But What About Me?
Reading newspapers used to be a lot more enjoyable back before they had to pack existential and quasi-existential crises four or six to a page.
If it's not dysfunctional governance, corruption, graft and grifters, mass idiocy, bio-terror and bio-error, nuclear proliferation, terrorism, civil war, mass migration, crimes against the person ranging from slavery to torture, genocide, the collapse of biodiversity, viruses and plagues, overpopulation abetted by rampant over-consumption, high anxiety and the spreading appetite for conspiracy theories, and the entire cornucopia of maladies associated with the climate emergency, present and predicted, far too many to list here, the message is powerful - our state of the art, ultra-high tech, over-clocked, just in time House of Cards is beginning to wobble.
What's a girl to do?
Calamities positively compete for our attention. What about Me? Every day, it seems, brings something new. Did you know that the race is on to save bats from overheating due to global warming? It's enough to make you forget the plight of the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip. Bats, this is serious! Wait, wait, what's this? Wow, hunting with eagles and a Koala with a prosthetic foot. Now there's something you can sink your teeth into. The New York Times columnist, Ezra Klein, asks if the answer to America's dysfunctional politics is to get rid of politicians? Great ideas, grand ideas, huge ideas in a time of small thinking.
I have lived under threat of imminent Armageddon for most of my life or at least ever since the Soviet Union deployed a credible nuclear threat sometime in the early 50s. By the mid-60s we entered the stage of mutually assured destruction or MAD. That worked, more or less, when you could count the nuclear armed countries on one hand. We lived with it comforted by the knowledge that, if they launched on us, we would turn their homeland into glass, in effect guaranteeing that no one would do something so suicidal. Today, however, nukes are in the hands of countries that are not particularly stable, countries that face truly existential challenges, and it's thought only a matter of time before nuclear materials fall into the hands of non-state actors.
Ah, the 60s. Back then we were living within the sustainable human population, somewhere between two to three billion. Today we're closing in on eight billion, supposedly on our way to eleven, possibly twelve billion. Due to our growing and excessive consumption of the planet's finite resources our sustainable population is now shrinking. In other words, we're hell bent on getting bigger while the Earth is telling us that we need to grow smaller, way smaller. It's this thing called "overshoot."
So many calamities, so little time, such limited resources. How do we dig our way out of this? What befalls us (or, more realistically, our grandkids) if we don't?
The answer is quite simple (and like all simple answers, confounding). If we are to survive mankind has to live within the finite limits of planet Earth, our one and only biosphere, Spaceship Earth. That's all we've got. It'll be thousands of years before we can terraform Mars, if that's even possible. In the meantime we're stuck in this overcrowded, leaky lifeboat.
We have to sort out what we must do from what we should do and what we might do. We have to prioritize. To do that efficiently we need a global consensus (just the sort of thing Americans are taught to dread). That consensus will be hard to achieve. It may be impossible. Rich people don't like to give up their toys and, in the global context, even ordinary Canadians seem rich.
There are some calamities that we can't fix. We can't fix them all, especially not if we somehow do manage to focus on what we must do. The bats? They might just have to take their chances with global heating. Eventually, natural selection should see more heat tolerant species emerge.
There have to be some priorities such as overpopulation, over-consumption and the excessive pollution of all types we generate in modern society. The problems are clear, the answers (there are several) are clear. The will to solve them, there's the dilemma.