The Universal Notebook: It’s too late, baby

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While I have always been a skeptic, it has only been in recent years that I have become something of a cynic. Though I really hate to say so, in 2022, I’m afraid it’s too late to solve most of our problems.

The Donald Trump presidency was just the final straw in convincing me that there is very little long-term hope for humanity. But we’ve been rationalizing and lying to ourselves for decades about almost everything.

Edgar Allen BeemWe can’t go on living the Big Environmental Lie just by changing lightbulbs and driving electric vehicles. We’re still using way too much energy and we are not about to stop. 

Even Sir Richard Attenborough, the elder statesman of the save the world tribe, had to admit to the United Nations last year, “There is no going back. No matter what we do now, it’s too late to avoid climate change and the poorest, the most vulnerable, those with the least security, are now certain to suffer.”

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has the world focused on the magic number 1.5: That’s supposedly the number of degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) the globe can warm before catastrophic weather events overcome civilization. 

It’s nice to have a goal, particularly one backed by science, but even science is inexact. The world is already seeing more intense storms, droughts, heat waves, melting glaciers, rising sea levels, and warming oceans as a result of climate change caused by human activity – and it’s only going to get worse. My guess is that we won’t even notice when we sail right past the 1.5 degrees Celsius increase red line.

We may be earnestly converting to renewable energies, pretending to recycle our trash, and saving whales from ship strikes and gear entanglement, but are we willing to stop traveling unnecessarily (particularly by air), owning multiple homes, clearing land for development, and having more than two children?

I’m guessing probably not.

And it’s not just too late to save the rainforest and the polar bears. 

It’s too late to save democracy, which is being killed by the Republican Party, that Trumpian swamp of climate change deniers, white supremacists, QAnon crazies, gun nuts, and religious extremists.

It’s too late for Christianity, which has been commandeered by End Time prophets, anti-abortion activists, and megachurch charlatans.

It’s too late for justice, which is dying at the hands of activist judges appointed by unqualified conservative zealots.

It’s too late for the American economy, sinking into a morass of inflation, consumerism, corporate greed, and income inequality.

It’s too late for public health, as Mother Nature, all fired up by global warming, has unleashed fires, floods, vector-borne diseases, viruses, and monkeypox upon us. 

It’s too late for higher education, which not only costs way too much but has ceased to be cost-effective.

It may even be too late for reality, which has been swept away in a virtual wave of video games, remote learning, NFTs, cryptocurrency, blockchains, and artificial intelligence.

And it’s certainly way too late to stem the gruesome toll of mass shootings, which occur because America is a sick society that values gun ownership over the lives of its children. Even if we somehow managed to enact stricter gun safety laws, the evil genie is out of the bottle: There are already too many guns in the hands of too many bad people in America.

Let’s face it, we are no longer making progress as a human race. These days, we are just marking time, wallowing in our own excesses.

Edgar Allen Beem has been writing The Universal Notebook weekly since 2003, first for The Forecaster and now for the Phoenix. He also writes the Art Seen feature.

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