The End of the World

What would the end of the world look like?  What does ‘end of the world’ even mean?  Usually when I imagine the end of the world, it’s by means of an asteroid, or the sun going supernova, or really any such thing that annihilates the entire planet.  But when I talk about the end of the world, what I mean to say is the end of human existence.  This gets further complicated when we try to investigate what is meant by ‘end of human existence’.  The end of human existence can be understood in the literal way – humans no longer exist (annihilation).  It can also be understood to mean (as I am sure it often does) the end of the way in which humans exist (alteration).  Regarding long-term human goals, all of these interpretations would be considered unfavorable, but there is a spectrum of doom, and some versions of ‘the end’ are certainly more unfavorable than others.

The end of human culture and society as we know it would be a blow to any optimistic trajectory of our species, but even the end of our current trajectory is magnitudes less dire than the total annihilation of the human race.  Of course, magnitudes less dire than the total annihilation of our species would include nearly every scenario which would significantly and negatively re-direct the status quo.  Just months ago, I would have suspected that a global pandemic in which over a million people die in less than a year would significantly alter our current trajectory as a species.  It hasn’t.  Could you imagine a nuclear strike in which over a million people die?  Would that be a scenario in which our current trajectory would be significantly re-directed?  I’m not sure?  I’m not good at predicting, but in 2008 The Future of Humanity Institute (Oxford University) released a Global Catastrophic Risk Survey1.  In this survey experts gave a 60% probability to a natural pandemic in which over one million people would die within the next one hundred years.  They gave a 98% chance that over one million people will die in war over that same time, and a 30% chance that over one million people will die in a nuclear war.  They suggest a 30% chance that one billion people will die in some kind of war within the next one hundred years.  All this is to say that people dying, even in vast numbers isn’t annihilation, and it’s been shown by the latest pandemic and evidenced by thousands of years of on-going wars that death isn’t enough to even slightly alter our present state of affairs.

This all seems very unfortunate because our current trajectory has us hurtling directly into a brick wall at full speed.  Global warming is a candidate for catastrophic alteration.  However, people dying will not serve as a wakeup call no matter how loud we sound the alarm.  Human life is a type of capital in which we have an abundance, and we are all too willing to spend.  Time is another type of capital which we continue to squander as if the resource is infinite.  We’d be naïve to think future problems would genuinely concern contemporary folk…until the future becomes the present.  

What does that future look like?  Would a glimpse at the impending catastrophic alteration impact those who say they care about the future of their kids, into actually caring about the future of their kids?  I have my doubts.  The prolonged years of prosperity among those in developed nations, mixed with the prolonged years of turning a blind eye to those less fortunate have lent themselves to an imagined cloak of invincibility.  

I’ve always thought that when the most precious capital of all (money) becomes part of the risk equation, people would change.  I was wrong.  Increased damage from natural disasters worldwide costs cities and countries billions of dollars every year.  Property values in at risk areas cause housing markets to plummet.  Grocery bills soar with unprecedented heat and drought.  Electric bills continue to rise in unison with the global heat index.  People are paying higher costs than ever before.  And these are the lucky ones, this doesn’t even take into account the people who have lost everything due to flooding, drought, wildfires, and every other natural disaster brought about or intensified by global warming.  But who cares about the people; we’ve already shown how expendable they are. Where are the alarms regarding the cost of helping a displaced family, or displaced community?  Money is not the motivating capital I thought it would be.

WHY?  Why aren’t we moved to alter the present in order to protect the future.  I don’t know. I have been asking this question to philosophers, scientists, psychologists, poets, and pretty much anyone who will entertain this question for far too long, and we’re really no closer to the answers.  

The best I can come up with is that the fear of change has paralyzed the majority of humanity into complacency.  Change is scary and the future is abstract.  The cost of our complacency, the cost of our fear will not be paid just in dollars, or time, or human life; the cost will be far more severe, because we’re gambling with humanity itself.  Past, present, and future.

Climate scientist Andrew Dessler recently expressed2 “If you don’t like the climate disasters happening in 2020, I have some bad news for you about the rest of your life.”

Catastrophic alteration has already begun.  Our future is something worth fighting for.  Yes, change is scary, but we need to understand that the monster waiting for us if we continue to ignore reality is much more wicked than the imagined monster we attribute to change.

Carrot (Writer)

  1. Anders Sandberg, Nick Bostrom, “Global Catastrophic Risk Survey,” FHI Technical Report, no. 2008-1 (2008): accessed October 21, 2020, https://www.fhi.ox.ac.uk/reports/2008-1.pdf.
  2. Andrew Dessler, (@AndrewDessler), Twitter, September, 21 2020, https://twitter.com/AndrewDessler/status/1308135985771884544.

39 Replies to “The End of the World”

  1. Powerful dystopian future of the world view if ya don’t stop the present state of affairs. The analysis is sound and the message of hope and change rings forth🙏🐕♒️👌🏿

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I love reading and funny thing I don’t like dystopian stories but recently WeaveWorld from Clive Barker has me enthralled and this story also has been a great byline to that trajectory of our current events.🙏♒️🐕💃🍷🗽✅

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Scary indeed. Humanity is a cancer and perhaps its disappearance or at least scaling down may be no bad thing. We are a species every bit as unpleasant as every other. Grasping for more we have destroyed much of what we need to survive. Who will lament our departure.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. For whatever reason, you’ve been encouraged to believe humanity is a bad thing, even though you are a member. One can never say humanity is bad without saying that about themselves. But, if one can realize, then good exists, and then there’s hope, then we can believe that all men, women, and children are bright spots on the Earth. There’s a reason for cynicism, but it’s not the fault of everyone else.

      Like

  3. We are the frog in the pot. If you toss the frog into a pot of hot water, it will jump out. If you put the frog in a pot of comfortable water and slowly increase the heat, it will die.

    Humans are very good at dealing with crisis when it is upon us. It is a trait that served our paleolithic ancestors well. We really suck at long term thinking. Worrying about the next generation’s future is too abstract. The effort and resources to do so would be too taxing for cave people to worry about and impeded their survival from the warlike tribe next door or saber-toothed cat around the corner.

    Medium term thinking didn’t occur until agriculture and long term thinking didn’t come about until civilization as we know it. Thinking about the generations to come requires people with lots of time on their hands and a certain type of perspective. The average guy was still too busy just getting by to worry about such things. Long term thinking is a rare thing and is often not rewarded by other people with more short term goals.

    The concept of “legacy” was developed by elites who really had nothing better to do with their time. Some pursued it as a kind of immortality, as in Percy Bysshe Shelley‘s “Ozymandias.” The elites in America pursued it with almost religious fervor and risked their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor to create something for posterity.

    Fast forward to today and we’re still hunter-gatherers, even the rich and powerful among us. Our brains are really not much different from those paleolithic humans a hundred thousand years ago. The concept of “legacy” has been abandoned in the name of corporate efficiency. No business would ever plan for a timeline beyond 5 years. Despite immense affluence and luxury, we are still pursuing the hunt and gathering as much as we can to bring home. Only now, instead of the best cave, meat, roots, and berries, it is smartphones, automobiles, apartment rent, and designer jeans. Our tribes still make war upon each other for resources that are no longer so limited.

    Any asteroid that shows up will have far less chance of destroying us than our own human nature.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I think greed, acquisitiveness, and resistance to change account for some of humanity’s unwillingness to embrace the changes we already know would help. I love the call to arms at the end of the fall Patagonia catalog.

    “…We need leaders who get this and not law and order assholes who deny the crisis exists.”

    Personally, I think our anti-intellectual culture is at the root of it. If a presidential candidate says, “Schooling! Retraining!” a lot of Americans don’t think “Cool opportunity to learn stuff!” they think “I don’t need no education.” Maybe the hardest thing to teach is the love of learning.

    But I honestly don’t love anything as much as I love the world, so this breaks my heart because there is no difference between this world and my heart. And that made me think of this:

    In the Desert
    BY STEPHEN CRANE
    In the desert
    I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
    Who, squatting upon the ground,
    Held his heart in his hands,
    And ate of it.
    I said, “Is it good, friend?”
    “It is bitter—bitter,” he answered;

    “But I like it
    “Because it is bitter,
    “And because it is my heart.”

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Martha, that one sent shivers…fantastic. I agree with you wholeheartedly. I feel very helpless, it’s like we’re in the position of a doctor who has a cure, but the patient refuses to admit they’re sick, and so won’t take the medicine. Frustrating.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. We are in that position. Exactly. I’m very sad. Where I live there is an IMMENSE solar farm and people who voted against alternative energy and are employed on that very solar farm. It doesn’t make any sense. I have “Colors of the Wind” on an old iPod I was playing while I was painting earlier and the song made me cry. ❤

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Until we put empathy for our fellow man ahead of personal greed, not much will change. No company or government seems willing to do the right thing, if it impacts their bottom line or their reelection possibilities. Hopefully, we get the wakeup call in time to survive.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I remember, years ago, talking with a young man who worried about this and that, though not present with everyday responsibilities. I listened some, shared what I understood, and saw he was completely wrapped up in his worries. So, after trying one more time, I said he was on his own. I wasn’t going to become a venue for his fears, anxiety, and self-involvement. That helps no one. I said, learn, work, have a family, and take care of the things of today. Forget worry.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I love this…worry is not a state anyone should mire in for too long. It’s about taking some steps. I hope your friend was able to find some direction along the way!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. thanks for your reflections…….great reading…i believe humbly I have the answer that you are asking why does anyone not know the answer…….Am getting the finals of editing a manuscript of ….What Causes Heterosexuality and Can it be Cured? close to completion. I will have it up on my site in a month for readers …..A year ago I put up the first 3 sections of the manuscript on my site…thou have made a few little changes not much thou……really like your website and the comments from others…definitely one of the better ones…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is a fantastic book title!!! We will absolutely have to check it out, let us know when you have it available!

      Like

  8. I take comfort in the likelihood that while we humans might not last, life on this planet will nonetheless persist, as it has through 5 previous extinctions – possibly in the form of intelligent tardigrades. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Fear of change, or just complacency? I don’t think there will ever be a circumstance that will get Americans to change their lifestyle. Ever. They’re too far removed from any inkling of sustainable life. Sorry…

    Liked by 1 person

  10. So well written 👍.. and your point regarding humankind & change is both valid and ironic … change is the only true constant… NOTHING stays the same.. from second to second change IS happening. So come on people… WE ARE responsible for the future.. of our race and our planet, turning away does not work, these issues, these crucial issues, are smackin us square in the face🤨.. NOW is the time to act.. In fact now is already too late, our children, our grandchildren & generations to come will inherit our legacy.. The Western world has consumed & consumed till we’ve almost sucked the life from mother earth. It’s time to pay it forward, replenish… Greed is ugly, greed is selfish and greed WILL be humankinds’ downfall.
    ‘Only when the last tree has died, the last river has been poisoned & the last fish has been caught will we realise that we cannot eat money’
    19th C Cree Indian proverb.
    Nuff said 😔

    Liked by 1 person

      1. People gotta listen, we’re already on borrowed time..🤨🤨🤨 yeah.. if the Cree saw it 2 whole centuries ago WHAT is wrong with humankind?!? We gotta revive that connection, we have lost our way…. become so impressed with the superficial, instant gratification, more more more ‘culture’ that post war 1950’s spawned.. humankind boasts knowledge, intellect, the ability to forge ahead alone.. THIS is our downfall 😔.. we have forgotten what the Cree knew… we are arrogant and stubborn children who use our knowledge and intellect to plunder mother earths’ precious resource and we do this because we have forgotten.. that we are connected.. to eachother, nature, our amazing planet.. and it does not suit our comfortable, disconnected, look the other way Western lifestyle to remember.. too much effort and sacrifice involved.. so feet up in front of the great one eyed God television, crack a beer & channel hop every time poverty, lack, injustice & unimaginable suffering dare to rear their ugly heads.. I mean, come on..no one wants to see starving kids whilst tuckin into whatever’s on that tray on their lap do they???!!!??? We have become desensitized… comfortable fools who have more than enough yet STILL complain.. we have lost the ability to empathise.. there is NO US & THEM.. WE’RE ALL FINISHED IF ‘The last fish is caught’.
        Think on humankind, clocks’ tickin….. 😥

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I think discomfort is really a great point. When we write and talk, we may annoy people, but the discomfort people feel from uncomfortable conversations is nothing compared to the discomfort we’ll continue to feel over the coming years from the lasting effects of global warming.

        Like

      3. We annoy because we reach out to humankinds conscience.. that inherent but sadly latent source of moral and ethical judgement that the far too comfortable and affluent Western world has managed, very successfully, to pack away & label as ‘unnecessary…. and more than a little uncomfortable’..
        We (They) refuse to listen because these ‘issues’.. which are far too many, ask too much, feel too uncomfortable and are too far away to matter DO NOT IMPACT ON ‘US’… Not OUR problem, not OUR City, not OUR homes, not OUR children.. wake up humankind… Because if we don’t it will be too too late to save OUR world… One world, one family.. WE ARE ALL IN THIS DIRE SITUATION TOGETHER.. ALL STANDING AT THE CROSSROADS… Time & time again those that can see have urged those who will not to take action.

        ‘There are none so blind as those that will not see’
        I can’t attribute this as I have no idea who first said it?

        Liked by 1 person

  11. There is no man-made global anything. Some people live in fear and worry (Like extra-terrestrials coming to take over our minds.). Some people don’t have enough in their life that makes them feel relevant. Then others enjoy the soapbox. If everybody would be responsible in their own worlds, everything would go on for thousands of years and the Earth wouldn’t even notice us.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. How can a broken cog fix itself? Or perhaps a better analogy, how can a mutated cell reproduce non mutated cells? The Bible tells us plainly that humans are not equipped to solve the issues which we recognize in the world. Furthermore, the Bible clearly identifies that the source of these recognized problems is none other than humanity. Each of us is fallen and tragically imperfect. So we are the source of the problems, and not the source of the solution. As long as humans remain the predominate authority on this earth, we will never break the cycle we find ourselves in. Only when that which is not a contributor to the problems we face, and rather a corrector of said problems, returns to rule, will we live in the utopian society all of our inner beings yearn for.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s