ostriches, that is.
Thanks for the re-blog LTTB. Yeah totally relate to how you feel, that methane burb article slipped through my happy filter and logged its truthiness in my brain and I couldn’t get it out. I try not to think too much about it either, it’s seriously depressing but at the same time I think it’s too early to capitulate and just throw the towel in. It’s like you know your business is fucked when you budget in a lotto win to balance the books. The Earth is so fucked when we need Thor come down and kick some global polluters arse if we standing any chance of survival. All this seems to validate that is there is a god it has very dark sense of humour. Hope 2015 is finding you well 🙂
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Ok I will start praying to Thor and weaving my happy filter. The thought of doing either never occurred to me…
I often wonder about hegemony and who exactly are at the top in control. Is there a back up plan to just say in the 25th hour, by the way we really cracked fusion power back in the day of the Manhattan project. We were just waiting until the most profitable means of energy consumption dried up. How much is power and money worth? a whole new strategy of ideology away from consumerism and the major distractions of multiple tech toys while those less fortunates from undeveloped countries drink from a river filled with bleach and god knows what. Yes it is bleak. There are answers that might be drowned out by the noise of the selfishly driven. But no worries. A catastrophe from the likes of biblical times might possibly sway the tide of change. It is good that you care about this important subject and may be hoping that we find another way fast. Unfortunately I get the feeling that some/many are busy watching the fools lantern in the corner of their living room…
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Our problem is that we are greedy. We are diseased with a mentality of greed and impatience. We want things now now now and we always want more more more. Being a westerner it all really weighs heavily on my mind. It was after all certain western peoples that began to overpopulate Europe and since Europe lacks resources we had to go out and take other people’s land and resources. That’s how the colonist/imperialist mindset is born. Japan did the same thing to China and Korea and other parts of Asia. Our economic system is the plain-in-sight visible killer of this planet. It wants infinite growth driven by growing populations and hunger for resources. This major problem that we are facing right now is a direct result of greed and impatience. We could have had everything we have right now and more sometime in the future and not have to face this problem but we couldn’t wait, meanwhile having known full well for a long time already the consequences of our way of living. I feel no emotions from reading the recent articles on the big methane burp waiting to happen and the planetary omnicide that will happen in the coming decades. It is no news to me anymore. Hoping for the best is all I can say.
Thanks for the detail response. I agree with you on one hand. What you describing is hard to argue otherwise, as it seems fairly self-evident .Greed and impatience are in fact driving us off the cliffs edge. The bit I am not sure about is if we should call it “we” as in “us” or “them” and in “those” who build and create the social and cultural systems of propaganda to ensure people remaining ignorant and just keep mindless roaring the oars on the galley ships of our demise. On the NTE site I linked I saw an interesting argument against NTE that raised the issue of surrender vs capitulation. Is saying it’s all over for humanity just a realistic acceptance or is it rather capitulation with fancy rationalisation? Is the fight really over? I don’t have an answer to either of those question but I do feel they are still worth answering. Thanks EF
Climate changes as it has always.
My unicorn got a throat infection yesterday so have to make this short.
COLD CAN NOT HEAT HOT!
AGW is fraud.
An unproven hypothesis – NOT a proven theory.
As someone who accepts the prospect of NTE (Near Term Extinction) as an inevitability, unless a miracle happens, I ponder the science of climate change and the existential consequences of our dire straits daily. I even administer a FB page NTHE Spiritual Support Group – it’s a place where people of all faiths, religious and spiritual traditions gather to share their insights and thoughts as we struggle to come to terms with the enormity of the challenge for life on Planet Earth and the fact of our own mortality. Thanks for your article – I found your points valid as they well relate to the personal experiences and struggles of those of us who are willing to face the realties of the disasters we have created on Earth and strive to live conscious joyous lives in the process. I liked your article so much I’m posting to my group! Thanks!
Hi Deb, I am glad the article help contribute to the dialogue you have going on your facebook page? Do you have link to the group? It was a rumination rather than any particular point of view, as its such a complicated and difficult thing to get your head around. In many ways the absurdity of how we have got to this point adds to the continued denial, as its seem really hard to accept we are that collectively stupid. Yet we have previous precedent of similar scale of societal insanity ie nuclear weapons Humanity having a future or 30 more years of Mc Happy meals? Looks like we picked the later. Maybe the universe has sense of humour after all 🙂 TC E.F
DP>Climate changes as it has always.
No, it changes more quickly and violently than ever before.
Ask any polar bear…
DP>AGW is fraud.
DP>An unproven hypothesis – NOT a proven theory.
You ignore a vast (and ever growing) body of scientific facts.
Plus, we don’t need AGW to destroy us. The death of the oceans
from acidification and pollution will do nicely. And there are >many<
other realistic threats to our existence. Open your eyes!
Hi John, Thanks for your feedback. To be honest I don’t have in-depth enough understanding of climate science to say definitely one way or an other. Although there maybe some science saying “man made” climate change is not happening its still a very small percentage for what the overall consensus, which shows it is. What adds to that is fact some main doubter be it Fox News or Heritage Foundation is they have clear vested interest coming from industry in “keeping open for debate” to ensure profits aren’t effected. Then we have economic system that so short term and unsustainable that independent of climate change, that we can’t infinity grow with finite resources, moving to renewable energy supplies is common sense. Then that cynical part of me real does think people are dumb enough and asleep enough to let this happen, as we shepard ourselves over the cliff whilst texting an eating big mac.I agree that we have many other threats but that being case doesnt mean climate change is more or less of threat.In my experince when someone suggests i open my eyes, infering I am blind to something they can see, they i somehow can’t. What would that be?