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.