NASA-Funded Study: Industrial Civilization Headed for ‘Irreversible Collapse’?
Maybe this article bobbed up on your newsfeed. I saw it about a week and a half ago when Jake Pikser shared it on my wall. Of all my friends, Jake’s the most prone to thoughts of doom, and I at once doubted the article’s bona fides. Since when does NASA do studies like that? They’re far too humdrum for this Horsemen of the Apocalypse stuff. But the headline was gripping and I duly clicked and read, and a few paragraphs down I ran into this (the study authors are comparing us to the ancients):
“The fall of the Roman Empire, and the equally (if not more) advanced Han, Mauryan, and Gupta Empires, as well as so many advanced Mesopotamian Empires, are all testimony to the fact that advanced, sophisticated, complex, and creative civilizations can be both fragile and impermanent.”
Hold up, wait a second. Who the hell are the Guptas? Wait and I’ll tell you: they’re the people gathering dust in my fourth grade history notebook. These NASA math-heads had a lot of nerve to pretend they were experts on ancient history. They probably don’t know any more than I do. It’s obvious hocus-pocus, and I would’ve clicked away that instant…
Except for the fact that I was deeply, deeply stoned. So stoned my fingers twitched. So stoned I couldn’t feel my feet. Maybe that’s why I didn’t leave the screen and go to the kitchen for some munchies. Maybe that’s why I read the rest of the NASA article, and the comments, and also every other Climate Change article I could find on Google.
There are a lot of Climate Change articles on Google. For instance, did you know that, this March alone, at least six major groups issued full-blown warnings? The U.N. did, the National Academy of Sciences did, the IPCC did; and also these three others. That’s a lot scientists all saying the same thing: stop emitting, stop emitting, stop emitting.
To coin a term, reading all this gave me a bad case of climatestomach: that feeling you get of a pit in your gut about the length and depth of the Marina Trench. My heart throbbed, and my palms sweated, and I might’ve had a panic attack if there hadn’t been a six-pack in the fridge. I felt like Harry Potter does when he hangs out with Dementors: all the joy of life, sucked away forever.
And then I came down. In the days of sobriety since then I haven’t thought much about Climate Change, except vaguely to wonder if it wouldn’t hurry up a bit. Just kidding of course, but it is the end of March, and in my East Coast city I’m still wearing three layers.
That’s the way it is with all stoned epiphanies. You get high and realize something and believe it with every corner of your soul–until the next day when you’ve forgotten it completely. I’ve had stoned epiphanies about all sorts of things, from moving to Alaska to our shared, innate pansexuality. Maybe stoned me is right: maybe I should head north, grow a beard and become a pansexual lumberjack. But sober me knows I won’t do any of those things (except possibly the beard).
And what am I going to do about Climate Change? There’s not much I can do. I can write about it, great; but out in real life, my efforts are as effective as spitting in the ocean.
And yet. I had another stoned epiphany which I haven’t shared yet (treat this thought gently, I was high when I had it). What if we treated the issue of Climate Change as seriously as we treat racism? What if seeing it made us scrunch up and explode inside? We wouldn’t tolerate it in others, when they denied Climate Change; and we wouldn’t tolerate it in ourselves, when we became wasteful (not recycling, driving too much, etc.)
People say we’re addicted to oil. But weren’t we once just as addicted to racism? We needed slaves back then like we need Saudis now. But we kicked out slavery and our economy was fine. Racism’s still around, but we really do hate it , and if somebody says something wrong we tell them what we think. Why can’t it be the same thing with that other pressing issue? System-wide change isn’t just the government’s job. If you wanted to fight slavery, it meant fighting racism. And if we’re serious about Climate Change, then we need to fight it in everywhere we find it–in the skepticism of others, to the apathy in ourselves.