Comprehensive review of what we’re up against and urgency, rapidly tending too late:
Insights From The Wilderness – Human Civilization Will Not Survive Climate Intensification
By Dick Rauscher, originally published by Resilience.org
- January 4, 2019
I recognize that the title of this StonyHill Nugget is alarming and that I will be accused of holding extremist views on global warming and climate intensification. But I am concerned that the media and our government are not telling us the truth. Stated simply, the 1% that control the media, and the reigns of political power in Washington and other nations around the globe, have absolutely no desire or motivation to talk about the real threats embedded in global warming.
They know that the global economy is extremely fragile…..and talking about the deeper truths embedded in global warming and climate intensification would quickly kill the golden goose that is laying eggs of pure petroleum gold for them.
The realities of global warming embedded in the Governmental Global Warming Crisis Report released by governmental scientists on the Friday following Thanksgiving were clear. Global warming is not only going to change life as we know it by the end of the century, but also the impacts of global warming are already changing life as we know it ….and the rate of change is going to continue to accelerate.
Unfortunately, the report which was mandated by Congress tended to gloss over the climate impacts that are coming in the near future or already happening. It focused primarily on climate impacts that will not be experienced by humanity for fifty to eighty years in the future!
Here Is What Concerns Me…And Should Concern You
Global warming has been metaphorically described as a cliff we are about to walk off. Unfortunately, it’s more like a minefield. The further we walk out onto that minefield, the more we are likely to set off explosions and tipping points that can’t be reversed.
The report gave accurate information on the coming climate crises, but it tiptoed very carefully around the sobering reality that virtually everything produced and consumed in our modern global economy is manufactured using energy provided by petroleum and natural gas. They understand that all of the short-term solutions that need to be implemented now, such as powering down from petroleum 95% in the next few decades, would immediately trigger a massive collapse in the world’s global economy; a collapse that would very quickly bring human civilization as we know it to an end.
In other words, the writers of the government climate report knew a rapid powering down from petroleum and carbon energy cannot happen in time to effectively reverse the impacts of global warming. They also recognized the simple truth that the petroleum industry and the 1% who are profiting from the extraction and burning of carbon-based petroleum and gas are not about to let that happen. The 1% are not the least bit interested in killing the golden goose that is laying the solid petroleum gold eggs that are making them incredibly wealthy.
Humans are rarely able to internalize the impacts of a crisis that will happen in the distant future. But the 1%, and the CEO’s of the petroleum industry, know full-well the day humanity does fully accept and embrace the severity of global warming, their golden goose will die. So they will continue to aggressively support those who deny that global warming is human-caused…….or that it is an immediate threat.
And this brings me to my concern and what I believe should concern you.
When humans are frightened and feel powerless, they can quickly become angry. And they will aggressively seek to project that anger onto those they believe are responsible for creating their fear.
As a mental health therapist, I’m concerned that when humanity awakens to the reality that global warming and global climate intensification are a serious survival threat to their future…..their fear and anger towards those who created this life-threatening situation could very quickly turn violent and extreme.This social anger and backlash could not only kill the golden petroleum goose; it could collapse the fragile financial structures of human civilization itself.
Unfortunately, the story doesn’t end there.
When a) the actual financial and social impacts of global warming and global climate intensification are fully recognized by humanity and then combined withb) the growing recognition that powering down from the use of petroleum (the only realistic way to reverse global warming in time to save the planet) is not possible because it too would create an immediate, massive, and devastating collapse of the global economy and the economic foundations of human civilization.
As I pointed out above, virtually everything we produce and consume in our modern global economy is a) manufactured and created by carbon-based petroleum and natural gas energy, b) shipped around the world using that same carbon-based energy, and c) this includes most of the food we grow, eat, and ship around the world.
Stated simply, the inevitable emotional backlash of fear and anger that I’m concerned about when humanity finally digests these frightening realities…….will not bode well for the future of human civilization as we know it.
But the reality of global warming that most concerns me is not just the coming destructive impact of global climate change and storm intensification. Those willcertainly threaten the future of our planet, but they are not the most immediate problem.
I believe the actual impacts of climate change and storm intensification will pale in significance compared to the violence and potential for social collapse of human civilization that will be created by the fear, powerlessness, and anger of a humanity that knows there is no way to avoid the suffering they will experience……a suffering that was created by greed. A greed that intentionally ignored and suppressed the long recognized reality of global warming, and the deeper reality that unlimited economic expansion is not physically or economically possible using the limited ecological and physical resources available on a limited planet.
Stated simply, my concern as a mental health therapist is the high probability that the emotional backlash created by social fear and anger will create a level of social violence that will threaten the economic and social structures of human civilization far sooner than the actual destructive impacts of global warming and climate intensification.
So What Can We Do? How Can We Embrace Hope?
- We know there is currently no social or political will to prepare for these rapidly approaching and inevitable realities.
- We also know that without preparation there will be no resilience for survival.
- We know there is no way human civilization can power down from carbon energy fast enough to reverse global warming and avoid the social and economic collapse that a rapid powering down from petroleum would create.
- Stated simply, the future is not what it used to be! Whether we a) do nothing and let global warming continue, or b) come off petroleum energy and reverse global warming in the next few decades, there is no way we can avoid a global collapse of the current global economic economy and human civilization as we know it.
- We know life as we know it will end. But that does not mean the end of the world.
- It simply means life as we know it is going to change. How it changes will be up to us! If we have the imagination needed to embrace the possibilities that change always offers, we could begin working together right now to create that new possible future.
It is critically important to remind ourselves that this is not the end of the world. It is only the end of life as we have come to know it. We created this life, this world, and we can begin creating a new possible future…..a new way of life. But we are very rapidly running out of time to create a future we would actually want to live in. We have to act now.
The Path Forward: The Possible Futures We Can NotAllow To Be Re-created
Here are some realities to think about as we prepare to create a new possible future; a future that will have to include the reality of further global warming, climate intensification and the looming threat of social collapse; the dark future that will be our reality for generations.
The possible future we create together cannot be the future that used to be. We cannot simply re-create the world we are living in today. Self-focused greed, denial of reality, avoidance of reality, and ignorant resistance to the inevitability of change in a changing universe…….are not options we can embrace as we work together to create our new possible future.
If we re-create the dangerous realities listed below in our new possible future human civilization……they would only lead to the same rapid economic and social collapse we are about to witness in our present world.
Possible Futures To Avoid
1) A possible future that again allows our global debtto reach roughly $247 trillion. (To internalize this number consider that a million seconds is 12 days. A billion seconds is 31 years. A trillion seconds is 31,000 years. And 247 trillion seconds is roughly 7,657,000 years).
Debt is prosperity today, but poverty tomorrow when that debt has to be paid back…plus interest. We have allowed humanity to accrue a level of debt that no city, state, or nation has enough extra money left over after operating expenses are covered to pay back that kind of debt. Person A’s debt is always person B’s wealth, so when this massive debt begins to default, and it will, it would create a massive social and economic collapse.
Debt cannot be part of the economic system in our possible new future.
2) A possible future in which 80% of all pensions and social programs are again underfunded. Consider the emotional impact and anger that will happen when our current retirees fail to get the monthly checks they were promised in retirement. Or when social security underfunding enters the picture. Or when those retirees have to pay out of pocket for medical expenses when Medicare and Medicaid are cut back. Or when we add the hopelessness and anger of millions of retires that currently have little to no retirement savings, major credit card debt, and home equity loans well beyond their ability to afford due to decades in which the extreme wealth inequalityfavored the 1%.
Poverty, hunger, and wealth inequality cannot be part of our possible new future.
3) A possible future in which a denial of the social costs of global warming, floods, forest fires, dislocation, droughts, hunger, and storm refugees who have lost everything again begins to bankrupt insurance companies, states, and federal governments. When the global financial systems are no longer able to cover the overwhelming costs of food, medicines, and housing that will be urgently needed by the suffering victims of global warming, their suffering will quickly turn into an anger and violence that will threaten the very social structures and fabric of human civilization.
Compassion, empathy, and quality of life for all persons must be part of our possible new future.
4) A possible future in which there is again no social or political will to embrace the irreversible and uncontrollable global warming consequences which are already baked into our environment and global economy for generations to come. The same lack of social and political will that was needed to urgently embrace the actions that could have helped us avoid the no-win situation the world is in today. Ignoring global warming or powering down from carbon energy to reverse global warming…… would bothquickly lead again to the collapse of our global economy and the foundations of human civilization.
Ignoring reality is not an option in our possible new future.
5) A possible future in which the global wealth inequality is again allowed to get massively out of control. A future in which the globe’s richest 1% currently owned half the world’s wealth. Consider the reality that no empire in human history has ever survived at this level of wealth inequality.
Our possible new future will require a just and equitable distribution of wealth and an economic system that includes all members equally.
6) A possible future in which everyone is again encouraged to become rigidly hyper-partisan, angry at anyone considered to be “other”, racist, ideologically inflexible, and hyper-nationally tribal. A human culture that again embraces rigid, black-and-white, zero-sum thinking.
Our possible new future will require a significant awakening and evolution of our collective human consciousness.
I could add more examples to this list, but I would like to close on a more positive note.
If we could find the courage, wisdom, and will to aggressively and decisively take action now, it might not mean the end of human civilization. It might only mean the end of human civilization as we know it.
The courage, wisdom, and will to take aggressive and decisive action now would require:
- a willingness to embrace voluntary simplicity,
- a willingness to recognize that unlimited economic expansion on a limited planet is one of humanities most dangerous myths,
- re-learning the self-reliant survival skills of our grandparents and previous generations,
- learning to work together cooperatively,
- the courage to become more self-aware, more evolved, to intentionally awaken our collective human consciousness by intentionally taming our collective childhood primitive ego……including our childhood egos need to be “right”, its illusion of separateness from the rest of reality, and it’s what-in-it-for-me self-focused greed.
- learning to live in right relationship with nature and reality,
- a radical and voluntary reduction in the “things” we currently extract and consume,
- joining or creating self-reliant small local communities often referred to as sustainable eco-communities,
- growing, preserving, and stockpiling our own food,
- hand pumped wells for local water, and relearning the skills required to survive without electricity, gasoline, imported food and energy, how to stay warm in winter, weaving, knitting, hunting, fire starting without matches (which could eventually run out)……and most importantly,
- starting this preparation and learning process now! The time to create a new viable possible future is far more time-limited than we ever imagined!
The lives of you, your family, and the billions of other individuals, families, and children all over the world… ….will live in whatever possible new future we create together. Survival in this possible new futurewill require the skills of a self-reliant, sustainability- -focused local community; a local community with the ability to work cooperatively together.
Going it alone will not be an option in this possible new future……if your goal is survival.
I don’t claim to be omniscient and unerringly “right”, but I do follow the facts and the scientific data of people who are a lot smarter than me. What if the vast majority of the world’s scientists and economists are right? How long do we want to continue ignoring them? Perhaps a better way to think about that question is how long can we continue to ignore them……and still survive as a species?
My guess is…..not very long.