Head for the Hills!

by Elias Blum

I read an article today about ‘Climate Change Depression’, which apparently is suffered by some climate scientists. They see the data. They do the maths. They know that, basically, the planet is screwed beyond repair. 250 years of industrial civilisation, and we ruined it. They also know that the fall-out, in terms of human lives, is going to be overwhelmingly massive.

And this knowledge is too much for them. They cannot handle the distress of it. They cannot function in daily life, because they know we are quite literally standing on thin ice, and that pretty soon it’s all going to get much, much worse.

Well, that’s the feeling I have about democracy, free societies, human rights, economic justice, and all the other good stuff. Because what will happen, as the earth dies, is that the rich and powerful will horde more and more of the world’s shrinking resources and diminishing wealth in their own hands, and will take more and more desperate measures to exclude, weaken, destroy, enslave and subjugate the rest of us. I see the evidence. I trace the patterns. I peer into the dark and bottomless void.

Is it any wonder that these days I cannot sleep at night, and cannot get up in the morning? That I look at all I have done and, like St Francis, regard it all as ‘straw’?

Maybe we should be looking now beyond the Great Collapse. Maybe we should be trying, like the monks of the dark ages, not to influence imperial policy that has already spun far out of the people’s reach, but instead to salvage and preserve that which was valuable in their civilisation, while laying the foundations for a new civilisation – in small, self-sufficient, peripheral communities – that would one day restore some hope to humanity.

And yet, is there really no answer but to give it all up as lost and start again?

To argue for a moment against my own despair, isn’t the world just slightly better for having, decent politicians and sensible policies. Doesn’t it at least help a bit, say, that Justin Trudeau rather than Stephen Harper is Prime Minister of Canada? It probably does to the Syrian refugees now being settled there. Or one could look to the USA say that Obama had been very far from perfect, but much of what he has done has at least been a step in the right direction, and has resulted in the world being a better place than it would have been if a right-wing Republicans had won in 2008. Maybe small changes and incremental victories are what keeps the world sane.

And maybe sometimes the victories are not that small. Pharaoh’s army, so we are told, got drowned. Didn’t the Berlin wall come down, even when most thought the situation seemed hopeless? George Orwell wrote of the totalitarian jackboot standing on the face of humanity forever, and yet that totalitarianism was overthrown by absurdist playwrights and hymn-singing candle-carriers.

In light of these occasional victories, can we cling to just enough hope to continue to work in and through the world as it is, with all its many problems? Can we do this – not necessarily expecting easy success, but somehow confident that has been, is being and one day will be redeemed, and that even though it seems as if the odds against us are overwhelming our part in that redemption will not be entirely in vain?