"Make America Great Again", 6th Mass Extinction, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, Capitalism, Celebrity Worship, Climate Refugees, Climate Sensitivity of Earth, Collapse of Industrial Civilization, Comedian Tom Simmons, COP21, Corporate State, Deep State, Derrick Jensen, Donald Trump, Elon Musk, Global Famine, Idolatry of Money, Interstellar Colonization, Mass Consumption, Mass Die Off, Mass Production, Mass shootings, meteorologist Eric Holthaus, Mike Lofgren, Military Industrial Complex, Neil Postman, Peak Oil, Plasticizing the Planet, Super El Niño, Techno-Fix, Technophelia, The Fossil Fuel Age, The Global Elite, War for Profit, War on Terror
Another climate conference has once again come and gone, echoing hollow promises and ugly unspoken realities. I won’t waste anyone’s time analyzing the verbiage of this so-called agreement which failed to even mention the term fossil fuels, probably at the behest of those who financed the entire farce, i.e. the carbon-extraction companies. Suffice it to say that countries were approving fossil fuel exploration projects before the ink of the global climate agreement had fully dried. As long as corporations are able to push environmental and social costs off their balance sheets and onto the backs of the weak and defenseless, dirty coal will be burnt and the cheapest slave labor will be employed. Questioning root causes like our inherently unsustainable way of life is still very much taboo and will remain so even after our descendants are sifting through the wreckage. Sure, mainstream publications have expanded their coverage of man-made climate change and global warming, but these existential threats to life on Earth remain an enigma to the vast majority, a footnote in some obscure textbook.
Retailers on the East Coast talk about a crisis for winter clothing sales because the weather has been too unseasonably warm to attract buyers, but nary a mention of man’s role in influencing these abnormal events, such as a super El Niño amplified by global warming. As the developed world continues to roll the climate chaos dice, we now face a higher chance of turbo-charged El Niños every 4 to 12 years and all the destruction that they bring —mass coral bleaching events, die-offs of marine mammals, record flooding and drought, crop failure and famine, refugee crises, etc. This year’s El Niño is on track to becoming the strongest on record with meteorologist Eric Holthaus exclaiming, “Our planet’s climate has undergone a step-change this year.”:
This climate “step-change” may also be indicative of a considerable underestimation of the Earth’s climate sensitivity. What should be painfully obvious by now is that the carbon footprint for everyone will have to decrease dramatically and quickly in order to slow emissions. In other words, the world’s richest will have to radically alter their lifestyles. That’s never going to happen in any variant of capitalism, a system so entrenched that it is inconceivable to imagine anything substantially different taking its place. Instead we get things like corporate greenwashing, carbon trading, decades of climate conferences, First World offshoring of manufacturing emissions into the Third World, and out-and-out fraud like the VW auto emissions scandal. The problem has been identified for nearly half a century, yet we continue to deceive ourselves with half-baked solutions and hypocritical indignation. The inertia of the system is simply too great and the dominant culture has a tendency to kill the messenger of bad news, so there is a strong incentive to sugarcoat things, but a deus ex machina is nowhere on the horizon. We’ll only change in response to the hard realities from an increasingly inhospitable planet. Sunken costs and material incentives built into our socio-economic system prevent radical change and fetishize the myth of the easy techno-fix, a yet-to-be-invented technology that will magically sustain modern civilization while at the same time keep the wolves of ecological collapse at bay. Even more delusional, a prominent tech magnate has urged humanity to pursue interstellar colonization before we render the Earth uninhabitable, but as an internet commenter quipped, “A post-nuclear war, global warming-baked and hyper polluted Earth will still be paradise compared to Mars.” Some technophiles admit the future actually looks rather grim:
…But the most worrisome threats are not merely anthropogenic, they’re technogenic. They arise from the fact that advanced technologies are (a) dual-use in nature, meaning that they can be employed for both benevolent and nefarious purposes; (b) becoming more powerful, thereby enabling humans to manipulate and rearrange the physical world in new ways; and (c) in some cases, becoming more accessible to small groups, including, at the limit, single individuals…
Just as technology is not neutral, so too is the economic system driving this technology. The institution of capitalism, which has been copied and exported all over the world since WW II, has established widespread acceptance for the condition of mass production, mass consumption, and waste at an ever accelerating rate, pushing the world deeper and deeper into ecological crisis. For example, the ubiquity of plastics now exhibits itself as microscopic pieces on every beach in the world and in our dinner with trillions more pieces in the oceans than previously thought. Scientists estimate that nearly all sea birds will be ingesting some sort of plastic by 2050. In spite of this growing evidence of a plasticised planet, the production of plastics has only increased while recycling remains an effort in futility:
For more than 50 years, global production of plastic has continued to rise. Some 299 million tons of plastics were produced in 2013, representing a 3.9 percent increase over 2012’s output. With a market driven by consumerism and convenience, along with the comparatively low price of plastic materials, demand for plastic is growing. Recovery and recycling, however, remain insufficient, and millions of tons of plastics end up in landfills and oceans each year – link
There’s no going back from this global complexity trap we’ve built around ourselves. All those bits of plastic will end up in the sedimentary layer of the Anthropocene along with elevated concentrations of CO2, radionuclides from nuclear fallout and waste, as well as novel metals and pollutants never before seen. Once underway, mass extinctions cannot be reversed, especially when driven by over seven billion pleasure-seeking, individualistic “consumers”. Materialism and greed, we are told, are natural human instincts, and they are all too eagerly rewarded by an economic system which reduces everything to a financial object and monetizes every aspect of the natural world. Today’s environmentalism is, as Derrick Jensen pointed out, similar to the palliative care given to prisoners in Nazi Germany death camps. The emaciated ecological ghosts of so many species are right before us, yet nearly everyone is blind to the unfolding catastrophe of the 6th mass extinction:
…we lose a huge chunk of the world’s diversity that will never come back. We lose the potential for communication with other lifeforms, with the only remaining ones eventually whittled down to domesticated animals or weed species that thrive in civilized man’s destructive footsteps. The conversation of life itself is turning into small talk, but the only recognition that seems to be made by this culture is how [biodiversity loss] “reduces carbon storage”. How trees and animals can provide “ecosystem services”, as if they existed for nothing more than to continue the existence of the mad king ape. – pathofraven
Yes, we are pretty far gone when a four minute comedy routine makes more sense than anything broadcasted on the evening news. Corporate mass media-controlled public debates have degenerated into infomercial sound bites. In a society where success is measured by the key metrics of money and profit, it should be no surprise that a wealthy, xenophobic businessman is able to garner mass appeal by hogging publicity and playing on the fears and base desires of the populus. “Make America Great Again” is a catchy slogan for a society ignorant of the collapsing world around them and oblivious to the over-consumptive, profligate way of life that is proving to be their undoing. For a celebrity-obsessed culture whose world is falling apart, the next logical choice for its leader would seem to be a reality TV show star who says he can restore the illusion of the American dream and build a great wall to keep all the riff-raff out.
A fascist right-wing administration might just provide that extra push that takes us all over the edge into collapse. With the Presidency largely serving as a figurehead position for the Deep State, I’m not convinced a different candidate would make a measurable difference in the grand scheme of things anyway. Our “democracy” is, after all, just one more illusion in a bread-and-circus election cycle:
“Today, we must look to the city of Las Vegas, Nevada, as a metaphor of our national character and aspiration, its symbol a thirty-foot-high cardboard picture of a slot machine and a chorus girl. For Las Vegas is a city entirely devoted to the idea of entertainment, and as such proclaims the spirit of a culture in which all public discourse increasingly takes the form of entertainment. Our politics, religion, news, athletics, education and commerce have been transformed into congenial adjuncts of show business, largely without protest or even much popular notice. The result is that we are a people on the verge of amusing ourselves to death.” – Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business
So while terrorism takes center stage in the overstretched Empire of Amnesia, remember this simple fact: 303 Americans were killed in terrorist attacks worldwide in the last decade while 320,523 Americans were killed because of gun violence in that same time period. Random mass shootings, capitalism’s “free market” genocides, the disruption of the Holocene’s stable climate regime by anthropogenic climate disruption, tipping points in the earth’s biosphere, terminal industrial disease, and many other things come to mind that pose a much bigger danger to the average American, but the War on Terror, conceived as open-ended, serves as a conveniently omnipresent boogieman for jerking the chain of the taxpayer and justifying the growth of an intrusive security state. What better way to control the masses as the wheels continue coming off the global economy and the biosphere becomes evermore threadbare. The rich will retreat into their luxury spider holes until the coast is clear.