I mention something I read about seaweed and eroding equatorial beaches because we used to live near the most stunning equatorial beaches for a while and he tells me about sea urchins' reaction to a warming ocean (not good) and somehow this exchange happens:
R: What causes population growth?
R: But population growth causes poverty. (Careful. He is testing me, ever the teacher.)
Me: No. People have many children to survive in hard times, not the other way around.
R: But wealthy people also have lots of kids.
Me: Not to that extent.
R: So what causes poverty?
R: What causes injustice? (Careful, he is testing me again.)
R: What causes capitalism? (Here we go.)
R: What causes greed? (That man knows not when to shut up.)
Me: A feeling of superiority, entitlement . . .
R: What is the cause of that?
R: (Big sigh.) You mean the institution that condemns birth control?
We leave it at that and wander off into the garden. I inspect the blueberries and note that they could be ripe by the time my grandchild will crawl on this lawn later in the summer. We pick raspberries and sweet peas until our hands are overflowing, stuffing them into tshirts and pockets, too lazy to go inside and get a bowl.
I busy myself with the tedious small tasks that keep me from thinking, briefly considering washing some murky looking tiles, but no. Instead, I diligently do my physio exercises and check my inbox and schedule a few assignments but oh heck, eventually I walk back outside and pick up the magazine R was reading, still open at the page where he was before he started his testing spiel.
The next 30 years are likely, instead, to resemble the slow disaster of the present: we will get used to each new shock, each new brutality, each “new normal,” until one day we look up from our screens to find ourselves in a new dark age—unless, of course, we’re already there.
Consider everything we take for granted: perpetual economic growth; endless technological and moral progress; a global marketplace capable of swiftly satisfying a plethora of human desires; easy travel over vast distances; regular trips to foreign countries; year-round agricultural plenty; an abundance of synthetic materials for making cheap, high-quality consumer goods; air-conditioned environments; wilderness preserved for human appreciation; vacations at the beach; vacations in the mountains; skiing; morning coffee; a glass of wine at night; better lives for our children; safety from natural disasters; abundant clean water; private ownership of houses and cars and land; a self that acquires meaning through the accumulation of varied experiences, objects, and feelings; human freedom understood as being able to choose where to live, whom to love, who you are, and what you believe; the belief in a stable climate backdrop against which to play out our human dramas. None of this is sustainable the way we do it now.
Nevertheless, the fact that our situation offers no good prospects does not absolve us of the obligation to find a way forward. Our apocalypse is happening day by day, and our greatest challenge is learning to live with this truth while remaining committed to some as-yet-unimaginable form of future human flourishing—to live with radical hope. Despite decades of failure, a disheartening track record, ongoing paralysis, a social order geared toward consumption and distraction, and the strong possibility that our great-grandchildren may be the last generation of humans ever to live on planet Earth, we must go on. We have no choice.Roy Scranton in: MIT Technology Review, May/June 2019
(I urge you to read this essay, free online, it is not all hopeless. Don't be afraid. We need to face reality. We owe it our children. And if you don't have children, think of your best friends' children and if your best friends don't have children, just do it anyway.)
I sit there for a while, catching my breath. For a long long while. Sweat is running down my back, my joints ache. To hell with it, I mutter. This is only the beginning. I am in.