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Humans Could Really Bring About the End of the World via Climate an...

Tom Engelhardt argues that the idea of a futureless humanity is difficult to take in—so the media just doesn't cover it.

... climate change itself is an enormous story, if what you mean is Story with a capital S.  It could even be considered the story of all stories.  It’s just that climate change and its component parts are unlike every other story ...

The future of all other stories, of the news and storytelling itself, rests on just how climate change manifests itself over the coming decades or even century.

What happens ... in our wars, politics, and culture, who is celebrated and who ignored -- none of it will matter if climate change devastates the planet.

Climate change isn’t the news and it isn’t a set of news stories.  It’s the prospective end of all news.

... it’s ... on a different scale from everything else, which is why journalists and environmentalists often have so much trouble figuring out how to write about it in a way that leaves it continually in the news.

... the momentousness of climate change, which isn’t hard to discern, is difficult to regularly turn into meaningful “new” headlines (“Humanity Doomed If...”), to repeatedly and successfully translate into a form oriented to the present and the passing moment, to what happened yesterday, today, and possibly tomorrow.

In other words, unlike “the news,” climate change and its potential devastations exist on a time scale not congenial either to media time or to the individual lifetimes of our short-lived species. 

... nuclear arsenals, too, were potential life-enders and so news-enders.  As a result, most of the time their existence and development managed to translate poorly into daily headlines.

For so many of those years in ... the Cold War stand-off, the nuclear issue was somehow everywhere, a kind of exterminationist grid over life itself, and yet, like climate change, nowhere at all.

If the end of the world doesn’t fit well with “the news,” neither does denial.  The idea of a futureless humanity is difficult to take in and that has undoubtedly played a role in suppressing the newsiness of both the nuclear situation and climate change.  Each is now woven into our lives in essential, if little acknowledged, ways and yet both remain remarkably recessive.  Add to that a fatalistic feeling among many that these are issues beyond our capacity to deal with, and you have a potent brew not just for the repression of news but also for the failure to weave what news we do get into a larger picture that we could keep before us as we live our lives.  Who, after all, wants to live life like that?

And yet nuclear weapons and climate change are human creations, which means that the problems they represent have human solutions.  They are quite literally in our hands.

In fact, one of the grim wonders of climate change has been the ability of Big Energy and its lobbyists to politicize an issue that wouldn't normally have a “left” or “right,” and to make bad science into an ongoing news story.  In other words, an achievement that couldn’t be more criminal in nature has also been their great coup de théâtre.

In a world heading toward the brink, here’s the strange thing: most of the time that brink is nowhere in sight.  And how can you get people together to solve a human-caused problem when it’s so seldom meaningfully in the news (and so regularly challenged by energy interests when it is)? [emphasis mine]

The failure to weave what news we do get into a larger picture that we could keep before us as we live our lives encapsulates our challenge of collective denial. We face a painful threshold, which requires re-imagining reality and ourselves. It's the brave path, the only real life affirming path we have left.

Tags: Climate Destabilization, futureless humanity, mass media

Views: 36

Replies to This Discussion

" nuclear weapons and climate change are human creations, which means that the problems they represent have human solutions.  They are quite literally in our hands."

That is the point of looking deeper than we have been, and demanding news that will inform us of new ideas and products in the inventing stage. Humans, in a desire for growth beyond the capacity of Earth's carrying power, can change focus to a more sustainable one. How many decades have we been talking about this. In the 1980s there was a big drive to become more energy efficient and it didn't catch hold. We are at a place now where Mother Nature is speaking louder than any human, or group can. She is not happy with the effects of human ambitions and reveals it in natural, horrific ways. No gentle discussion. No quiet rebuke. 

All fine, well, and good.  Now what you have to do is convince a bunch of narrow-minded businessmen who have been conditioned to measure progress in dollar signs over three-month intervals to take off their blinders and look at a considerably bigger picture than they are used to ... or than they WANT to.  Keep in mind, profit, especially short-term profit, is EVERYTHING to them, and anything that gets in its way is anathema to their thinking.

These people are as threatened by "the big picture" as believers are by critical thinking and atheism.  Different subject, but the same paradigm.  Expect similar resistance.


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