I’m hot. I’m cranky. The direct impact of climate collapse is heat, and the indirect impact is misery. But am I experiencing climate collapse or political collapse? Is it local or global in scale? My point is, in this day and age, what’s the difference?
Like a glass shattering, every shard of this fractured planet falls its own particular way. If you pick up any piece of glass it has its own shape and its own story of how it got there but the results are the same. That’s what’s happening today.
I live in Sri Lanka—which is one of the most absolutely shattered places in the world right now. Sri Lanka’s misery is unique, but the conditions for immiseration are everywhere. How each nation falls is idiosyncratic, but we’re all part of the same idiocy.
For example, both Sri Lanka and Europe have energy shortages, for completely different reasons. Sri Lanka’s problem is foreign currency and Europe’s is foreign policy. We’ve have taken very different roads, and yet both run out of gas.
In the same way, rice harvests are collapsing both here and in America. Sri Lanka’s rice harvest has dropped by 40% because of an overnight switch to organic farming. California’s rice yield has dropped 20% because of a drought which may last for decades. Sri Lanka snapped, America crackled, and the whole world is going pop.
My point here is that everyone is fucked. It’s largely a timing difference, like COVID-19. COVID is just a symptom of this larger contagion, not the disease. Chaos is the condition, though it presents differently across the world. Only China is navigating this crash with some competence, which is great for at a billion people at least. But for everyone else, whatever we do, chaos intervenes.
If you think about it, when a glass shatters, the glass on top is like “the fuck did I do? I didn’t hit anything!” And yet the shock from the bottom of the glass crashing sends everyone else flying. That is the level of violent shocks the world is going through.
War in Ukraine effects grain prices in the Middle East, which causes social unrest, which destabilizes oil supplies, which leads to rising commodity prices, which leads to social unrest somewhere else, which leads to war, which leads to other shortages, like a shock wave spreading through brittle glass, going round and round.
And the truth is we have just begun to crack. When continents of ice melt and the Amazon gives up and a critical mass of climate collapse is reached, chaos will not be chipping away at the edges. Chaos will reign.