Wednesday, September 30, 2009

THE HUFFPO PIECE THAT ALMOST WAS...

The following was supposed to run in a slightly different draft on Huffington Post a couple of months ago, but I guess the editor either changed her mind or it was forgotten. The opener is a little dated (does anyone even remember the "Earth 2100" ABC News special?), but the rest is still valid. Does it belong on this blog? Well, it’s sort of apocalyptic, so why not?

Recently ABC aired a special called “Earth 2100”, which featured a “graphic novel” in which the protagonist—an old woman named Lucy—looks back on her life from 100 years in the future. In animatics bolstered by news footage and expert testimony (scientists, journalists and the like), we watch the world turn to shit over the course of the two-hour presentation. But at about the half-hour mark, any sympathy I might have mustered for fictional Lucy went down the drain. Why? Because at this point, after already witnessing the world spiraling into ruin for the first 18 years of her life, Lucy and her equally fictional boyfriend hook up, get married (after two months) and have a kid of their own. Yes, Lucy, eyewitness to humanity’s folly, decides it’s a good idea to bring another child into the world she’s watched deteriorate since her own birth precisely because there are already too many goddamned people on the planet.

One of the luxuries—if you could call it that—of not having kids is I don’t even have to pretend to be optimistic about the future. I marvel at people who have kids, because they either 1) actually believe everything is going to be all right for them and their offspring, or 2) don’t really think or care about the future as long as things are comfortable in the here and now, or 3) are totally freaking out about how bad the future looks while maintaining a brave front for their kids, or 4) have a healthy awareness of the present situation and hope for the best as they do what little they can to make the world a slightly better place.¥ By all evidence, things are not going to be getting better any time soon, if ever. As long as the greening of this planet is going to cost more green than it makes, it won’t be up for serious consideration. Sure, politicians make lip service to change while looking pinched and thoughtful, but really nothing is happening. Not at the speed that is needed.

So, what are these parents seeing that I’m not? Are their glasses that rose-colored or are do they just think if they clap hard enough Tinkerbell will live?

Bill Hicks once said, “I'm tired of this back-slapping ‘isn’t humanity neat?’ bullshit. We're a virus with shoes, okay? That's all we are.” The Matrix regurgitated that thought when Agent Smith contemptuously sneered, “Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with its surrounding environment, but you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply, and multiply until every natural resource is consumed. The only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet.” We all want to be Neo, but Agent Smith was the one with whom I found myself in agreement. In 1964, when I was born, the world population was 3.276 billion. It is now roughly 6.788 billion. It’s more than doubled in 45 years. That is horrifying and unsustainable. Too many being born, not enough dying.

Even Obama, with his two young daughters’ futures at stake, is proffering less than half-measures for a brighter tomorrow. He wants American cars by 2016 to get 35.5 miles a gallon. Big whoop. Average fuel consumption in Europe is 47% better than here. The Fiat 500 gets 50 mpg, and Fiat has the lowest carbon emissions of any manufacturer in Europe. Maybe they’ll bring some of that here with their partnership with Chrysler, but I won’t hold my breath (though that might not be a bad idea). The VW Jetta TDI gets 44.9 mpg. Those models aren’t for export to the USA. The technology exists, so why isn’t it mandated from on high that all new cars built/sold here get equal or better mileage? Since the government has already bailed out all of three US auto manufacturers shouldn’t we, as stockholders, demand that they do better? C’mon, Obama, have the audacity of audacity. Push them around; show them who’s boss. They shouldn’t even be making cars any more. Retool the factories and have them build wind turbines or some other green technology.

The thing that sickens me to my marrow is that there are solutions for all the world’s human-induced woes but none of them are being pursued with any vigor whatsoever. I read articles all the time about implementable ideas that could make life better. Vertical farming comes to mind. Build upward instead of outward. You could have farms in every major city, which would 1) create jobs (how cool would it be to have urban farmers?), 2) grow food in cities and thereby 3) cut back on truck farming? You cut back on having to deliver food to urban centers and that would cut back on gas usage and pollution.

As long as corporations put profit ahead of everything else, we are screwed. So, what I’m saying is screwed we are, because that tune ain’t apt to change. Nothing I’ve seen persuades me in the least that this course will be averted or (ha!) reversed. Humans, by and large, are greedy, willfully ignorant beasts with very little foresight. I’m not saying we’re doomed today or tomorrow or the day after that, but I’m glad I’ll [hopefully] be dead before it all becomes too unbearable.

But maybe I’m kidding myself. C’mon, everyone: clap harder for Tinkerbell. For fuck’s sake, clap as hard as you can!
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Yeah, I know; Charlie Gibson could barely bring himself to say it, mumbling instead about it being a "graphics [sic] novel." Okay, ABC, way to embrace a "new" term, but let's call a spade a hoe, okay: it was a cartoon. That said, it was a very handsome cartoon designed by some very talented friends and acquaintances of mine, so kudos to them for getting a sweet gig and doing solid work.
¥There are actually a lot more eithers and ors, but I can't list them all. Suffice it to say that given my wiring, I don't see how I could bring a kid into a world this precarious. And I’m not even addressing religion, terrorism, nuclear weapons, etc. This would be an epic not an essay, then. We're Coming up on seven billion. That’s the amount in Harry Harrison’s nightmare overpopulation novel, Make Room! Make Room! Yeesh.

2 comments:

ULAND said...

Oh, come on.How long have we been hearing these histrionic prognostications of doom? Since Malthus? Ehrilch was what, 40 years ago, and he said it'd be Soylent Green by 1980?
You only hear these secular apocalypse scenarios when they match policy playbooks...

Bob Fingerman said...

"Uland": You're right. People have been predicting the end of the world since the days of yore. Not sure what you mean by "policy playbooks," but 7 billion and counting is too many. Period. But hey, if you think everything is going to be okay, great. Like I said, I'm not saying it's imminent. I'm also not saying it's THE END. Just that it's likelier to get way shittier. I do have a question for you, though (and I'm not being a wiseguy): do you have children?