Human beings have seen some pretty scary stuff through the ages. Even if climate change made it possible for us to exist in the first place, subsequent shifts haven’t always treated us kindly. We have yet to see what will happen next, of course; but odds show us it’s probably one of two possibilities. They aren’t the only two possibilities; but they are the two most likely ways this will all play out.
The first is that today’s doom predictors will be wrong. Science is actually based largely on theories, and those are pretty shaky foundations; but when you add political or financial pressure to the mix, scientists will say pretty much anything you want them to. Not to say there’s anything wrong with that; if you threatened my family or livelihood, I’d probably tell people whatever you wanted me to as well. Scientists are no more or less human than the rest of us; also, sometimes they’re just wrong.
Or they find a solution. It can be hard to tell when the first scenario happens or when the second one does, but recent generations can all attest to having borne the weight of one situation or the other. Nuclear war got staved off, and the ozone layer seems to be holding out; but people today are talking about climate change with as much fervor as people of yesterday talked about those issues, and even they haven’t been properly resolved yet.
Surely a few folks are certain an asteroid will hit before any of that happens, but plenty of people worry about nuclear war given the current political climate. Never mind that those words could have applied to any moment in history since the atomic bomb was invented; there’s stuff going on now, and it could mean the end!
The question here isn’t whether or not the world will end. Let me save you the suspense: the world will definitely end. People will be long gone by then, either snuffed out by circumstance or because we finally found a way to go interstellar; but we won’t want to be here at that point, when the sun turns into a black hole and consumes what used to be our planet. And who knows; any variety of things could happen sooner that would obliterate what we call the Earth. However, it probably won’t be us.
When we say there are enough nuclear weapons to destroy the world many times over, we are really kind of stretching things. We might destroy all life, but we won’t vaporize the planet itself. After another climate shift or two, life might just start all over with no memory of what came before. There may even be time enough for it all to happen several more times before the planet actually breaks up into little pieces or gets eaten by the sun. It might even have happened several times before, as far as we know.
But that isn’t the question here.
I want to know why so many people are and apparently always have been obsessed with the end of the world. I’ll give you that it’s a thought that hurts to think about, and admit to a peculiar fascination with all the things that fall under that big umbrella; but what’s the point of obsessing over this one in particular? What’s the best case scenario? Are people hoping for the day when their skin melts off their face for whatever reason, so they can finally run down the streets screaming about how they told us this would happen?
There’s nothing good about being right in this scenario, and the only people who should be obsessed with it are the people willing to dedicate their lives to doing something about it. Turning potential global catastrophe into a political issue is no way for either side to solve it, and it leaves the rest of us somewhere in the middle wondering if most people just love a good fight. Conspiracy theorists will tell you that the people in control are just trying to make sure everyone is constantly afraid, and the temptation to believe them might come from a good place. After all, otherwise a bunch of people have done this to themselves.
For every scientist willing to admit they don’t really know what’s going on, there are countless uninformed people eager to explain their version of how things are going to play out. Never mind that they would have been singing some other tune if they had been born a generation earlier, and an even different one if they had come a generation before that; there’s a chance they could be right, which means one thing and one thing only.
You don’t have much time in their doom and gloom scenario, so you should use it wisely. Imagine all the hours one human being has spent listening to another human being talk about the end of the world since the world has started ending, without it ever actually coming to pass; then try to estimate how many lifetimes that adds up to, and let your mind boggle a bit. Then briefly consider this next possibility, as you walk away from the pointless encounter.
Perhaps we’re not the pinnacle of creation. We can consider that the climate changed to accommodate us, so why can’t we project the possibility that it’s changing again to get ready for the next thing? Those big lizards were not something we could have competed with effectively; and even if we could have, it would have meant wiping them out or keeping a few in preserves. You just can’t have skyscrapers and dinosaurs in the same world, no matter how much of a humanitarian you consider yourself. We have to entertain the idea that we are the dinosaurs in the next scenario. Maybe our bumbling ways would smash the sensitive little folks coming after us, in so many ways; or maybe they’d be forced to smash us.
Or maybe robots just like it hot.
Either way, talking about the end of the world should really be reserved for the very few people willing and able to do something to prevent it. And they should talk about it amongst themselves, in private; that way we can suspect there are quiet heroes out there coming up with solutions for every situation and making sure each generation survives its unique threat. As long as the world continues to exist, we can all relax knowing they are on the job. Like a nerdy Avengers…but again, with less bragging.
Part of the reason so many people live in a state of fear is because staying informed about this kind of thing is next to impossible. We have minds designed to know stuff, and it’s hard to admit we don’t have all the facts when we already have an opinion. Many of us rely on other people to curate our information for us, even if most of us know the people doing the curating have some stake in the game themselves.
Out of all the people willing to comment on virtually every subject, very few are experts in any of them. Often the only people willing to admit they don’t know are the experts; but they’re happy to take several hundred pages to say so, if the money is right. And whoever curates our information can extract whatever they want from that study, and even quote directly from its pages; while the other side can cite the same study and draw different conclusions. Most importantly, everyone gets paid.
Maybe making everything so complicated is a good way to get things done, and maybe not. The world hasn’t ended, despite the conviction of many people throughout history; so there is that. Yet I have to wonder what the benefit of all this information is if no one is really doing much of anything with it. Government studies no one really reads are one thing, but the bills and laws they write are quite another. They can also stretch to hundreds of pages, and many of these things are put to a public vote. Politicians may be embarrassed to admit they didn’t read the whole thing, but voters seldom are. Although they feel comfortable weighing in, they just don’t have the kind of time it would take to read what they’re voting on.
I would say you should take a moment to let that sink in, but I’m sure you already have long since done so. These aren’t secrets, after all; they’re thoughts that hurt to think. We all know the world can be a messed up place, and that we are expected to live with certain knowledge that doesn’t make much sense. So we’ll talk about voting in this country next week, in a post called…
Yes, I’ll be getting political in my own weird way. It might even drag on for a post or three, so hold on tight. Or wave your arms in the air. It really doesn’t matter; the world is ending either way.
In parting, please don’t suppose that I stand for any position on any subject; it’s much easier to see both sides from up here on the fence. When it comes to just about anything but my own personal experience, I’m happy to admit something a lot of people seem to have trouble owning up to.
I don’t know.
Despite my tendency to think a lot, I don’t pretend to know a lot. This mystery ride we call life has already shown me that not everything is as it seems, so I tend to reserve final judgement on everything but those few things I am personally engaged in to the point of being a bit of an expert in it. Like thoughts that hurt to think. Which will be back next week.
Thanks for reading!
All the best,
The Secret Society of Deeper Meaning