In my continuing quest to understand the world I am living in, I’ve accepted that we may need a whole new vocabulary to describe what we see.
Herewith, I introduce the term, “gobsmacked”, to describe the moment when reality collides with hopium.
I offer, verbatim, an exchange between one of our financial advisors and me. Our financial advisors are good, smart people whom I like very much. There is nothing unusual about their perspective, and I’m not singling them out. This just happens to be a great mirror moment to reflect the culture and to reflect on the culture.
We’ve had a few conversations that set the stage in that I’ve required them to find opportunities to invest our IRAs in “eco friendly” types of companies. So, we’re talking about a conversation that has occurred over a few years. One of them sent me an article about how young people are “driving” investments in “sustainable” industry.
Most of the time, when I get these kinds of things, I ignore them. This time, I responded:
I really appreciate the fact that you are looking at these ideas.
Here’s the thing, though. There are right now, 7.2 billion people on this planet. Most of the experts I’ve seen estimate the carrying capacity of the planet at 1 billion. So, we’ve overshot the carrying capacity by quite a bit, and are adding more people to the planet every day. That is problem number one. All of those people must consume to live and want lifestyles like us. There is no politically viable solution to this problem, so we ignore it.
Second, peak oil. Now, I don’t fully understand all of the return on energy formulas, but we’ve dug up the easy fossil fuels and are now beginning to consume the dirty stuff (tar sands/fracking).
Third is the sustainability lie. Solar panels and wind turbines are not “sustainable” because they require fossil fuels in their manufacturing and transport. Driving to KY, we often see oversize semis on the road. It takes one large semi just for one blade of one turbine….just to get it from point to point. Not sustainable and not renewable. So, people like Bill McKibben, while of good heart perhaps, are selling something that doesn’t really exist.
Fourth, our financial system, capitalism, requires growth. No one has ever been able to explain how you get continued growth on a finite planet. The laws of physics require a crash at some point.
Then you get the fun variables. In 2013 so far, there have been 35 storms worldwide that cost over a billion dollars each. And take a good look at Japan and what Fukushima is doing to their debt…….not to mention what it is doing to any young born in that country (and is beginning to have an effect on the West coast babies).
This is the kind of truth that no one really wants to consider, because it is more than inconvenient.
Nature had a peer reviewed article this year that got mentioned in the mainstream press that said with our current emissions, by 2047, major cities in the tropical zones will be toast. 2047. And that article was looking only at greenhouse gases. It wasn’t including ocean acidification or any of the other kinds of feedbacks that slowly and eventually affect us all. Don’t know that anyone has noticed, but the scientists are starting to use words like “extinction events” and “catastrophic”.
You start really paying attention and it can ruin your whole day!
Here is the response:
I was hoping to get some sort of reply and thus I did. All I know is that we are an imperfect people living in an imperfect world with all kinds of injustices. Since I only have one vote I feel powerless on many things that aggravate me so I try not to let it ruin my whole day. Civilization will advance until it doesn’t. The planet is a billion+ years old and humans didn’t always occupy it and likely won’t on the day the sun burns out.
Have a great day and enjoy the moment while we have it!!
What I find so fascinating in these types of responses are the premises embedded within them. Note what is not mentioned……the next generation. Almost always, the people who most sing the “don’t worry, be happy” anthem have children.
We skip from the very real possibility of extinction in our life time to the billion years when the sun goes out. I put the 2047 date in there because that is what the scientists concluded. That is 34 years away. That is “the future” that is being sold to us daily by the mass media….the lie that there will be a future.
And those of us who DO look, who DO feel, who DO mourn, who DO feel guilt, who DO speak the truth are dismissed, with “life is too short to be miserable about things you can’t do anything about.”
Except, of course, that we probably could have. Forty years ago, the warnings sounded about population growth, greenhouse gases, pollution, all of the killers and what happened? People said, “life is too short to be miserable about things you can’t do anything about.”
It really is remarkable to watch intelligent, thoughtful people do the equivalent of the two year olds trick of covering their eyes and ears and singing lalalala to keep the bad thoughts out.
I suspect, at the root of the denial, besides knowing that you have to act if you actually believe this stuff, is the not to be mentioned fact that we are collaborators.
In my class, especially, here in the middle, we have all served the machine that is killing us. We are the managerial and professional and technical people that keep the killing machine going. We’ve all known all along that the people who suffer most at the hands of industrial capitalism are poor people, people of color, people that don’t matter. And as long as the toxic effects of our actions were contained, we were well pleased.
Now, however, the monster still must be fed, it has consumed the easy pickins, and it is moving onto greener pastures. And we continue to collaborate by staying silent, by denial, by putting our hands over our eyes and ears and singing lalalala so that we don’t have to hear it.
Even though we know, I know we know, that we’re killing our kids.