Waiting for the asteroid, eyes open

Photo: ethermoon/Flickr.

Photo: ethermoon/Flickr.

I’m pretty sure you know the drill. You pose the scenario and ask the hypothetical questions:

There’s an asteroid headed for Earth. We know exactly when it will strike, and it will kill all humans. Do you want to know it will strike? Do you want to know when?

Some people want to know everything. Others don’t want to know anything.

People who want to know when the asteroid will strike cannot fathom that people don’t want to know. People who don’t want to know the asteroid is headed our way cannot fathom why anybody would want to know. Obviously, I’m in the former camp. In fact, it’s inconceivable to me that people don’t want to know.

I want to stare, unblinking, when the asteroid strikes. I want to peer into the abyss of my mortality, eyes wide open, knowing the exact moment I will depart this mortal coil. Not in the name of courage, but curiosity.

For me, not knowing is unbearable. But knowing is a great burden, too. And while I’m expecting an asteroid oddly shaped like climate chaos, we’ll probably get hit by a meteor.

Can’t avert my gaze

If I did not know about the horrors of empire, I would still be teaching at a university. I would still be drawing a large paycheck doing the work I love and interacting with idealistic young people. I would have the respect and admiration of civilized people, including the members of my immediate family.

If I did not know about the horrors of climate change, I would be content with my path in life. I would be living large, sleeping well, and enjoying the contentment of a life well lived. Rarely would I attract animus from across the sociopolitical spectrum. Angst would lie in abeyance, along with threats on my life.

What a boring existence that would be. For better and worse, I’m stuck with the current adventure: the adventure of a lifetime until the adventure ends, along with the life.

There are no second chances, no opportunities to undo what’s been done. At the level of individuals, we refer to poor choices as stupidity (when others are making the choices) or tragedy (when it’s us).

At the level of our ill-fated species, we refer to the myriad poor choices as progress. As nearly as I can distinguish, when faced with the proverbial fork in the road, we’ve taken the wrong turn at each and every opportunity.

There are no second chances for our species, no opportunities to undo what’s been done. And yet we keep plugging along, claiming we’re sapient progressives. A few among us claim to be conservatives, but we’re conserving only this omnicidal way of life. Until we can’t.

— Guy McPherson, Transition Voice

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  1. James R. Martin says

    “And yet we keep plugging along, claiming we’re sapient progressives. A few among us claim to be conservatives, but we’re conserving only this omnicidal way of life. Until we can’t.”

    Why do you think this is, Guy? I’m always wondering why we never seem to pull out of the nose dive, why so many people remain ignorant of the damage and threat “developed, advanced” societies impose, why those who are not ignorant nevertheless perpetuate “normal, advanced, developed” ways of life. I keep wondering even though I have a lot of relevant knowledge on the subject, such as the nature of faux democracy under a propaganda state, the gradual emergence of a military-industrial-congressional-media-schooling… complex that absorbs so much of the world into itself — rather like the condition in the Matrix films.

    But while this analysis seems cogent enough, it somehow fails to be satisfactory. It feels insufficient. The popular, thin conception of ‘progress’ (economic, technological, etc.) is so obviously false, and has been shown to be false so many times, for so long, by so many, that it befuddles my mind to wonder how people can believe in it. And if they do not believe in it, how can they serve it each day?

  2. says

    They say we never get a second chance to make a first impression… Man, oh, man, did we ever screw this one up!

    It’s hard to say just when we really messed up by not at least recognizing the problem for what it was. We’ve known about how dangerous this stuff was for decades, but somehow we just didn’t want to face the possibility that we would exterminate ourselves. There seems to be a cultural delusion about somehow always managing to save ourselves with the latest technology — maybe even broader than cultural, since it seems to exist across so many cultures. They all seem like moot points/questions now, but I still wonder what *I* could/should have done differently?

    I’m a look-the-asteroid-in-the-eye kinda guy, but I only wish it were an asteroid; that would be so much easier to deal with, and aside from the anxiety of the approaching doom, over & done with in a relative instant. Near-term extinction is likely to be a whole lot more terrible, with a lot more “gnashing of teeth” as Colin Campbell puts it (referring to Peak Oil & resource depletion). Maybe our advanced technology will rise up once again and develop a method of ending our lives when we reach a certain self-defined threshold of suffering… It’s just very painful to imagine just how this will play out in the end stages.

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