If your house is on fire, you take urgent action. But what do you do when the whole world is burning?
For many of us Netflix, and similar streaming platforms, offer a welcome respite from the daily doom-scrolling and the seemingly endless stresses of the modern world. If Homo Sapiens was a Netflix show, we might be wondering if there are many seasons left, what with all the mounting threats and evil super-villains out there. Can this great clan survive, or might we be on our way out for good? Will Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos be our saviours, or are they also villains, obscenely rich playboys in the ultimate dick-swinging contest? Can Greta Thunberg and all the other passionate young activists inspire us to avert catastrophe? Stay tuned.
Supposedly the smartest creatures that ever walked upon this lush, blue-green planet, we’ve certainly come a long way in the past few millennia. Surely we couldn’t go the way of the dinosaurs, after all we’ve achieved? I mean come on, we built the pyramids, put men on the Moon, and invented microwave popcorn! Aren’t we the chosen ones, vastly superior to those tiny-brained giant lizards that preceded us? Of course the dinosaurs didn’t know what hit them, but, unlike us, they were not complicit in their own demise.
It is difficult to make predictions, especially about the future”
We cannot know exactly how bad things might get, but the evidence is now incontrovertible: we are heating our planet at a rate that might leave much of it uninhabitable, and lead to almost unthinkable levels of destruction and loss of life. A chaotic future of endless droughts, fires and floods. Of food insecurity and forced mass migration. Yay Homo Sapiens, way to go!
We’ve already had a small – and terrifying – taste of things to come. How much more will it take before everyone wakes up and stops putting out the fire with gasoline? Of course there are numerous scientists and organisations who’ve been sounding the alarm for many years. And we’ve learned that the Oil and Gas industry knew about the likely consequences of their activities decades ago. Would a small group of wealthy individuals really prioritise short-term profits ahead of the very existence of our species? It seems they would, and did just that. Sigmund Freud popularised the concept of the “death drive”, also referred to as Thanatos after the Greek god of death. Maybe he was on the mark with that one (no pun intended).
Our big brains are supposed to give us a unique advantage: we can anticipate threats and take appropriate action. Yet oddly, in the face of the greatest existential threat in our – fairly brief – history, we are doing… almost nothing. And what can we do, anyway, as individuals? Recycle more? Eat less meat? Commute by unicycle and avoid plastic bags? Many people in the wealthy ‘developed’ world are certainly doing some of these things. But what difference does it really make? Is all this, as the writer George Monbiot succinctly puts it, just ‘micro consumerist bollocks’? And what about the world’s poorest and most vulnerable citizens, those on the front-line of this war against nature? They contribute a tiny fraction of all the carbon dioxide that is pumped into the atmosphere every year (A total of 43 billion tons in 2019), yet will bear the brunt of catastrophic climate change in the years ahead.
It always seems impossible until it is done”
Nelson Mandela, et al.
As world leaders gather to make their pledges at the crucial COP26 in Scotland, and Britain’s clown-in-chief snoozes through the meetings, thousands of people around the world are taking to the streets to demand urgent action. Not more green-washing, but the bold, serious and far-reaching action we need to cut our emissions and ensure that Homo Sapiens gets renewed for many more seasons to come.
Do we really deserve a second chance? We’ve wiped out countless other species and decimated many of the planet’s ecosystems in pursuit of more and more useless stuff. But we have also shown we can be wise, compassionate and visionary, given half a chance. I think we owe it to the young, and to future generations to hold up our hands, accept we have fucked-up, and use those mighty brains of ours to pull ourselves back from the brink. To embrace Eros, the goddess of love, and give Thanatos a big boot in the arse. The show must go on, as they say. But let’s try and ensure it’s not going to be another dystopian saga of endless misery and suffering. Lights, camera, action!
© Copyright Jason Lennick 2021