Last month, while reading and reviewing Too Much Magic, I came across a line in the latter half of the book that really stung: “Not even people who are preoccupied with climate change like to think about it anymore.” It hurts because it’s true. I’m tired, and disheartened by the snail’s pace of climate progress. Meanwhile, the malaise of a feverish planet is rapidly intensifying, each drought or extreme weather event unfurling a new set of problems, foreshadowing our own undoing.
Kunstler goes on to write,
The more you explore the problem, the worse it seems and the more hopeless you feel. A lot of people like myself who do think about it remain plugged in to the fossil fuel economies that are responsible for this set of problems. I suppose we’re free to blame ourselves, for all the good it may do. I can’t speak for others in my position but I feel that I am a hostage to this economy. To say that it is the only economy I’ve known my whole long life may sound like a lame excuse. More to the point, perhaps, there is no post-fossil fuel economy yet to–forgive me for putting it this way–plug your life into, no World Made by Hand that represents the kind of immersive reset of daily life that would allow someone to function in a different context.
And there you have it: we are immersed in a system that, by its very design, is incompatible with our long-term survival, but we have no ready alternative. Furthermore, proposed alternatives to the current growth-based, extractive economy that is causing so many financial and environmental woes (worker-owned cooperatives, or local food and energy production, for example) are so inimical to our collective worldview, that they are almost entirely omitted from the discussion.
I’m not sure we’ll see any real progress until we rethink our core assumptions. The video below–yes, it’s Sesame Street–reminded me a bit of the situation we have now in Canada: a government whose viewpoint is so myopic they’re functioning in a sort of upside-down fantasy world, one in which climate change is not really happening. Economic growth is Harper’s raison d’etre…at the expense of everything else, including social equality or environmental protection. The Conservative party has its head so far up its own arse it won’t even consider taxing carbon, even though the oil producers themselves want a carbon tax. And we continue to build fossil fuel infrastructure–pipelines branching out like veins, delivering black goo across the continent–even though burning it will irreversibly alter our climate and jeopardize our children’s future. If someone in the latter half of this century could send a text message to our current leaders, I suspect it would merely ask, “WTF?”
Muppet Dowager Countess: “Why have the crumpets fallen to the ceiling?”
Muppet Carson: “Again, Mam, it most likely is because we are upside down.”
Muppet Dowager Countess: “This is a bit of a problem.”
Muppet Carson: “Perhaps if we were right side up, the problem would be solved.”
Muppet Dowager Countess: “Hmph. Don’t be ridiculous, we very well can’t be right-side-up in Upside Downton Abbey. It is simply not done.”