Lately I’ve been getting the feeling that we can’t go back anymore. We can’t hit a reset button to some erstwhile period of bliss. And I don’t mean historically or sociologically. The idea that there was ever a very good time in recorded history to return to is ludicrous. By civilization’s standards, we are sitting pretty high on the hog in America. Any industrial nation can say the same: advanced medicine and attempts at democracy have given the world unprecedented levels of comfort. But ironically, the suicide rate in industrial nations is higher than ever, especially in the United States and Britain. This is puzzling, considering that we are in such a position of luxury.
Many ideologues of today’s strange academic climate will argue differently. They will say that for many minorities, things are still dire. I’m not an academic though, so I don’t need to save face lying to myself. Or you. I’m an artist who likes to pretend to be an intellectual every now and then. But when I look out at the country I live in, I see improvement everywhere from just two hundred years ago (that’s not a long time in the scope of what we call “progress”), although I would never go as far as to say that things are “good” for some minorities. But all in all, we’re not dropping like flies from diphtheria, facing crushing infant mortality rates, starving to death en masse, or being mass murdered by political tyrants. I’m not saying those things might not occur in the future, but at this time, we are doing alright in terms of survival.
Yet, spiritually and psychologically, it doesn’t take a very astute mind to see that we sick. As a culture, we seem to be infected with some raging disease of unhappiness. We see it in manifestations everywhere but we have a hard time pin-pointing exactly what ails us. Our young men are killing themselves at mortifying rates, our young women are depressed more than any time in recent history, and the problem only seems to be magnifying.
Our media and our intellectual elites are doing their best to take on these issues in splintered factions. They would like to address each symptom of civil breakdown in as orderly and grotesquely simplified way as possible. There is an interesting and problematic cultural tendency occurring as a result: fewer and fewer people are buying into the media and academic elite’s obvious bullshitting, and they are looking instead into even more dubious places for the truth. They begin looking into what Donald Trump has called “Fake News”, which is, you know, opposed to the real news, which is also often fabricated. Ironically, Donald Trump himself capitalizes on Fake News every day. But this is no different than the liberal talk pieces who admonished the high idealism of men embracing equality for women that were later found to be sexual predators. The world is rife with slanderers, snake oil salesmen, and rapists. Not on your block, most likely. But if you were to drive down the right gated off neighborhood, with security cameras at every ten feet of the fence and pretty cedar trees blocking the view of their multi-million dollar estates, you would be driving by absolute sociopaths.
Our reaction to this crisis of morality and order, at this time, is to politicize every tragedy and enemy. To use each bit of new information as weaponry at each other. We are a nation divided. But as sad as the breakdown of a civil society is- which is what are witnessing- we are in the throes of a much more sinister breakdown that cannot be fixed.
Civil breakdown happens all the time in history. It’s not, by any measure, the end of the world. We see it on the news often in other countries. Now it’s happening to us. But what makes this breakdown feel so eerily apocalyptic is that there truly is an apocalyptic breakdown occurring behind the scenes:
Our wild ecologies are disintegrating at morbid rates, and we are doing almost nothing to stop it but yelling at each other and voting in new sociopaths to run the same broken machine that it has always been.
Our wilderness is in a far worse position than it is has ever been, at least in recent history, and it doesn’t take a scientist to see it happening. It only takes close observation of our wild places, and some brief history lessons of our natural spaces. Millennials had time to witness the near eradication of our amphibians. Remember guys, when we would go look under rocks at Grandpa’s house, or at the cabin by the lake, and find all kinds of salamanders, skinks, and other amphibians? Try that now. Check out those same places.
Chances are you won’t find them.
Remember the flying squirrel?
You won’t find them around much anymore either.
These are just two examples of pretty common critters from my childhood that have nearly disappeared in the last two decades. Closer scientific observation has revealed that the ecology of our wild places really is falling apart. Aside from pretty much annihilating half of the wild animal populations of the earth in the last century, new studies have revealed that insect populations are decreasing at alarming rates across the globe.
If an insect apocalypse occurs, as some scientists are now warning against, we are all toast, and so is pretty much everything else living on this planet.
A social and ecological doomsday is coming, and both are symptoms of one fatal disease:
Humanity’s addiction to technology, which begat our addiction to overconsumption.
We know that our current farming techniques is genocide for the environment, but we would rather see an ecological apocalypse than admit that our JD tractors are somehow flawed. We are glad to vote in “green” politicians, and throw our trash in a separate garbage can, but we would never think of sharing a cell phone with our partner (which would save money as well), or not upgrading to that newest Notebook. But, but, Ethan, I hear all the time. Those are clean technologies!
Not at all. Not only are cell phone towers causing increases in mortality rates(1) in many bird populations, but are doing heavy damage to amphibian and mammal populations as well (2). And we are only a couple decades in- we don’t yet know the long term effects.
Cell phones also contain many toxic compounds that need to be mined in highly specialized ways. So the phones are toxic themselves, are toxic when thrown away, and toxic when they are in the creation process. Yet we are expected by each other to have one. I can speak from experience- when you ditch your cellphone, people get angry. To not have a cellphone is akin socially as walking around with your pants around your ankles and your middle finger in the air.
Another byproduct of our civil breakdown is the complete polarization of real-world issues. Often, the polarizing creates meaningless results either way. When we look at young liberals’ obsession with “climate change”, we would assume they would be boycotting harmful corporations, ditching their smart phones, and not buying oil-guzzling vehicles. Yet a Forbes study found that 70 percent of Millennials were not interested in electronic cars, and prefer internal combustion engines (4). It doesn’t matter anyway, since electronic cars still require extensive mining and oil consumption to actually make the car. We would assume that Millennials would be ditching their smart phones, since they are disastrous for the environment. Yet virtually all Millennials in the US have or have had a smart phone. I think it doesn’t take much of a poll to see that most of us young folks not only own a smart phone, but a Tablet device and a Lap Top, as well as a TV. The mining alone required to feed us these devices is enough to devastate entire ecologies.
This is the irony of “climate change”. It is real- we know it is- but it is only a tiny part of the ecological disaster facing us today. The reason we focus on “carbon emissions” is because we have been told that it’s not our fault. It’s the fault of a few massive corporations, and we can fix it, if we just vote in the right gal or guy to do the job. “It’s out of our hands,” we say. “We can do nothing about it. The scientists and the politicians will fix it.”
Luckily for these massive corporations, most of the public who calls themselves “green” spend about as much time out in the wild as they do at the public library. Wilderness, as a place in the human heart, is already gone. Unfortunately for the earth, we have been equipped by evolution (or perhaps some other misunderstood force?) to kill almost everything else on the earth before we kill ourselves. It would be well for the Red Wolf or the Flying Squirrel if we weren’t so well equipped; we would have undoubtedly brought ourselves to extinction long ago. But like any addict, we hurt others far more than we hurt ourselves. Until we hit rock bottom.
Rock bottom is coming. We are witnessing the beginning of an ecological collapse that, all evidence accounted for, we cannot survive. If, like scientists are beginning to point out, our insect population declines too low, we will witness extinction at rates never before seen (5), from mammals to plants to birds and reptiles.
The techno-brainwashed lunatics among us just sneer at this great extinction. They say, “Genetic modification will allow us to repopulate and save the planet.”
But this is the same mad-scientist pride-choked mindset that got us in this situation in the first place.
There is no easy way out. In fact, there may be no way out at all. But we can’t say we are trying if we continue to follow the same insane strictures we have been. We are obsessing over our own civil breakdowns. Cute ephemeral social movements are sweeping the internet every day. But the Red Wolf doesn’t care about #MeToo. The Flying Squirrel doesn’t care about Bernie Sanders or Jill Stein, or Donald Trump. The insects of the earth are not concerned with whether or not equality is achieved among the sexes, or among different races. We should, as humans, obviously- but we can’t confused these human-centric cultural maneuvers for environmentalism. And if we continue to lump environmentalism in with other liberal talking points, like feminism, free college, and universal healthcare, there is a good chance we will complete the most unnecessary and total extinction the planet has ever seen.
Chances are, we won’t even notice it until that final breaking point. We will be binge watching Orange is the New Black, patting ourselves on the back for being such good humans, and our eyes will fall to that “I Voted” badge on our dresser, right next to our new I-Pad, and we will look out and think, “Didn’t there used to be trees out there? Or… animals?” But, like any good addict, we will quickly return to our regularly scheduled program.
- http://www.cleanup.org.au/au/cleanupmobilephone/the-problem-with-mobile-phones.html, http://emfsafetynetwork.org/us-department-of-the-interior-warns-communication-towers-threaten-birds/