On my way to work today … driving my fossil-fuel-powered vehicle … to a job that basically consists of two people spending a combined two dollars to fight over one dollar … anyway, on my way to work today, I heard an advertisement for a credit card which promises to plant a tree for every purchase you make in order to “offset you carbon footprint.”
There is so much wrong with that, I struggle to even know where to begin. If you don’t get it already, then let me just say this … any “solution” which begins with us buying more shit–even “green” shit–isn’t a solution; it’s the problem.
When I got to work, I opened Facebook … like every person whose job primarily involves sitting in front of a computer screen … and someone had shared a newspaper article from 1912 warning about climate change caused by the burning of coal.
1912. 19-fucking-12. I had to fact check it to make sure it was real. It is.
Of course, there wasn’t a scientific consensus on that until around 1988 when James Hansen testified in front of the Senate. But we’ve had over 30 years to respond since then and we’ve just doubled and tripled down on business-as-usual. There’s been more carbon emitted since 1988 than was emitted in the history of human existence before 1988. Meanwhile, the mainstream activists keep telling us every year that we have ten more years and promising that we can have our green cake and eat it too.
So much effort is still being put into convincing people that climate change is real or that it’s caused by human beings or that we just need to do x, y, or z to stop it … it’s a fucking waste of time at this point. People will believe whatever they want to believe.
Sick of this, I pulled out my phone to look at TikTok … because usually that makes me laugh and laughter has been a saving grace for me over the last year … and there’s a video of a doctor doing all he can to hold it together after having a truck driver patient tell him that his opinion about vaccines is as valid as the doctor’s. I mean, seriously?! WTF?!
People will believe whatever they want to believe. And people who don’t believe in climate change have a very good reason for not wanting to believe it. Because believing in climate change means we have to stop doing pretty much everything we’re doing. And that’s not only terrifying … it’s practically inconceivable.
The anti-capitalist writer Upton Sinclair wrote, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!” How much more difficult is it to get someone to accept something when their whole way of life depends on not accepting it.
Almost everything I did today, from the time I woke up … the clothes I put on, the products I used, the food I ate, the vehicle I drove, the work I did, the media I watched, right down to writing this post on this computer … all of it was part of a vast system of extraction, exploitation, and consumption which I am inescapably intertwined with. And the truth is that I am no closer to escaping it than the climate change denier.
After hearing that credit card commercial this morning–the one promising to plant trees if you just buy more stuff–I pulled into a parking spot at my office and a scene from a movie came to my mind. It’s from the 2005 Joss Whedon film Serenity, a spin-off of the Sy-Fy TV series Firefly. In the scene, there is the villain, an assassin who has been sent by the technocratic overlords of the future to hunt down the wily protagonist who represents a threat to the established order.
The villain has just killed a bunch of friends, associates, and acquaintances of the hero–men, women, and children–in order to flush him out. And now they’re having a conversation over video chat (or whatever the future equivalent is). The villain explains that he is doing because he believes in something bigger than himself, “a better world.” To which the hero responds, “So me and mine gotta lay down and die so you can live in your better world?” And the villain responds,
“I’m not going to live there. There’s no place for me there … any more than there is for you. I’m a monster.”
Of course the movie goes on to vindicate the hero, but I find myself identifying with villain more and more. I’m a monster. All of us are monsters. This system makes us monsters. We are complicit in an unimaginably vast and complex system which consumes people and places and excretes carbon gas and plastic junk.
But unlike the villain in Serenity, our monstrosity serves no greater good. Our monstrosity doesn’t create a better world. In fact, our monstrosity destroys the conditions of the possibility of another world.
We are such monsters that most of us can’t even imagine another way of life that doesn’t involve us being monsters. So of course they deny climate change. At least that’s consistent with their monstrous nature.
I do want a different world, a better world. But even if that world comes to happen, I know I’m not going to live there. There is no place for me in that world.
The most I can do, I think, is help a little to create the conditions of the possibility for that world. Try to tear down a little of this suicidal death machine we call civilization. Try to save a little of the living world that might be saved. And then to step aside.