I think it’s obvious to anyone who is paying attention that we’ve crossed the threshold in terms of the public discourse on climate change. Sure, there are deniers still out there and some of them are in prominent positions (AKA, the President of the United States, you know, that country which operates the biggest institutional pollutant as its army). But at least in the general populace, something seems to have shifted. People are not so much focused today on whether climate change is happening and whether it’s man-made, but on what we should do and what they are willing/will have to give up if they want their children to have some sort of chance at a future which contains happiness and security.
In a way, this is a victory; if you think back to as early as the previous decade, these very facts were all in question, constantly challenged under the pretense of “waiting for the science.” However, this also presents us with a possibly bigger challenge. Now that we’ve gotten most people to agree that climate change is happening and that humans are causing it, we need to move on to convincing them of something much harder to swallow: your entire way of life is at fault. That is, you as individuals aren’t exactly to blame, but you’re also not really faultless. Even worse, you as individuals don’t really have a lot you can do to make a significant impact. Sure, you absolutely should eat less beef, use less plastic, fly in fewer planes, drive fewer cars, and so forth. But, when you do the math and stare the bottom line right in the face, your contributions to “the struggle” are too small to make the kind of impact that we need to make.
Instead, the very foundations which underpin your way of life are at fault. These are the hidden myths of endless growth which make capitalism work, the myriad ways in which the global North/West relies on the exploitation of the global South, the idea that excess is good and even healthy. All of these myths (and more) collide with the idea of a planet which can house humans. Anyone who says otherwise (including presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren and her “accountable capitalism” or AOC and her “Green New Deal”) is offering you nothing else but a slightly slower decline or a more humane catastrophe. Without examining the core tenets on which our societies were built (and by “our” I don’t just mean the West; don’t forget that India and China are up there in the top list of carbon emitters), there is no hope to effectively mitigate the disaster that is coming.
But here’s the thing: these are not abstract considerations, or rather, they cannot remain purely abstract. When we say that society needs reconfiguring, we mean that your daily routine, your way of life, must change in deep and irreversible ways. After all, as we all know, we live in a society; these high-level changes must be reflected in the daily lives of its members or we have done nothing at all but shift some words around on a page. And therein lies the rub; convincing people that the lives they’re currently leading must become more limited or face perhaps ultimate limitation is a hell of a thing to sell. Trying to get people on board – beyond the engaged, the young, and the fanatic – with re-writing the very social contract which not only them but also their parents and their parents’ parents have come to expect…that’s a doozy.
As you talk to more people about these things, you start to realize something fundamentally daunting: humans were just not programmed to deal with something like climate change. It’s too big, too far away, too impersonal. We can’t reduce it to calorie equations, to the lizard brain that nonetheless keeps operating at the stem of our mind, always looking for friend or foe, advantage or weakness, profit or loss. You start to realize that what we are facing and, indeed, what we will face in the decades to come is the very limit of who we are as a species. It slowly dawns on you that our ability to burst through this barrier and somehow, inexplicably, impossibly, rise above the very biological, genetic, and societal will that determines the way most of us live will make the difference between untold suffering and death and a chance at prosperity.
65daysofstatic‘s replicr released on the 27th of September via Superball Records. You can listen to it and buy it online while your world, way of life, and political reality fade around you into an endless scream, bursting forth from the feedback loop of apathy and distraction that is our modern existence.