We’re running out of time

Photo by John Fowler on Unsplash

“True confessions are written with tears only. But my tears would drown the world, as my inner fire would reduce it to ashes.”
― Emil Cioran, On the Heights of Despair

Do you feel it?

Our waning days.

And yet…we seem oblivious to the unfolding, death-dealing catastrophe.

By we, I don’t mean to suggest everyone but enough of us to matter.

Perhaps it’s me but do we really need another conference which will result in not a scintilla of change, or not sufficient to matter? I don’t think so. What we need is:

no talk, more action; and a lot of it.

And not the type premised (solely) on consumer behaviour — however helpful that might appear — but one directed at breaking asunder the structures, systems, processes and companies that have brought us to day’s end. (Think about it like this. A limited number of companies are responsible for the stratospheric level of carbon emissions. Imagine if they didn’t exist: “New data from world-renowned researchers reveals how this cohort of state-owned and multinational firms are driving the climate emergency that threatens the future of humanity, and details how they have continued to expand their operations despite being aware of the industry’s devastating impact on the planet.” — The Guardian, 9 October 2019)

Now I realise that that exhortation is woefully light on detail — “show me your plans dude” — but there’s no point lightening the CO2/methane emissions load or trying to row back from our unhealthy addiction to plastic without also reforming and addressing the powerplays that are going on within each and every country that’s got its thumbprint on this unholy mess. Oh, and whilst we’re at it we need to have a grown-up conversation about population ethics, not because I say so but whilst you have a rising population (I reckon we’ll get close to 10 billion by the latter half of this century) it doesn’t matter how much less each person is responsible for or accounts for on the non-sustainability meter, if there are still too many people to overrun the planet. I’m sure we can all agree on an optimum number to ensure there’s a planet for others to enjoy (if that’s the right word) in the aeons to come but how we bring about that change, well, that’s the $64,000 question.

But what do I know? I’m just a lowly lawyer who’s very late to the Anthropocene party, and in a moment I won’t be here. But my kids will be, and I can’t begin to imagine what they’ll have to face up to when they get to my age; and I won’t blame them one little bit if they find no solace in knowing that my generation did nothing or not nearly enough to arrest the decline of our once pristine life support system.

If I really think about the rubric to this post though, I’m left reeling at the enormity of the statement. I’m sure you’ve known of, been around or cared for people who’ve been terminally ill. Most of them, perhaps all of them, when they’re deep into their treatment regime bargain for more time, and usually get some version of that but I also know that they’re being given more death; or to be more accurate more time to die. Some people, and I think of my mother-in-law at this point, decide enough is enough and refuse further treatment. At some stage, and sooner than we all think, that’s what we’ll be dealing with; namely, there will exist a worldwide consensus about how much time we’ve got until we’re blown off the face of the earth. Imagine that! Imagine living with that knowledge each passing day.

I realise that in some quarters I’m pushing water uphill and indeed one of the exercises I’m about to embark upon is to consider the education syllabus for the 11–16 cohort to see what the hell the schools are teaching our kids. I’ve already got a sense of foreboding, knowing that I’m going to find a barren land or not one that’s accurate enough to inform the next generation of putative leaders etc. but at least it will give me some ballast if, as I hope, I might address a different generation to reveal what I know. But I’m not deterred. In fact, I’m reminded of the Myth of Sisyphus. Do you remember the story? Well, that’s me, pushing that effing rock up the hill, only to face the same tawdry affair the very next day. But hey, as Beckett said:

“You must go on. I can’t go on. I’ll go on.”

And I will.

Enjoy your Sunday.


— Julian

Spiritual and cultural activist