The Last Days of Man

Ever since I moved onto my (former) property in 2013, and began witnessing the effects of global warming firsthand, I started composing editorials on the subject. They all followed the same theme: the planet is screwed, and we're responsible. I used to quote statistics, post links to science articles, and basically rip mankind a new one.

I'm certain the few readers I have grew quite tired of my regular rants, and I'm also fairly certain I was preaching to the choir. So I yanked them all down.

Then, a few months ago, I got the idea to write a novel (or, more likely, a novella, or perhaps even a short story) about a fictional climatologist who develops the most accurate climate model ever devised, and then sets about describing, in vivid, disturbing detail, exactly how mankind will meet its end, as related by his family's descendants across several generations. I thought it might be a more engaging way to present such information, as opposed to a collection of "nastygrams" to the public.

And then, lo and behold, just as I set virtual pen to virtual paper, a whole slew of new reports on global warming began to emerge, along with dire warnings as to the consequences should they go unheeded.

I had to laugh. Mirthless laughter, mind. A relative handful of people will listen and actually act. Or try to. But their efforts will be thwarted, because the vast majority of the planet's nearly eight billion inhabitants belong to one of two groups: those who are totally oblivious to global warming, and those who are utterly indifferent about it. The infinitesimally small number of us who understand and care about it have exactly zero chance of making the slightest impact on the rest of the turds populating the Earth.

Of course, there are the deniers. This other minority is growing because they can easily spread their stupidity across the Internet, and the lazy slobs reading it can't be troubled to lift a finger and actually learn the truth, so they just drink the Kool-Aid and fall in line. No matter; they face the same fate as everyone else.

Because climate change is very slow process (in relative terms), deniers can easily "prove" they're right; if something doesn't happen within their minuscule attention span, it never happened. But their children might come to a different conclusion, and their grandchildren will definitely start witnessing what's in store.

Deniers also like to ask, how can us puny humans affect the climate of an entire planet? Simple. Do something harmful for a thousand years. Now have millions of people do the same thing. Listen up, kids: we now measure the global output of carbon dioxide in the millions of tons per year. The same for waste plastic, and loads of other pollutants. The only thing we produce more of, as species, is misinformation.

Okay, so let's play pretend: we somehow miraculously convince all of humanity to stop producing carbon dioxide tomorrow. Instantly. Globally. We're still screwed. We'll still blow right past the tipping point.

Why? There's this thing called latency. It's why our cars don't stop the instant we hit the brakes. It will take time for the warming trend to slow down, and when we're talking about the global climate timescale, we're looking at many hundreds or even thousands of years. Look at it this way: it's taken hundreds of years for our collective ignorance to have a measurable impact on the climate. Does anyone really expect an immediate reversal?

Most people would, I suspect. But even in the best case scenario of curtailing emissions, we're still SOL. Yet, right up to the very end, people will still be coloring their hair blue, building exotic supercars, and making millions off of monopoly money (a.k.a. cryptocurrency). Well, some will; others will be dying in droves because of intense heatwaves, epic droughts, sea level rise, or any of a myriad of other catastrophes about to befall us. Will video game players give even a millisecond of thought about what's happening right outside their windows? Fat chance.

I envision a time in the not-so-far-flung future when deniers will start turning around. But they won't suddenly become champions of the cause to save the planet; instead, I predict they will blame climatologists and other scientists for their failure to adequately warn people of the impending doom. (Insert more mirthless laughter here.) Scientists have known this was coming for many decades already. But each day they uncover more evidence that things are far worse than their most dire predictions. Just recently it was discovered that vast rivers of meltwater are flowing out from underneath ice sheets at Antarctica and Greenland, creating the prospect that sea level rise will soon begin to outpace all prior predictions.

Does anyone notice a pattern here? In almost every case, observable data is painting a much more grim image of the future than most scientists' worst-case scenarios. And this is only with respect to the climate; I haven't even touched upon pollution, deforestation and the other unspeakable horrors we're inflicting upon our home planet. We are, in effect, facing multiple wars on multiple fronts, far too many for us to address simultaneously as a species, even if our species gave a collective shit.

The only means by which homo sapiens can survive this is so extreme that perhaps one in a billion people would agree. First, the global population must be reduced by 99%. The remainder must be prepared to devise radical measures to wait out a thousand-year heat wave. Which means they must be among our best and brightest; football players and fashion influencers need not apply.

Bottom line: our planet is mortally wounded, and virtually no one knows it. Regrettably, even if every last man, woman and child devoted themselves to saving Mother Earth, she's still doomed. My only hope is that, after all of humanity has died off, there's still enough of the planet left that life could perhaps return. Except this time I pray evolution does not repeat the same mistake and produce another virus like us.

Thus I abandoned the idea of the novel. Besides, I probably wouldn't live long enough to finish it. Sour grapes, I know, but I have to be realistic.