They say comedy is about breaking taboos, and the two biggest taboos are sex and death. In that vein, I’ve got a joke for you:
We’re totally fucked, and we’re all going to die.
It’s okay. I mean, the situation isn’t okay at all, but it’s okay to let yourself feel it. We’re fucked and we’re gonna die. Admit that we’re in a mass extinction, that climate change is unstoppable , that ancient horrors are rising from the deep and business as usual cannot go on. We’re already living it. Saying it doesn’t make it worse.
Yes, we killed the future. I’m complicit. As much as I want to blame the Boomers for our climate crisis, we’re all in this death pact together. So we’re all held to account: if you see genocide before you, and make no effort to stop it nor outcry of alarm, you have that blood on your hands. I have it, on mine.
What to do? There’s no way to navigate politics anymore. Statistically, events we think are unlikely are also the ones we’re most likely to be wrong about. Think about the last few years: pollsters and statisticians have been constantly in error. The black swans are thick in the sky, blotting out the sun. Any day, any one of us could tip the balance, for wrong or for right. We have to take whatever opportunities we can find.
We have maybe a decade to retool our entire world infrastructure, and to do that we’re going to have to rethink the way we make decisions. We’ve known about this problem for thirty years, but our governments have brought nothing but disaster. If I have blood on my hands, the politicians are drenched head to foot. So we’re going to have to change the politicians, change the political system that bred them.
We only have a little time before we irreversibly destroy the only known life in the universe. If we stub our toe on this, the biosphere itself could die. Even the best case scenarios aren’t great. Some (very rich) people want to run off to space, to start again on Mars. (Shit, I want to go to Mars: what better place to hide from all the people I’ve disappointed?) But that’s bad triage.
If you start in the coldness of space, with nothing but a tin can between you and agonizing death, and you’re given the choice between a lifeless Mars and a poorly-maintained Earth, no sane person would choose the red rock over the green-blue marble. At least Earth has got some biology to work with.
So we have to rethink our relation to our biosphere, and we have to do it collectively, because everyone has to buy in. If even one country spews carbon into the atmosphere unregulated, capital will simply shuffle its factories there while the globe chokes on exhaust. We’re forced either to come together as a planetary species, or die, dumbly, like dinosaurs.
It’s almost cause for hope: the catastrophe might destabilize our current systems, but that also gives us the chance to build a better world. Shock doctrine in reverse: we will dig our shovels into the ashes of empires, and grow truly egalitarian societies. We will have a utopian project the likes of which has never been dreamed: worldwide cooperation to repair, and protect, the biosphere that keeps us alive. What better flag to gather around? What better bottom line?
This century will either kill us all, or be a renaissance beyond any in history. If it’s not one, it will be the other. It’s up to each of us, every day, to carry the sadness. To face the truth. To live in the world as it is and not as we wish it could be.
If you’re making plans for the next ten years, and they don’t include radically changing your own way of life along with everyone else you know, then you’re planning to die. You’re planning to let your children die, your nephews and nieces and cousins, your relatives in the animal kingdom and the fungi and the plants, all this life that struggled for so long to become so beautiful and complex. Seven billion people dead, a million species extinct. If you plan for business as usual, you plan for a holocaust.
Wear the sadness. Bear the grief. Feel it, show it, speak your truth to the people around you. They are also already living it. It doesn’t make it worse to say it aloud. In fact, it can make it better. Weep together, grieve for your world and your families and your normal lives. There will be no normal lives until our planet has healed from these feverish convulsions.
They say comedy is tragedy plus time. If we face the tragedy right now, maybe we’ll survive long enough to look back on this day and laugh.
Thanks for reading,
###### SCIOPS is a weekly letter about biology and other problems. Feel free to forward it, or share it, or recite it verbatim to rouse the rabble. You can find a web version of the latest letter here , or view the archive here .
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