I had a terrible thought recently …
“What if it’s already too late?”
Actually, this idea has been haunting me, hovering on the boundary between my conscious and unconscious mind, for some time.
In 2016, Bill McKibben, founder of the climate activist organization 350.org, came to speak at a rally at the BP tar sands refinery in my “backyard” in the highly industrialized northwest corner Indiana. The occasion was a series of coordinated direct actions around the world against the fossil fuel industry, collectively hailed as the largest direct action in the history of the environmental movement.
What struck me about McKibben’s speech, though, was its tone of … well, hopelessness. Here’s how he concluded his 10 minute speech:
That’s pretty sobering material for a speech at an environmental activist rally, not to mention a speech by one of the leaders of the climate movement:
“We’re not going to stop global climate change. It’s too late for that.”
At the time, I was caught up in the enthusiasm of participating in my first act of civil disobedience, so I didn’t think much about McKibben’s words.
But they kept coming back to me.
The truth is, we don’t know exactly what’s going to happen. We can model predictions but we don’t know for certain. There are too many variables – and I still believe society can (and will) wake itself up from the current nightmare. I still have hope for the future. Maybe that’s naive, but it’s better than nihilism and despair. You ask in the full article what acceptance might look like? Well, I think it can either look like giving in and giving up, or it can look like going on.
You may be right, maybe it is too late and maybe we are all screwed. Well, we all die anyway, but that doesn’t stop us from choosing to live; and if humanity is doomed, we can still choose to work for a better future in spite of that. That’s what makes life worth living. We relentlessly claw joy and optimism and hope to ourselves, in the face of death.
And so, we persist.