What if there are no answers?

South Brent, Devon, England

To what?

All of it:

Covid-19
Loss of biodiversity
The climate catastrophe
Greed
Corruption
Inequality
[Fill in the detail…]

But of course, with our innate optimism bias, we rarely, if ever, see it that way.

Sadly, I do.

Does that make me a pessimist, misanthrope or, worse still, a nihilist?

Probably all of them…at times but I do wish, once in a blue moon, we — as in those who express an opinion online or in-person — would stop sugar-coating everything and talk openly and honestly about the existential threat that’s bearing down on all sentient life.

I mean, the portent of the warning signs are weighing heavy in the air. Look at this, and this and finally this.

To my mind, it’s only a case of when, not if.

It’s no wonder then that I found myself over the last couple of days looking at and reading about anti-natalism:

“Antinatalism, or anti-natalism, is the ethical view that negatively values coming into existence and procreation. Antinatalists argue that humans should abstain from procreation because it is morally wrong (some also recognize the procreation of other sentient beings as problematic). In scholarly and in literary writings, various ethical foundations have been presented for antinatalism. Some of the earliest surviving formulations of the idea that it would be better not to have been born come from ancient Greece. The term antinatalism is in opposition to the term natalism or pro-natalism, and was used probably for the first time as the name of the position by Théophile de Giraud in his book L’art de guillotiner les procréateurs: Manifeste anti-nataliste.” — Wikipedia

And I didn’t find it the least bit depressing. Oh sure, I’m miles away from comprehending the import of the arguments and I’d like to listen to this podcast between Professor David Benator and the writer Sam Harris, but what struck me, was the need to urgently face up to the consequences of the fact that everywhere humans succeed (according to their litmus test of the regnant label), the earth suffers. Therefore, if there are fewer of us — or no humans! — then ipso facto the earth might stand a chance of healing itself, notwithstanding that some of the most egregious effects of our anthropocentric ways are well past that point and some are locked in for eons.

Now, of course, you don’t need to be an anti-natalist to not want children. Some women have already made that decision. Whether that has any bearing on the state of the planet and what’s happening to our collapsing world I’ve no idea but when I look back on our decision to have children, I’m not ashamed to admit that my wife and I never once discussed climate change or global warming, as it was then described. Even if we had, or had had more foresight, would we still have made the decision to have children? I don’t know but something tells me that we’d have thought about things a lot more carefully.

I don’t know if you recall the film The Time Machine, based on H. G. Wells’ book of the same name. It’s a bit dated now but the idea of going forward and backward in time greatly appeals to me. For a start, I’d like to know if what Daniell Quinn said in his book Ishmael is true or accurate, namely that we were once a race of Leavers and it was only when the Takers came along and ruined the party that we ended up in such a sorry mess, aided and abetted by the Industrials a few centuries later.

Let’s say I could go speak to their Chief or Leader. What would I say? I’m not sure. I think to begin with I’d listen and watch to see if the human traits that are now commonplace have their origin with the Takers but at some stage, I’d be bound to wade in and spill the beans on the 6th mass extinction. Trouble is, I’m almost certain to miss the mark and persuade him/her to change their ways. I mean, we’ve had decades of exhortation and it’s made no difference to the way the majority of us see the world — i.e. as a resource for our use and exploitation.

And then, what if I pressed the button and moved forward in time to, say, 2050 or 2100 and it was much worse than even the most pessimistic souls had predicted. Who then would I speak to? Our current crop of leaders? Spare me, please. If the G7 Summit is anything to go by, then I’d not only be wasting my breath, I’d be faced with a series of blank stares, not wanting to or capable of believing that said leaders are not doing enough, not nearly enough, to get close to the man-made problem, let alone fix it.

Like I say, perhaps there are no answers. Quite where that leaves us and those to come, I’m not sure, but changing the narrative seems all the more important with each passing day.

I’ll leave you with the opening verse to the song You Want It Darker by the bard of elderhood, the late Leonard Cohen:

If you are the dealer, I’m out of the game
If you are the healer, it means I’m broken and lame
If thine is the glory, then mine must be the shame
You want it darker
We kill the flame

Take care.

— JS.

ecological pessimist — influenced by Zapffe, Benatar, Thacker