Watching the World Go Bye

Eliot Jacobson's Collapse of Everything Blog

Climate Change

Collapse is Death by One Million Cuts

Many of us have become numb to the escalating collapse of everything that’s accelerating all around us. Extreme events have become so commonplace that they hardly get noticed by mainstream media. It’s Monday morning and I have to dig deep into my newsfeed to find any mention of ongoing heat waves, fires, droughts and storms.

On Sunday afternoons I get together with a group of friends to play Irish music in a local park. Yesterday, I asked one of my fiddler friends for some motivation, something to write about. She did not disappoint. She reminded me that these are not normal times. There is a singular reality to the depth of the shit we are going through at this particular moment that needs to be recognized and recorded. Right now, this particular moment, is the most totally f**ked up moment in modern human history on a global scale. But the sad and terrifying reality is that there will be so many more of these singular moments to come. The extreme events of today will forever become tomorrow’s baseline.

The collapse of everything is not an event. It is not a tick mark in time. We are not getting hit by a comet where normal life is possible one day and global extinction is inevitable the next. We can’t predict the day a particular catastrophe associated with collapse will happen. Collapse is not coming at us like some ball of ice in the sky. There is nothing special about February 21, 2022 or the year 2030, 2050 or 2100. I’ll say it here with absolute certainty: humanity will not be extinct by the year 2026. Want to make a bet?

Global industrial civilization is complex and widespread. A fire in Lytton, BC or drought in California has little impact on those devastated by a mudslide in Petropolis, Brazil or a wildfire in Corrientes, Argentina. And yet each of these events is part of the process of collapse.

We typically talk about collapse in excessively general terms, defined by sweeping statements like “overshoot and overpopulation” or “1.5C by 2030” or “aerosol masking.” Yet these generalities play out in specific events in our daily life. And each of these events hurts just a little bit more, draining the collective blood of civilization, legacy, humanity and life.

Collapse is death by one million cuts (or 8 billion, but who’s counting?), a long and painful process leading to the end of everything.

In case you need a reminder, like I did, here’s today’s short list:

  • Vladimir Putin and Russia are poised to invade independent Ukraine, destabilizing Europe.  1939 anyone?
  • COVID continues worldwide, with daily deaths averaging around 10k and record cases in South Korea and Indonesia.
  • Yet the political elite here in the U.S. are proclaiming: “masks, we don’t need no stinkin’ masks!”
  • Trucker strikes and the “Freedom Convoy” in Canada are still going on. What’s the issue? It’s changing every day.
  • “People are selling their organs. People are selling their children. They are desperate. They are hungry.” —Ramiz Alakbarov, on the current situation in Afghanistan.
  • The supply-chain crisis is not expected to ease anytime soon. No guacamole for you.
  • Inflation is spiking worldwide, the highest in decades. I just paid $6 for a cup of Starbucks coffee. That’s ordinary, everyday coffee, not some Franken-drink-ocino.
  • There are critical labor shortages across multiple industries. If you want to be a teacher, nurse, pilot, truck driver or fast food worker, this is your chance.
  • How many conspiracy theorists does it take to screw in a light bulb? Only “Q” knows.
  • Crop failures are ongoing, the latest are corn crop failures in Sudan and Brazil.
  • The ice shelf holding back the Thwaites glacier will break up in two to five years. Don’t be alarmed, they say.
  • Last week there was a new prediction for up to 1 foot of sea level rise by 2050. Time to sell your Florida swampland.
  • There was a new record minimum set for sea ice extent in Antarctica. Tell your climate denying uncle Fred he’s wrong.
  • Speaking of records, the greenhouse gas methane just hit a new all time high of 1907 parts per billion.
  • And CO2 is headed for a record, over 420 ppm, at its peak in May.
  • Fortunately, La Nina is keeping global temperatures from spiking. The next El Nino will not be fun.
  • Unfortunately, La Nina means little rain for the western U.S.
  • The current drought in California is now the driest period in the last 1200 years?
  • Did you even hear about the wildfires in Argentina or the heat wave in Perth? Neither did I.
  • Okay, we are nearing another northern hemisphere summer season and I’ll say it — Fire season ahead and I am scared.
  • Oh yeah, one last item.  The billionaires are getting richer.  F**k you Jeff Bezos & Elon Musk.

Surely if I looked a little deeper I could find dozens of other items to add to this list. Koalas being put on the endangered species list, a volcanic eruption in Tonga, the growing threat of antibiotic resistant bacteria and lead contamination of water supplies. There’s Siberian permafrost & Arctic clathrate methane, a looming “blue ocean event,” record Greenland ice melt, bleaching of coral reefs and an expanding ozone hole. My top 40 list is here. Maybe there is something happening where you live that is more directly impactful on your life than any of these. One million cuts means a lot of cuts.

There are simply not enough bandaids to keep up with the increasing frequency, duration and intensity of the cuts that the planet and civilization is experiencing. Rebuilding infrastructure, culture, political systems and ecosystems is a hopeless whack-a-mole enterprise. There is no transition to green energy, no cessation of fossil fuels, no electric car or wind farm, and no ecotopian ideal that is going to do a damn thing to stop what’s coming our way.

In the meantime, I’ll keep playing those Irish tunes on Sunday afternoons just as long as my aging fingers hold out against the rising storms to come. And maybe we can all dance a little jig together on our way out.

Eliot Jacobson, Ph.D.

Retired professor of mathematics and computer science, retired casino consultant, now a full time volunteer, husband and grandfather. Know-it-all doomer. Born in the year 316 ppm CO2.

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