Why We’re Failing The Climate Test

The finals hall at McGill University, where I actually failed a few

Ever since I took my first test, I vowed to just study earlier next time. I have been studiously breaking this vow ever since. Most people are like me and unfortunately ‘most people’ constitute a society. We’re just not good at balancing short-term annoyance with long-term catastrophe. And so we fail.

Humanity faces a climate test, and we have to act early, really decades ago. White people have been dimly aware that lighting shit on fire makes it hot since the 1970s and the people they colonized have been telling them for centuries. But people just want to get gas in the tank and go to work today, and their bosses just want to make money this quarter. And so we fail. This time on a planetary scale.

I don’t mean to say that it’s your fault, or that we’re psychologically doomed to this fate. The truth is that we had more balanced civilizations before, we had communist revolutions last century, other paths have always been possible. It’s just not where we ended up.

The great triumph of capitalism has been its amputation of the imagination. We can’t imagine anything else. Not everybody, but most people and, you know, that’s enough. As Zizek said, it’s easier to imagine the end of the world than it is to imagine the end of capitalism.

Any actual solutions to the huge problem we face are viewed as crazy. Degrowth is impossible, revolution would be disastrous, planning a balanced economy is insane. Big changes to our concept of democracy, of nation states, of wealth, of power, these are just off the table, that would be too much change.

But we have to understand that what they call climate ‘change’ is fundamentally about balance. Either we change a lot or the climate does. Since we’re only making little changes, we’re getting a huge collapse. That’s just the nature of scales.

The truth is that the scale of change required would suck in the long-term. Rich people would simply lose their investments in fossil fuels and car companies and over-consumption, everything propping up their portfolios right now. We’d be talking about the destruction of the futures market so the planet could have a future. This of course wouldn’t be restricted to them, entire economies would collapse.

Then people would revolt (likely for access to fossil fuels back) and you’d see waves of violence across the world. This could go fascist, it could go communist, it could go unknown. We’d have to have Shiva-level destruction in order to even get to a place where the creation of a new society is possible.