Things happening around the world in recent weeks have got this discussion about climate change between Bill Moyers and David Suzuki a couple of months ago haunting me:
(Y)oung kids often ask me, Mr. Suzuki how can I save the world? And I say to them, well, look, the world's not in trouble. We're in trouble, but the world's not in trouble....Dr. Suzuki is hopeful that Gaia has a few surprises up her sleeve that may yet save us from ourselves.
The world, the planet is undergoing immense changes. Humans now are the major force shaping the properties and the functions within the biosphere. That's why scientists refer to this as the Anthropocene epoch, a period of time when human beings have become a geological force. We're altering the physical, chemical and biological features of the planet on a geological scale.
So there's no question the planet's undergoing change. But the planet is going to be here long after we're gone. The planet will continue to go on in this altered state. I have no doubt life will persist....
(A) lot of my colleagues have now said it's too late. Clive Hamilton, an eminent eco-philosopher in Australia wrote a book, “Requiem for a Species.” And we're the species it's a requiem for. I've read everything, the entire book, and there's nothing I disagree with there. James Lovelock, the man who invented this idea of Gaia, says 90 percent of humanity will be gone by the end of the century.
And Sir Martin Rees, the royal astronomer in Britain was asked what are the chances humans will be around by 2100, and he said 50/50. So there are a lot of my colleagues are saying we've passed too many tipping points to go back.
But what if she doesn't?
What would a 90 percent human extinction look like? Or anything close to that? It's unimaginable. But maybe we'd better start imagining what it might be like, and how something so terrible could be allowed to come to pass.
All it takes is seeing that the pool of resources is, in fact, finite. That those resources (land, water, energy, minerals) are essential to life, or at least to continue life more or less as it's been within recent memory, and that if I don't have them You will have them. And that You can be dehumanized, killed, pushed off your land, denied water, and so on, because it is, after all, a struggle to the death.
- Rwanda, where existential conflict caused people to turn almost overnight on their own families, friends, and neighbors
- the US-Mexico border, where people advocate aiming guns at the heads of refugee children and telling them to turn back or else
- Gaza, where the liberal traditions and simple humanity of Israelis have been abandoned in favor of killing indiscriminately for what is believed to be the country's very existence
- global corporations that corrupt democratic governance in order to seize control of resources from out of the hands of local populations
- Detroit, a city in the heart of America that cut off water - water! - to hundreds of thousands of people
That's what it will look like, at least for those of us in the developed countries, not like something out of Mad Max. It will be understandable. We will be prepared for it. Like Israelis or like the "53 percent of Americans (who) believe the United States has no moral obligation to offer asylum to people who escape violence or political persecution" (and 70 percent of Republicans).
All it takes is the need to win and the Other to lose. Sharing? What's that? If I don't win it all, I lose.
Dr. Suzuki points out how removed First Worlders are from realizing our utter dependence on nature for our very survival:
And in a big city it's easy to think, well, as long as we have parks out there somewhere where we can camp and fish and play, who needs nature? In...a city my most highest priority is my job. And you know, the average child...today spends eight minutes a day outside and over six hours a day in front of a television, computer or a cell phone screen. So when you're living that way, who needs nature? Who even worries about the weather unless there's a tornado or some kind of a freak event?I wonder how long it will take those people to realize just how vulnerable they are when the shit hits the fan and the war for the necessities of life comes to them.
And so we act as if these things are really not relevant to the way we live.
Probably not until there's no water coming out of their taps, or the water that does come out can be lit on fire, or is thick as pea soup with green algae.
That's when things will really get hot.