We're Living through The End of Civilization, and We Should Be Acting Like It
On the delusions of normal.
There’s no question anymore. This civilization is ending. You can relax. It’s not up for debate. It’s not a question of hope vs. doom.
It just is.
I’m writing this for a simple reason. The sooner everyone accepts the end of this civilization, the better. Humans don’t have to go extinct, but the way we’re living has to change. There’s no hope for this way of life, full of reckless consumption and convenience well beyond the planet’s means. The harder we fight, the more denial and delusional thinking we engage in, the worse we’re going to make it. Downplaying the truth has only made things worse. It makes everyone complacent. So, I’m going to explain things in the bluntest way possible.
First, let’s talk about Covid.
We have enough information about Covid to know we should’ve been taking it far more seriously. As one science writer shows in a thorough review of available research, we’re dealing with the most dangerous disease in modern history. It’s the most contagious virus scientists have ever seen. It does more damage than HIV, by hijacking our immune system and building reservoirs in virtually every organ in the body, from the brain to the liver. Viruses like HIV don’t cause severe illness at first. They cause mild illness. The true damage doesn’t become apparent until months later. Scientists know this now.
This virus has evolved beyond our antibody therapies and vaccines, and it’s even evolving beyond Paxlovid. As one study in Science says, “unselective use is expected to rapidly lead to emergence of drug resistance.” These are facts, and they don’t care how we feel about them. If anything, Covid wants everyone to keep living in fear of the truth. It loves our denial. This is going to be the worst year of the pandemic yet. Everyone’s tired, but we’re more vulnerable than ever. There are tools for us to make it through, but most humans aren’t interested.
Covid minimizers ask if we’re going to wear masks forever. Yes, we are. They’ve left us with absolutely no alternative.
Okay, let’s talk about the weather. A bomb cyclone followed by atmospheric rivers have dumped historic amounts of water on California over the last week. According to The New York Times, it’s going to cost at least $1 billion, and some sources estimate the damage will run far higher. The state already lost $18 billion in climate disasters last year. The flooding there is expected to go on for another week. More than 100,000 homes have been destroyed, and it’s hard to know how many people have fled. The heavy precipitation might replenish the snowpack, but at the expense of the state’s infrastructure.
What we’re seeing now has the potential to become a megaflood, something climate scientists predicted in Science last year. They discuss California’s Great Flood of 1861-1862, “characterized by weeks-long sequences of winter storms” that transformed parts of the state “into a temporary but vast inland sea nearly 300 miles in length.” Their models predict these megafloods will happen much more often now, thanks to us. One happened in Pakistan last year.
We could be watching one now.
In the southwest, it’s the opposite problem. Entire lakes are drying up. States can’t make simple water conservation plans. The federal government has finally stepped in, but it could be too late. According to a story in The Washington Post, “The negotiations will ultimately have to weigh cuts in rapidly growing urban areas against those in farming communities that produce much of the country’s supply of winter vegetables.” Parts of Arizona were already relying on trucked water. Now even that’s going away. Affluent suburbanites are losing their minds. They’re spending thousands of dollars to drill wells to nowhere.
Neighborhoods, cities, and entire states have already started bickering over water. Last year they began to demand the federal government divert the Mississippi into the desert so they could build waterparks. Then to everyone’s shock, the Mississippi river itself dried up to the point that ships couldn’t pass. Saltwater started leaching into people’s drinking water in some areas.
Soon, these places won’t have water at all.
That already happened last summer. In cities like Monterrey, people were lucky if they could find buckets to collect water from trucks. Their taps were completely dry. According to a piece in Scientific American, American cities are increasingly failing to provide clean drinking water, even while they claim brown sludge “meets federal standards.” They’re under constant boil water notices.
These things aren’t front page news.
They should be.
In Utah, the Great Salt Lake has shriveled to 25 percent of its normal size. In a few years, residents will have to evacuate. According to Live Science, the lake “could be set to disappear within the next five years, exposing millions of people to the toxic dust trapped in the drying lake bed.” Why is the dust toxic?
It’s laced with arsenic.
If the state wants to save what’s left of the lake and avoid a humanitarian disaster, they have to reduce their water use by 30-50 percent. We’d love to believe that Americans are capable of such sacrifice, but they continually prove otherwise. Every day, they complain about the smallest inconveniences. They pitch fits about fearmongering anytime the truth comes up.
As I just wrote recently, avian flu is decimating the world’s wild bird populations and driving up the price of eggs. It’s the second year running. Farmers thought it would go away, like it usually does. This time, it didn’t. This bird flu is going to keep getting worse. It’s not a random tragedy. It’s a direct result of our own industrial agriculture. Our appetite for eggs caused this problem.
So, that about sums it up.
There’s far more going on than I can discuss, including massive animal and insect die offs. Reckless consumerism has left us with a world that’s increasingly becoming uninhabitable. Meanwhile, our leaders can’t seem to think about anything other than war and politics. They’re not even trying to appeal to our sense of unity or common purpose. They’re profiting off division. Wall Street is excited about the egg shortage, because it means bigger sales.
We know solutions exist, but most Americans reject them for the most selfish, superficial reasons. Not even the local news stations will help. Yesterday, I watched a local anchor complain about a school reinstating their mask policy. He said, “Haven’t the kids been through enough?”
Yes, they have.
Talk show hosts like Kelly Ripa are going on air with Covid (likely), so sick they can’t even speak. That’s the urgency of normal now. Everyone is so desperate to cosplay 2019, they’re hurting themselves.
This isn’t healthy.
Hope doesn’t do any good when it’s not followed by action. That’s why we have to talk about doom, because so many Americans use words like “hope” and “optimism” as excuses for inaction. Nothing will change until everyone understands the full scope of the threats we’re dealing with. As many of us keep saying, there’s no going back to normal now. There’s no future where we get to continue eating eggs whenever we want, taking 20-minute showers every morning, building waterparks in the desert, and acting like our own happiness matters most.
Actions have consequences. If we continue to live in denial, then the problems will only get worse. Within five years or less, the citizens of Utah will be breathing arsenic. People will be dropping dead from the common cold, their immune systems pulverized by repeated Covid infections.
Only the rich will eat eggs.
Things can change.
As it happens, we had a great conversation with our school today, and they’re reinstating their mask policy. We showed them all the evidence, and it worked. They had an epiphany. We’re donating hundreds of high-quality masks for the students and staff. We’re upgrading their filters.
This is what the end of civilization looks like. Work and school go on. Celebrities throw parties during megafloods. Teenagers freak out because they can’t find their favorite makeup at Sephora, because the factories that make it are shut down by a disabling virus. The urgency of normal will persist.
If someone wants to talk about hope, they’d better be wearing an N95 mask and cutting back on their water use.
Things must change.
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As grim as the world is, it’s oddly comforting to read someone like yourself who’s not living in the “everything is fine” pretend land our collective society has become.
In some ways the not talking about what we need to be talking about is the most painful part.
You’re a realist. That why I subscribe.