It’s been a rough week for me since the Rapture didn’t happen on May 21.
It wasn’t that it didn’t happen. It was the ignorance and lack of common sense in people who fell for the prediction. Who seem representative of people in general. Which is a huge bummer.
That’s why I was happy to find a real end-of-the-world book, The Great Disruption by Paul Gilding, which paints a reasonable and quite hopeful future. I’m going to quote from his first chapter:
The earth is full.
In fact our human society and economy is now so large we have passed the limits of our planet’s capacity to support us and it is overflowing….
These challenges and the facts behind them are well-known by experts and leaders around the world and have been for decades. But despite this understanding, that we would at some point pass the limits to growth, it has been continually filed away to the back of our mind and the back of our drawers, with the label “Interesting — For Consideration Later” prominently attached. Well, later has arrived.
This is because the passing of the limits is not philosophical but physical and rooted in the rules of physics, chemistry, and biology. So passing the limits has consequences.
If you cut down more trees than you grow, you run out of trees. If you put additional nitrogen into a water system, you change the type and quantity of life that water can support. If you thicken the earth’s CO2 blanket, the earth gets warmer. If you do all these things and many more things at once, you change the way the whole system of planet Earth behaves, with social, economic, and life support impacts. This is not speculation, this is high school science.
In all this though, there is a surprising case for optimism. As a species, we are good in a crisis, and passing the limits will certainly be the biggest crisis our species has ever faced. Our backs will be up against the wall, and in that situation we have proven ourselves to be extraordinary. As the full scale of the imminent crisis hits us, our response will be proportionally dramatic, mobilizing as we do in war. We will change at a scale and speed we can barely imagine today, completely transforming the economy, including our energy and transport industries, in just a few short decades. Perhaps most surprisingly we will also learn there is more to life than shopping. We will break our addiction to growth, accept that more stuff is not making our lives better and focus instead on what does.
This is why we shouldn’t despair in the face of what the science is telling us — it is precisely the severity of the problem that will drive a response that is overwhelming in scale and speed and will go right to the core of our societies. It is the crisis itself that will push humanity to its next stage of development….