Well, now, there’s a blogpost title designed to attract attention, right? 😉
I was one of those people who, at the height of the bird flu scare, stocked up on rice, beans, and N95 masks to prepare for what I thought (at the time) to be an imminent pandemic. Well, we had a pandemic, but I was wrong about the when and the why of it.
Well, I have been doing a fair bit of reading lately, and following a number of intelligent, well-read people on Mastodon, and I feel like I’m in a situation somewhat similar to the one I was in a decade-and-a-half ago: I’m willing to bet something bad will happen, but like with the pandemic, I’m probably going to be wrong about the when and why. What is that something bad? Climate change (fuelled by growth-at-any-cost, maximize-the-value-to-shareholders capitalism) leading to widespread agricultural failures, leading in turn to famine, war, and civilization collapse.
Cheerful topic, eh?
But I am increasingly of the opinion that we, as a society, are going to continue to see more and more of the kind of things that would have been unthinkable even at the beginning of this year. A hurricane-driven wildfire leveling a Hawaiian city, Lahaina, burning 100 people to death before they could flee. A torrential downpour in a Libyan city, Derna, leading to dam failures and flooding, with 11,300 dead and 10,100 missing.
And my home country of Canada is not immune. This summer, almost every city and town in the Northwest Territories had to be evacuated due to an unprecedented wildfire season. A tropical storm named Lee rapidly turned into a Category-5 hurricane due to off-the-charts ocean warming, finally coming aground as a still-fierce storm attacking the Maritime provinces as I write this.
My usual response to depressing events like this is pretty much summed up by the following picture:
But the truth of the matter is, there’s only so much you can stick your head in the sand, like an ostrich, when it’s becoming increasingly clear that things are not okay.
Recently, I read a Medium post by Jessica Wildfire, titled The World Has Already Ended. In it, she writes:
We talk a lot about saving the world or preventing the collapse of civilization, but we don’t talk about what it really means. We don’t talk about which world or which civilization we’re trying to save.
It can’t be this one.
This civilization is gone. This world is gone. It already ended for millions of people. Some of us just haven’t felt it yet. It was never an easy one for most of us. It was never fair, but there was a level of predictability. There was a level of comfort and convenience. That’s gone now. Things aren’t going to get better. They’re not going to get back to the way they were.
Now, when the pandemic hit, I bewildered and even irritated some of my regular readers by abruptly swerving my blog content from “news and views on social VR, virtual worlds, and the metaverse” (as the tagline for this blog states) to wall-to-wall coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic. So, you’ll all no doubt be quite pleased to hear that I’m not planning to turn this into a doomer blog about the end of the world.
From now on, my writing about the metaverse will take place in a context that we might be in the earliest stages of a climate-change-driven societal upheaval, perhaps even collapse. For example, how will sales of virtual reality headsets fare when more and more people are struggling to put food on their table and keep a roof over their heads? And, as the metaverse evolves, how many people will consider it as an acceptable alternative to airplane travel to conferences, given that plane travel adds to the overall toll of global warming? How can virtual worlds and social VR be used to help educate people on the challenges facing our world? What happens to VR/AR/MR/XR headset manufacture when components from companies in India or China or the U.S. are impacted by supply-chain problems caused by climate change?
So, while this will continue to be, first and foremost, a blog about virtual reality and the metaverse, I expect that, from now on, I will be looking at everything that is currently happening from a wider perspective, encompassing climate change and its possible impacts. And, if I should stray from that perspective, please feel free to call me out on it.*
UPDATE Sept. 21st, 2023: One of the people whom I follow on Mastodon, who posts about this topic regularly under the pseudonym Bread and Circuses (profile link), recently wrote the following (post link):
Okay, so here’s where we are…
If trends continue on their present course, within 30 years or even less, human industry and commerce and land use will have altered Earth’s livable environment to such an extent that modern industrial society will collapse. This would be an utter disaster. Hundreds of millions of the most vulnerable among us, perhaps even billions, will die. Not to mention all the thousands of animal and plant species we will have driven to extinction.
Sounds bad, right? And that’s what happens on our present course, which includes the belated (and much applauded) shift of most electricity generation to “renewables.” Sorry, but that ain’t gonna be enough to stop what’s coming.
I’m not the only one who can see this, obviously. Many scientists are now raising a similar alarm.
The rich and powerful can see it too, which is why they’re quietly buying large tracts of land in New Zealand and constructing luxury bunkers, hoping to get through the apocalypse that way.
Government and industry leaders certainly can see what lies ahead. And if they use their brains (which not all of them have), they’ll realize that the only possible way to head off catastrophic collapse is to begin an immediate shift to a post-growth economy.
Except — that would mean the cessation of capitalism. Well, we can’t have that! So, instead, they’re now making plans to drastically alter the environment in order to overcome the problems caused by altering the environment.
Yes, you read that right. Capitalists want to use fossil-fueled technology to fix all the damage caused by fossil-fueled technology. 🥴
Our Mastodon friend Geoffrey Deihl (aka Sane Thinker, @gdeihl) recently published a thorough exploration and evaluation of those plans.
“Stratospheric Aerosol Injection: Earth’s Last Chance Dance?”
*True confession time. Hey, I still don’t bother to recycle my plastic. 😱 I recently bought a new gasoline-powered car instead of a hybrid or electric vehicle. 😱😱 And I just booked a plane ticket to go see the rest of my family. 😱😱😱 I’m just as much a climate-change hypocrite as the next person. All I can do is continue to educate myself, and try to do better.