Referring to the state of our environment right now as a “climate crisis,” as is popular among some progressive media outlets, does not do the situation justice. A crisis can be solved if appropriate measures are taken. A crisis might even be a learning experience which we are better off having overcome. A crisis might teach us things about ourselves which we never knew and better position us to tackle our next difficulty. But absolutely none of these things are true of our current situation. We are making extinct infinite profoundly unique and beautiful life forms which we rely upon to survive. We are destroying the means for reproductive earthly life. This is not a learning experience: It is a tragedy. It is a crime. It is a genocide. And we should do absolutely everything in our power to stop it from happening.
However, we are running out of time. Nascent in the mind of the most ardent environmental activist, the voice grows louder: What if it’s already too late? This is not an irrational thought. For example, at the current pace as many as half of species on earth will go extinct by the midcentury, the president of Brazil has plans to destroy the world’s largest carbon sink and society could even collapse by 2040 due to global food shortages. Furthermore, arctic permafrost melting produces a strong positive feedback loop of global warming, and that’s not to mention all the anthrax hiding therein. There is definitely a point beyond which the best of our efforts can do nothing to prevent our extinction.
Consider the following hypothetical: We have already passed this “point of no return.” We know that the powerful in society control and limit our access to valuable information. If they understood us to have passed this threshold, the point beyond which earth will inevitably soon become uninhabitable, would they share this knowledge with us? They whose wealth is derived solely from our labor? Would they tell us that we have literally nothing left to lose? Would our leaders announce their failure to perform the most basic task we entrust of them? No. Because if they revealed that truth to us, we would march the streets, lynching our deposed masters in a parade of ecstasy. We would wind down the ecological clock in one great egalitarian, drug-fueled orgy. Why not? The wealthy and their governments have an imperative to never be too alarmist, regardless of how terrible the situation might actually be.
Perhaps we could consider the climate crisis as a diagnosis. The doctor—global science—has informed us that earth has a deadly illness. In this hypothetical, we actually are the illness, but I believe that the analogy still stands. The doctor has diagnosed us with extinction. We may live another few decades, but they will be less and less enjoyable as time goes on. There will be incredible hardships, and it will only get worse until the end. We will have to find a way to say goodbye to our loved ones and make our peace with the world which we leave behind.
But just as is the case with real terminal illness, the diagnosis does not invalidate the patient’s time left on earth. It can be extremely meaningful and they should do everything they can in order to enjoy it to the fullest. In this author’s opinion, the most fulfilling human existence, worthwhile under any circumstances, is the end of hierarchies and pursuit of truly consensual, democratic relations. Even if we all die, there is still time to punish those who knowingly got us in this mess. There is still time to try the shareholder, the CEO, and the president. There is still time to exact retribution against the UConn administration developing fossil fuel facilities in 2019. There is still time to limit the damage we cause to the cool plants and animals that we will leave behind. There is still time to think, to laugh, and to cry. There is always still time for us to expose the glaring contradictions and hypocrisies in the world, and we might even have some fun along the way.
Harrison Raskin is campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.