The Collapse of Everything or King Charles III?
“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.
6 thoughts on “The Collapse of Everything or King Charles III?”
Hi Eliot. I can tell you’ve thought very deeply about these issues and have a genuine and honest view of matters. I don’t have your learnings or your understanding of the science but I’ve read what I can and I can’t help but land at the same place you’re at. That is: we’re all toast. But here’s the thing…. you’re intelligent and I guess I’m reasonably intelligent but I know there are literally 100’s of millions of people in the world of equal and far greater intelligence than me with inquiring minds who are just as well educated and have equal access to the information that you and I do and yet the pending doom doesn’t even seem to register with them. What is it that we see that they don’t. Do we have it wrong? All of the points you make above re shifting baseline, normalcy bias etc. are very valid, but you and I seem to have pushed through those barriers and got to the ‘truth’’, or at least our ‘truth’, so why haven’t the other hundreds of millions? Look at the brilliant people working all around the world. Do they not care for humanity, do they not care for the flora and fauna of the world, do they not care for the future of their children and grandchildren, or have they just thought it through and landed in a different place. I keep having self doubts about my take on the science. I wonder whether I have too much time on my hands (I think I’m of similar vintage to you) and my growing doomers outlook is just a function of the devil making work for idle hands and an inmate character trait to be fascinated by natural disasters etc. Maybe it’s just as simple as this: people are too busy thinking about and dealing with their every day lives; they haven’t yet felt in a meaningful way the direct impact of climate change other than it being a little hotter on a handful of days a year and the skiing is not what it was; and not wanting to think about it too hard because where does that get us and what the f**k can I do about it anyway. The social upheaval required to make any meaningful change to the current trajectory is virtually incomprehensible but as you and I suspect it won’t compare to the chaos that will befall us if your predictions come to pass. So let’s watch it unfold, and you keep beating that drum of yours as loudly as you can and maybe you’ll change some behaviors. Keep up the good work Eliot. Hopefully it’s not all in vain and better still, hopefully we’re wrong. Kind regards. Graham PS. Love your climate casino. I actually think it might be a great way to get the average person engaged.
Graham, there’s a blog called Damn the Matrix, and I was reading an old post at random about another doomer’s blog – he cited psychological studies that showed only ~3% of the population have the mental agility to join the dots – the brain that works in the way ours do, in seeing the holistic view.
Apparently, just biologically, most of us are wired to immediate threats and near term survivability – eg is that sudden movement in the bush over there my lunch or am I it’s lunch?
and eg we’ll follow this herd of herbivores south and that’ll allow us to survive this winter coming.
And anything more complex thinking is for the 3% – the cave artists, the sculptors, the midwives and medicine men, etc.
And those two traits are incompatible with modern societal structures – hence the epidemic of mental health issues (boosted by the toxicity of our environment) and inability to join the dots. This is how all civilisations end, so it is quite normal in evolutionary terms.
The best we can hope for through excellent blogs like Eliot’s is an online gathering of the 3%, until collapse takes away the ability to communicate across the world.
David Benatar, a fantastic pessimistic philosopher, has written extensively on the ability of human psychology to trick itself into thinking everything is fine and will work out. The result has been a species operating like a ponzi scheme, and the problem with that is eventually a generation will need to pay the bill that is left.
Just like the meme with the dog sipping tea and fire in the background saying “everything is fine.”
In large part we’ve been lulled into complacency through our misplaced faith in technology. While it may be dawning on the general public that things are trending in the wrong direction, there’s a deep seated belief that “we’ll figure something out, we always do.” Even the UN projections of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius depend on capturing and sequestering CO2 with technology that doesn’t exist, and likely never will at any scale that matters.
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