“I have seen many humanitarian disasters in the world, but I have never seen climate carnage on this scale,”
— Antonio Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General, September 10, 2022
Many articles about climate change begin with a litany of recent climate events. The author just handpicks their favorite five to ten catastrophes, gives a quick reminder of each, and then moves on to the particular points they want to make. Other articles focus on a single catastrophe, quote selected officials, give horrid details of suffering, talk about the loss of life, livelihoods and infrastructure and try and give some sense for how long recovery will take. A few choice pictures add to reader’s understanding of the chaos of the moment.
Sadly, however, there is almost no catastrophe big enough to move the needle of public opinion, even as increasingly devastating events are reported. Minds are mostly made up. We’ve got lives to live, family to grow with, friends to hang out with, travel, work, financial worries, entertainment, relationships, and most of all, Queen Elizabeth II and King Charles III.
That’s right, damn it, the Queen is dead, long live the King! Meanwhile, billionaires are f&%king just about everyone, politicians continue to perform their rage-inciting gaslighting, there are wars and threats of wars, hyper-inflation and an energy shortage, sporting events, celebrity scandals, and somewhere a young white woman was killed by a black guy. But climate change and collapse? Mostly by day two the catastrophe just doesn’t make the cut. At best it’s page six news, relegated to the “global news” tab, an afterthought to appease the few who are paying attention.
There are at least five reasons that media doesn’t keep its focus on the ongoing and terrifying collapse of global industrial civilization and sixth great extinction:
From Wikipedia: “is a gradual change in the accepted norms for the condition of the natural environment due to a lack of experience, memory and/or knowledge of its past condition.”
We simply cannot accurately remember our environment from years past. If the media doesn’t recognize a change, or believe its audience will recognize the change, there is no story to be told. This is also known as the “boiling frog syndrome” — failing to act until the predicament is so severe that there is no longer anything that can be done to prevent being cooked.
From Wikipedia: “is a cognitive bias which leads people to disbelieve or minimize threat warnings. Consequently, individuals underestimate the likelihood of a disaster, when it might affect them, and its potential adverse effects.“
This is one of the major themes of the movie “Don’t Look Up,” media’s collective risk-minimizing delusion. This happens all the time, for example, when a hurricane or fire is announced by local officials and people fail to act, not understanding that the thing that is happening is far worse than anything they’ve ever experienced before. Likewise, the old saying “a deer in the headlights” means looking at danger and failing to recognize it.
Very few want to talk about what’s coming. Collapse does not make good dinner-table conversation, nor is it ever idle talk at work or with your friends. When you do bring it up, maybe one friend is curious and you’re lucky if you have that friend. Media wants their stories to be talked about and shared. Very few media sources publish for purely altruistic purposes.
Avoidance and Grief
There is just so much collapse going on all the time, everywhere we look; it is emotionally overwhelming for us to consider the consequences, so we tune it out to preserve our own mental health. Stories about collapse are rarely read or watched enough to make them worthwhile to write or produce.
These Stories Don’t Change Minds
Finally, stories on collapse rarely inspire action. Until an individual is hit directly, loses their home, gets sick or injured, has no food, water or sanitation, or become a refugee, a collapse story has little impact on their own world-view. And sometimes even direct loss doesn’t get the message across. How many times does someone rebuild a home in the same place after a flood or fire?
How big an event is being ignored right now, today? How big is that deer in the middle of the road? How hot is the water that frog is swimming in? That fire? That comet coming right at us?
Think Pakistan and the April/May heatwave followed by the July/August floods: 33 million displaced, including 16 million children, 30% of previously habitable land either underwater or unusable, nearly 1400 dead (so far, probably a huge undercount), massive shortages of food, drinking water and medical supplies, infectious diseases spreading through the population, farmers losing their crops of cotton and sugar cane, the drowning death of over 1 million livestock animals, and it is just getting worse by the day.
That quote by Antonio Guterres at the start of this post, that’s about Pakistan!
The stamp of climate change is all over Pakistan’s back-to-back crises: climate change drives catastrophic events to have longer duration, occur more frequently and to reach a level of severity formerly measured by phrases like “once in a thousand years.”
I am going to share six images from leading news organizations in the US, UK and Australia taken on September 10 and 11, 2022. These websites are subject to copyright, but this hopefully falls under fair use, since I am making a critical point about each. None of these of these websites, not one, mentions what’s going on in Pakistan right now, today, in any fashion on its front facing page. Click on the image to enlarge and inspect it.
The media’s obsession with just about any shiny thing that gets people to read or click or watch them is doing harm in real-time to living beings. The media’s collective unwillingness to show the frog boiling in the pot, to honk their horn at the deer in the road, to yell “fire” and to shout and scream “look up!” every single day is causing untold suffering. Instead, we get King Charles III, who once said, “I sometimes wonder if two thirds of the globe is covered in red carpet,” as their wall-to-wall feature story. Today in Pakistan, that red carpet is a carpet of nationwide flood, famine and disease.
Dear media, in Pakistan today 33 million humans and millions of other animals and species are suffering horribly. This is one story of suffering among countless more in the future that needs to be told every day on your front pages. People are suffering. Plants and animals are suffering. Ecosystems are collapsing. Tipping points are tipping. Feedback loops are feeding back. Do your job!
As a doomer, I don’t believe there is anything we can do to stop the coming collapse. The timing and overall severity may change though. We may yet be able to save a few species from extinction. With more action, we could possibly preserve a few more habitats for nature to regenerate after we’re gone. Maybe the oceans won’t become a vast algae clogged slough. Humanity’s full impact on this planet is yet to be written. The media will play a big part in determining just how bad this sh&t is going to get. What’s perfectly clear is that if the media continues with its collective and historic malfeasance, the entire planet will soon be covered with the red-carpet of climate fire.
The Summer of f&%kery is coming to an end, but the season of f&%kery is just getting started.