Welp, here we are: stuck in the blessed land of carbon footprint reduction. Nobody’s flying. We stopped buying frivolous takeout lattes. We’re not even driving ourselves back and forth from work. The latest number I’ve seen is an estimated 50% decrease in industrial activity and a global reduction in carbon emissions of around 5%.
This could be reason for celebration — we’ve all seen the pictures of suddenly-visible mountain ranges, previously obscured by smog — but all it does for me is put the spotlight on the fact that, man, fuck, we’re DOOMED. We’ve actually managed to more or less ban flying, restrict car travel to essential trips, and reduce industrial output by a massive number! We put a big ol’ dent in almost all the known-to-be-bad stuff we do as a species and all we got was… five percent? Doing all that was supposed to save the earth, wasn’t it?
Too much stuff, at too big a scale
The observation that wE’Re ThE vIRuS is pretty trite at this point but the fact of the matter is that there are too many humans. I’m actually rage-writing this post because I got in a short tiff with some Hans Rosling disciple on Twitter who insisted that all we had to do was bring industry to heel and all would be fine, there’s enough food to go around, blah blah. As if habitat destruction would stop. As if we didn’t all have to heat our homes or wear clothes. And the Amazon is still burning, but nobody’s looking anymore.
A 50% drop in industrial output, and a 5% reduction in carbon emissions. Fucked. Totally, utterly, fucked. We’re fond of saying things like “we have to regulate the biggest polluters” but come on: why are they polluting in the first place? It’s not just to annoy Al Gore. They’re making stuff for us, making sure we’re fed and clothed, able to play guitars and drink beer and wear shoes. And now we removed most of the superfluous crap, and it got us absolutely nowhere.
Everything can be traced back to overpopulation: we’re consuming, what, one and a half Earth every year? I can’t be arsed to google that factoid but it’s common knowledge that we’re overtaxing practically every resource we’ve got. We can argue about whether everyone should be living like a Nepali or an American, but in the long run it won’t matter because even if by some miracle we DID manage to cram everyone into a one-earth lifestyle right this minute, we’d only be buying ourselves a few years before suddenly oops! there’s another billion of us and now we’re using 1.2 Earths again. We can’t solve this one with utopian thinking.
So now you’re an eco-terrorist I guess
Look, if I had a solution for this I wouldn’t be slinging code at some hardware-sales startup, I would be up there on the barricades trying to ram that solution through everyone’s skulls. This is just an exasperated vent because really, EVERYONE KNOWS THIS but as a society we seem stuck in “well, if we all drove electric cars” and nobody’s talking about how to decrease global population. That gets you labeled as a raving Malthusian. But, you know, if we stood at one billion instead of seven it’d be clear skies, teeming seas, and abundant forests for everyone. Anything we do that isn’t directed at that very fundamental issue is bound to be superficial and short-lived. But instead of addressing that, we’re somehow still just flailing wildly at “consumerism,” completely avoiding the main issue. And this was weighing on me even before the virus shot a big fat hole in the Green Tech techno-optimism bubble.
Five percent. I hate this.