So I’ve been kicking around this idea for some years now, and it’s been greatly on my mind for the past few weeks. As time goes on, things appear to be getting clearer, and I’m getting a stronger hold on my thesis. This is the beginning of what I hope to be a much longer treatise or series on this theme, and your comments and feedback are very welcome either in public or private to help challenge, develop and hone it. I’ll be around to discuss and explore with commenters, but please, no tech issues or questions today. That’s soon, not today.
Succinctly, I think we are already deep into the effects of Climate Change without realizing it. To be clear, I’m not talking about the alarming carbon dioxide levels or growing average high temperatures, recurring new monthly record high temperature, fires in Alberta, abnormal highs in Alaska, drought in the Southwest, diminished Arctic ice, or decreased reflectivity of glaciers and snow deposits world-wide due to pollution and soot. This is not about any physical aspect of Climate Change and the Anthropocene era. I’m concerned with the internal psychological, value, and cultural effects, those subsequent effects on populations, and what I see as larger trends worldwide.
I’m not usually a doom-and-gloomer, but there are a lot of powerful and scary currents across a wide swathe of humanity right now that seem, at their root, to share some intangible motivation. I think it’s fear – not of the other, not of progress or modernism or capitalism or Judgement Day or gay rights or transsexuals or Donald Trump or women’s rights or blasphemy or sacrilege or hippies or ethnic minorities or anything else rooted in our normal experience.
I think we, as a species, are already waist-deep into Climate Change and we’re acting like many other species do when put under serious, unseen-from-their-perspective environmental stress: we’re freaking out, and as tension rises, striking out against others and tearing down social and cultural edifices and the order that has served us well for the past few hundred years.
I fear that the future truly is undiscovered country as human history, norms, rules, etc. did not develop under this type of environmental stress – we’ve flourished coincident with a mild climate, and moved on when local climate changed too much or too quickly. Too many ascendant disharmonic forces across the globe strongly question, challenge, threaten, or violate their previous norms of behavior, treatment, principles, values, and history for me to not feel there is a trend, and it’s related. And no, it’s not the plants working together to drive us insane and reclaim the Earth for Mother Nature. And yes, for you wiseacres and cynics, in a way, the ascendency of women’s, gay, and transsexual rights is a positive effect of this break with who we thought we were.
It’s Happening Everywhere
I spend a lot of time reading about, thinking about, reading and listening to the Far Right so-called fever swamp. And to my ears, things have changed, and it truly scares me. Trump is like a stumbling, wind-up toy with lit sparklers sticking out of its head in a dry and dusty storeroom filled with rich fuel. But he’s no more than a match, which is horrible enough and will likely be tragic. He’s just one example, too close, gaudy and loud to ignore, and even if we Americans dodge the bully bullet, the rest of the world is also being challenged, and the good guys won’t win everywhere, certainly not every time.
Trumps scares me and it’s taken a lot of introspection to figure out why – it’s what he’s building off of that really scares me. He’s tapped into something for, although I don’t think he’s very smart in a traditional sense, he is a genius (not used lightly) at reading people and getting under their skin, intuiting what will anger them or put them off-balance so he has an advantage. The thing is, the people he’s appealing to are not just in the South or rural areas, or even just the US, or even the Western or developed world. There are far-right/quasi-fascist movements rising across Western and Eastern Europe, even Western Asia that share an anger, rooted in fear. And they are sharing, working together, learning and cross-training. These are movements that promise a return to greatness, incorporating a fundamental theme of palingenesis. They are organizing, recruiting, training, influencing, even winning (or almost winning, thank you Austria!) elections. Far-right leaders across Europe have reached out to or attended meetings or rallies with Trump!
It’s familiar to those of us who have studied the Right or Fascism – a focus on purity, on land, on blood, on heroes of old, on a strong leader who has the will to set things right. On rebirth, trying to recapture some idealized past when things were better and those “others” knew their place and it was at our feet or cowering in fear. When the future was exciting and not full of dread.
The thing is, it’s not just in Russia, the ‘stans, Europe, or the US. It’s ISIS. It’s the LRA. It’s Boko Haram. It’s Somalia/Kenya. It’s Y’all Queda and other resurgent secession and Confederate movements. It’s the Zetas and other drug gangs that are just as horrible as ISIS. (yes, they’re a drug gang but they are also powerful rebellions and mini chiefdoms that control large parts of Mexico’s territory) It’s a dozen more groups spread across the world. It’s happening almost everywhere, and where there’s not such a growing movement, there are established powers that are dropping their masks and embracing division and cultivating fear, selfishness, scarcity, and envy. And not being called on it like they would have been in the past. It’s like norms and expectations no longer are considered important. And it’s happening everywhere. It’s never been this way before, never so pandemic.
The Era of Migrants
Into this maelstrom of psyche and influence, a new problem has emerged. It’s here, and it won’t stop for hundreds of years – the era of mass human migration. Many point to the unprecedented drought in Syria as leading to the mass migration of the rural population to the cities, the subsequent overcrowding, scarcity of jobs, food and relief, the subsequent rebellion and fracturing of the formerly-strong Syrian state, and it did. You move lots of people and things change.
This instability, coupled with the US-caused fractures and instability in Iraq, and touched off by a millennial cult wishing for an end-times-inducing battle between the powers of the West and their holy warriors bathed in blood, has resulted in ISIS and it has spread. And so we now see millions of refugees, internal and external, and this Era is just beginning.
Germany has been at the lead in accepting their brothers and sisters in humanity, but I fear that a few more exploitations by ascendant movements in Europe coupled with inevitable ISIS attacks will result in walls and dogs and machine guns and barbed wire being first tolerated, then accepted, then embraced as these pressures transform us into something different: more reptilian, less Enlightened.
The thing is, climate migrants are not just far away. Certainly, a not-insignificant portion of Central American emigrants are seeking escape from social fractures heralding collapse of their fragile governments and systems. Just a few weeks ago, an entire city of 125,000 people evacuated due to Climate Change-caused fires in Alberta. Luckily, this was a temporary evacuation, but next time, it may be permanent.
In case you missed it, our first domestic climate migrants are escaping the rising water and sinking land. From Southern Louisiana, very poor rural refugees are being helped by a new model program that will become commonplace the rest of our lives – helping Americans, our brothers and sisters, to relocate and not be thrust into abject poverty and hopelessness.
This is good – while our issues are still small and before they grow, we’re trying to figure out how to best handle this type of situation domestically. But as evidenced by a not-insignificant portion of our governing class (ahem, Republicans) not seeing the importance of fully funding our efforts against Zika before it becomes a much bigger problem (and it will), I fear that we will not continue to develop the capacity and mechanisms to move and incorporate internal climate migrants. So when we need to relocate millions of Americans permanently, we will not be able to do it well, and we will have discord and likely pockets of rebellion and retributive violence against falsely-accused “others”. This is what animals do when under extreme environmental pressure.
When an environment changes and the stresses on a population increase, we humans move on or we fade away. That’s been our history as a species, and one of the chief reasons that we’ve been so successful on this planet the past 500,000 years or so. But in this case, we’re all on the Titanic and we’re all just re-arranging the deck chairs since there are no lifeboats. I think that at a very low, primeval level, we, as a species, know that. And so we are already well into freaking out. We just haven’t realized it yet and we don’t have the leadership and level of trust in our cultures to identify, manage, and overcome our animal nature at the worldwide scale.
So while I look around and marvel at the wonders of everything from our technology, art, science, the beauty and glory of this planet, and the wonderful, kind, silly, beautiful things billions of people do for each other every day, I am filled with optimism and joy. But no matter how much I smile and greet the day, I fear that things will quickly devolve.
The only reason we as a planet survived the Cold War was through wisdom, procedure, communication, fear, and the knowledge that one small mistake could blow everything up. I fear that because this is not as much of a conflict and certainly lacks a clear enemy and intuitive visual of the results of failure – a barren, lifeless radioactive planet -we are not going to be able to adapt well to this ever-growing pressure. Although it seems logical that if there’s a major climate-related issue before the election, the Democrat would be elected, I fear that we’re gibbering apes, and the cocky bully baboon will step into power.