We must assess the consequences of our lifestyle on the planet’s declining liveability, as we already have a rising chemical imbalance in the biosphere which impairs life’s ability to control its climate. Furthermore, we’re expecting 9 billion people within thirty odd years; this, in a world of depleting organic and inorganic resources, rising sea levels, and increasing temperatures, that will make many parts of the planet’s land and sea unliveable, plus mounting pollution, and the ever present threat of nuclear war. It’s a future of dire consequences for all life. What is even more serious is the positive feedback which is already increasing the warming. Notably, the methane hydrates that are bubbling up out of the arctic sea and the permafrost melting, (all due to warming) releasing vast amounts of carbon that will heat up the planet and this will release even more carbon.
We’re seeing the early effects on our relationships from those climatic changes. Solving the resulting discord and conflicts, through overt or cover violent means perpetuates them. The aftereffects of the above may take a decades to manifest themselves fully. Civilisation can end either through a differently based lifestyle based on sharing and cooperation, or we can continue to compete to the bitter end. We got into these crises by using oil, thinking only of the work it does, avoiding looking at its effects, and its finiteness, which is now apparent.
King Hubbert in 1965 correctly predicted the USA oil production would likely peak in the 70’s and world oil very early in the 21st century. That was before deep sea, tar sand, and other non-conventional oil came into use, but they require $100 a barrel market price to break even while the economy can’t even afford $40 to be fully functional. Therefore society subsidises oil to have a functioning economy. This enables the use of lower quality oil requiring more energy to produce and emitting more carbon. It’s either lack of oil or global warming that’s going to wipe us out and unfortunately it could be a dead heat.
We will stay on our suicidal course until the domineering and powerful people acknowledge the impossibility of their families living to the end of this century due to global warming and lack of energy to maintain themselves with the expected nine billion people. There are many ways we could suffer our demise under the present system, but there is no way of surviving within it. The use of agnotology is maintaining us on that terminal course. Our information is skewed with that science of creating ignorance, the blending of verified information with falsehood, valued equally to create uncertainties from the contradicting information. One tends to accept a distorted reality in a competitive milieu; we are all vulnerable to seeing the world according to our personal interest in an exigent world. People controling public relations and the information industry that uses agnotology are also susceptible to their distortion as everyone else is to varying degrees.
How can we come to our senses?
We must confront, as soon as we can, the full extent of the situation we will encounter in a decade or two. Overpopulation, decreasing supply of oil, a hotter more violent climate, and a rising sea level, this situation is now on our doorstep, it was predicted decades ago, but ignored. It was ignored because it would interfere with the economy, an economy that’s producing the disaster. Also most environmentalists felt that it would impact mainly on poor powerless people and hence they advocated for them but to no avail. The power is in the wealthy, not with those who are interested in the welfare of those who are less fortunate. Nevertheless wealth gives more than power; it produces and sustains illusions which are strengthened with increased concentrated wealth, this is our greatest obstacle to a continuing life.
These obvious false information and thinking arises also from our education, magnified by the media. It confers the belief that we have reached a stage of perpetual economic growth. The impossibility of it is ignored due to science’s reductionist approach. The 20th century was one of rapit increase in population and consumption per capita by using the energy from non-renewable fossil fuels. If we had an educational system dedicated to enhance ours and our children’s lives, we would see at a glance that such a path could lead to our demise.
We could avoid the worst results of our reckless attitudes, but we can’t do it by fighting oppressors or supressing the oppressed. We are in a different world now, and we need a different outlook, we have no other option than to cooperate on the task of surviving that motivating task. Helping people and other species to survive well is the most rewarding activity one can take; it’s our nature we are the most social of social life. So, it should be possible to pull through this frightful period and adjust to a good life. Henceforth we must do whatever is necessary to achieve that. We must restore our natural imperative social life, that’s a reversal in our attitudes that was imposed by force and through educating society by an alien destructive competitive system. This is now under a neoliberal economy that needs and uses military build up to secure its resources. Cooperation and our sociability are used for these destructive forces in civilisation. The justification of even the worst acts has been ingrained during our schooling and then reinforced by the media. Redressing that continual antisocial behaviour is one of the challenging tasks we must face to survive.
People can only tackle this task if we have a united front aimed to save everyone, or else no one may survive due to the waste in competitive activities, (but there’s nothing more wasteful than the military, especially in action). We have no other option than to live within nature’s sustainability, which will be a hard task for the billionaires to fit in. Its fairness or their and our annihilation with unimaginable suffering for everyone and the wealthy must be informed of that. Therefore, that’s the duty of environmentalists and scientists. They must broaden their view to see our social relationships under capitalism and how it contradicts our human-nature and the planet’s nature. Our disregard of the planet’s ability to sustain us, within the present socioeconomic system will leave the planet ravaged, exhausted and poisoned. Our first mission is to stop that process quickly and to mend the results of myriad of abuses, including to people. It’s not just saving a few islanders from rising seas; for soon we’ll all be in the “same boat”.
With the prediction of 9 billion people and less resources, it’s a simple “life or death” decision.
To maintain our life we need a very efficient and fair socioeconomic system that can sustain all future people in the best possible harmonious way within nature’s constraints. That would necessitate amongst many things, a reduction in our population, eventually down to about 2 billion from 9 billion for the best life, and to survive, we must aim for that even if it seems impossible as it is in competitive systems. What looks impossible is also due mainly to our constrained thinking that originates from our nuclear family orientation to maintain and amass private property. Instead we must prioritise our children’s future welfare.
To deal with the outcomes of our traumatic life and wasteful economy, we need to live in supportive social groups with a full range of ages from babies to grandparents within a common property where the old and young are the responsibility of a group of many adults. This type of life is much more economical and very reassuring especially for children as they would not be confined to an exclusive adult who may become less capable. There could be a wide variety of ways people could live sharing common property and places, enjoying the few children within the group’s responsibility for their nurturing. Life must be simple but interesting, enjoyable, supportive, and secure. There’d be little need to detail the best way to live sustainably as when nearly everyone realises the situation we’re in, solutions will come up and people will adopt the best solutions for their situation and change accordingly.
Our great asset is our adaptability. It has enabled us to live through an alien system. On the other hand, being so, we can easily and quickly revert to a universal state of compassion and cooperation. Nevertheless we won’t change because there’s a better way to live, but because it might be the only way to maintain life.
The education we had and are getting is to maintain the status quo of a growing economy. It’s not for a better life, especially for the young; it’s for the students to be more productive. But being more productive is our major problem.
Lionel Anet is a member of Sydney U3A University of the Third Age, of 20 years standing and now a life member