Saturday, December 30, 2006

When Life As We Know It Becomes Impossible to Sustain

Posted by olvlzl

What are the consequences for a world in which the food supply has been greatly diminished by global warming? What are the exigencies of a world in which the absolute necessities of life are vastly more expensive than they are now? It’s a question occasioned by the breaking away of that huge ice field in the arctic this week. Assuming that there are no willfully ignorant global warming deniers* here, then it is a question that we should be considering with a lot more urgency.

While there is no way of knowing what will happen, if the food supply and the supply of many other things is disrupted or destroyed then there are two general schemes that seem likely. There is the 1960s, macho sci-fi concept of a dystopian fascism of some kind. That would certainly be attempted. Life would become a bleak, violent and cynical endeavor. The idea of a democracy in such circumstances is impossible. If the thankfully brief viewing I’ve seen of the cabloid stations this past year, it’s the one they favor.

But there is another possible response, one that should be a matter of reflex in a modern democracy, equal sharing of scarcity, an equal distribution of necessities and the practice of the common-wealth in services and enrichment resources whatever those are. In short, putting the alleged ideals of enlightenment into effect. It’s not nearly as popular as sci-fi fascism in theatrical or literary speculations mainly because it is inherently undramatic. I can’t imagine any of them being able to make a hit movie out of it. Anyone who could pull it off would probably be a creative genius of the first order, Ursula K. Le Guin level. It’s absence from the popular imagination is a danger that will become more evident as things get worse. And there is every reason to believe that is what is going to happen during some of our lives.

If we want decency in the future there will be a price, selfishness, greed, ignorance and a host of other personal indulgences can’t be indulged. The consequences of them become ever worse in a more crowded more impoverished milieu. A good item to consider is what will happen to the right to have children. What will happen to that if the level of starvation increases several fold? It’s not pleasant to think about but it will become impossible to ignore the problem in the near future. There are some horrible alternatives already in place, both one-child policies and the vastly worse, non-governmental systems that arise though malign neglect, gender inequity and organized crime. We can, of course, keep ignoring this or we can try to come up with the least bad solution before it becomes impossible to choose to do nothing.

If we are fortunate, the choice isn’t between violent disorder and fascism, it’s between gaudy, unequal misery and modest decency. But we are going to have to cultivate the idea. The fans of privilege will be at work the whole time and many of them are in the judiciary and government. They won’t think twice about playing dirty, that’s just practice for when things really get bad.

This is a theme I’m going to be looking into next year. It won't all look bleak but to ignore those possiblities would make it a waste of time and that is growing ever shorter.

* When real scientists make predictions and those predictions start to come true, that means they’ve won the argument, Hirelings of industry, ideological fanatics and their journalistic equivalent, you’ve lost. That is already beyond doubt in the real world.