LAKE MACBRIDE— An article about James Lovelock was recently updated and is in the news again. “Enjoy life while you can,” said Lovelock in 2008. “Because if you’re lucky, it’s going to be 20 years before it hits the fan.” Whether enough people are listening to his admonition about the inevitability of catastrophic climate change is doubtful. Whether we should is another question.
While the U.S. has its share of doomsday preppers, by and large the potential for social unrest, like in Ukraine, Egypt, Syria and Venezuela, is discounted by most people I meet. If some are stocking up at COSTCO, it is the result of a mathematical calculation of price per serving, and how long that over-sized box of crackers will last. Preparing for Armageddon is the last thing on shopper minds. As Americans, we have a high level of tolerance for injustice… as long as we perceive that as individuals, we are being treated fairly.
Our public awareness is influenced by a media bought and sold by a few wealthy people. Corporations influence our lawmakers, agriculture, retail stores, our utilities, and anything we do that requires our participation. Seldom has there been a large scale outbreak of social unrest, nor is one likely without a wholesale breakdown of consumer society. The wealthy are smart enough to prevent that from happening unless it serves their purposes.
Perhaps the most recent American social movement was the political tide that swept Republicans out of power and inaugurated President Barack Obama. Discontent with our government increased once the abuses of presidential power became more widely known after Sept. 11, 2001. It was a peaceful movement, even if we had yet to end two wars, and continued our questionable use of drones to target people in countries with which we are not at war.
It would take a lot for wide-spread, violent protest to topple the U.S. government. For that matter, protests against drones, economic issues, taxation, the Keystone XL pipeline, nuclear weapons installations, mountaintop removal coal mining and other issues pass largely unnoticed by society. In the middle east, it took a widespread drought, a shortage of export crops from Russia and Ukraine and high food prices to activate citizens for social change. Of course now we are getting back to climate disruption caused by global warming.
Helping mitigate the causes of global warming is at the top of my to-do list. I wrote about it at this link, “climate change is real, it is happening now, it’s caused by humans, and is cause for immediate action before it is too late.” Of course, according to Lovelock, it is already too late. Climate change is not the only worry we have about survival of life on the planet.
The other threat is the lingering possibility of a nuclear weapons exchange. In our post-Cold War era, this borders on the absurd. The two countries with the largest number of nuclear weapons are the United States and Russia. The war is over, so disarm. We can’t afford the hundreds of billions of dollar we spend on the nuclear complex, so disarm.
The humanitarian consequences of a small-scale, regional nuclear war, like between nuclear states India and Pakistan, are unthinkable. Conservative organizations like the Red Cross/Red Crescent Society and Rotary International are signing on to abolish nuclear weapons for that reason. They are most active outside U.S. borders.
Americans are already looking to enjoy life more, oblivious to the tangible threats we face. It is possible to mitigate the causes of climate change, work toward nuclear abolition, and enjoy life more. Once one has read Sartre not much seems futile, and engaging in life becomes its own reason to live. Whether we can make a difference is a question the naysayers would answer for us, something we can’t let them do.