Everyone seems to have adopted a pretty nihilistic point of view towards the obvious collapse of the environment. We are falling deeper into the clutches of massive fetishistic disavowal, acknowledging & fearing the visible downfall of the world & all within, but blindly continuing to fuel that degradation; the phrase of the anthropocene era, a band of time revolving around the actions of humans, appears to be ‘oh dear. How sad. Never mind.’
Several times a week I hear people claim that ‘it’s all fucked,’ that we’re living in the end times, that the future is layered in ancient plastic and bones. Our media and fiction reflects this rather well; countless films come out every couple of years portraying an Earth literally tearing itself apart; a vast swathe of fiction, in no way new, consistently portrays the times after some catastrophe as bleak, unavoidable, and entirely our creation. Commercial news reels off imagery of socio-economic collapse alongside freak weather and quirks of environment, (saying this, one of the largest environmental disasters of our time, the Indonesian forest fires, has gone largely unnoticed, despite its immeasurable effect on people, animals, trees and the land, not to mention it’s origins in the illegal clearing of land by global businesses) encapturing us in a nervous chatter of doom, gloom, doom.
This is all in spite of the fact that it is human mechanisms, completely within the control and minds of humans, that allow this sort of thing to continue. This appears to be contributed a fair amount (read: a huge amount) to by the workings of capitalist, materialist culture. The pressure to earn just enough to afford to live invokes people to choose the rashest, most damaging option; driving everywhere. Clearing land with petrol. Killing animals that endanger crop. Using harmful pesticides to guarantee crop survival. As well as this, the desire for an aesthetic product ignores the uselessness of wrapping and landfill sites awash with greasy swathes of indigestible plastic, settling on the surface of the sea, at the bottom of the seabed. Education plays a large part as well; people who don’t think to recycle or compost probably aren’t fully aware of the implications of their everyday actions; or, they are: see phrase ‘oh dear. How sad. Never mind.’ This mindset appears to revolve around the idea that humans are big & clever.
If that is the case, then why are we not saving ourselves? (saying this, we’ve caused enough problems among ourselves to start righteously declaring the environment ours to save.) The basic equations are thus: world ends. We are in world. No world = no us. A very reductive argument, but how do you convince someone that can’t be bothered to walk to the post office down the road or recycle small items that the planet, largely owned by bacteria and microorganisms, is worth saving?
Whether or not everything is ‘fucked,’ we could at least give it a shot. Think of it this way; if the world is slowly ending then the best that we can do right now is alleviate universal suffering. We should take actions that solve environmental and human concerns; relieve the oceans of pollution and start fishing sustainably and the ocean recovers, and people will have access to fish for many more years to come, as well as an ocean environment that is not toxic. Solve issues of packaging & waste; people will be paying less for items, and the environment will not suffer more bulk waste. Encourage permaculture, organic farming & fair-trade; people will be working in healthier environments across the globe, they will be allowing natural habitats to flourish, avoiding the current cost from commercial farming, and the consumer will be healthier & better off. These are only a few examples that I, a mere literature final year student with a part time job and a broken pair of shoes have managed to fumble together. They’re probably not the best examples, but the technology for saving the planet is flourishing, the means and ideas are there, people just need kicking into gear. If we do solve universal suffering in the face of the end times, if the world is free from the burden of human stupidity, then there is a greater and greater chance that it will not simply be in preparation of entering the dark eras with a clean conscience, but that our actions will have a positive and rejuvenating impact on the planet at large. So the simple statement I’m driving at isn’t ‘why bother?’ but ‘why not?’