Village magazine editorial – February-March
In the 1970s boys comics imagined dystopian futures of out-of-control robots and rollerblade axe-fighting. They were a counterpoint to the humdrum reality for the warless Persil generation.
2021 has opened with dysfunctionality every bit as overwhelming as the most vivid imaginations of 50 years ago feared.
We have brought a global plague upon ourselves by preying on recently-damaged ancient ecosystems in the reclaimed wilderness so that species that should never be in contact are forced upon each other, dead or alive, and eaten. It spread worldwide in weeks by air travel, the most unsustainable form of transportation ever invented because of our obsession with the fastest possible global mobilityl. It has been aided by pollution which weakens the lungs of potential victims of the disease.
It has locked down the world so people cannot socialise, for a year.
We have pillaged and plundered the gorgeous hills and valleys of our glorious abundant planet. In the last fifty years humans have damaged the earth so much that most life forms, notably including their own, are precarious.
Humans have wiped out 60% of mammals, birds, fish and reptiles and threatened a million species with extinction to the point where we are facing the sixth Great Extinction.
Since 1906, the global average temperature has increased by more than 1.1 degrees. A further .4 of a degree rise may put 20-30% of species at risk of extinction. Climate change generates rising seas, hurricanes, floods, droughts and desertification.
It is, then, extraordinary that we are we currently accelerating towards probably 3 to 4 degrees and perhaps, in places, 10 degrees centigrade of apocalypse by the end of the century. A quarter of a billion years ago, a rich and wonderful world was annihilated in the end-Permian extinction when the world warmed the same amount, 10 degrees.
We’ve known about climate change since the 1860s. We’ve really known about it since around 1988. Yet since then global emissions have ratcheted by 50% and continue to rise, causing and threatening all this, to the point that over the last dozen years it has become a clear and overarching threat to all life.
We’ve disgraced ourselves in our treatment of the planet.
We’ve done a little better with ourselves materially, generating profligate, short-term riches for our 7.8 billion master race. Over the last 30 years, more than 1.3 billion people have surfaced from extreme poverty defined as subsisting on less than $1.90 a day (at 2011 prices), and the global poverty rate is now lower than it has ever been in recorded history. In the 25 years from 1990 to 2020, the extreme poverty rate dropped an average of a percentage point per year – from nearly 36% to 8% (630m people), slowing latterly.
Nevertheless inequality is ascendant. On a scale that is inhuman.
The world’s ten richest men have seen their combined wealth increase by half a trillion dollars since the pandemic began. The world’s 2,153 billionaires have more wealth than the 4.6 billion people who make up 60 percent of the planet’s population.
The world’s richest 1% have more than twice as much wealth as 6.9 billion people. Almost half of humanity is living on less than $5.50 a day.
And there are huge problems with the quality of life even for those with rising wealth.
Community, family and social connections are all under threat. Many people, particularly children, are addicted to de-socialising information technology. A 2017 study by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation found that 10% of the population worldwide suffer from a mental health disorder. Angst was pervasive in the rich world even before Covid-19. According to Cigna, in 2020 more than three in five Americans are lonely, with more and more people reporting feeling like they are left out, poorly understood and lacking companionship.
Evil is never far from sight in our world. The last generation bas brought the Atomic Bomb, the Holocaust, genocides and quasi-religious videoed beheadings.
We allowed democracy to disgrace itself. The most populous country in the world isn’t even a democracy. The richest country was run by a sociopathic narcissist who doesn’t believe in science, truth or facts. Our own country’s main political parties obsess over the national question rather than a clear, mature policy platform for the future.
Despite Greens in government we can’t get a Climate Act with teeth. Nobody’s seriously even monitoring inequality. Nobody cares about the transparency agenda. Townhall voting, cross-sectoral roundtables, people’s conventions, consensus rather than binary votes, subsidiarity, local governance: all progressive democratic media, none used.
Faced with this travesty the debate focuses on blaming the inept administration of petty politicians and bureaucrats in a pandemic. Few apply themselves to reducing the chances of another one. Few draw lessons from the pandemic for environmental crisis.
It is clear our species is failing and that civilisation may be coming to an end.
We must all ask ourselves how will our agendas in 2021 be judged in 100 years. When our house was on fire we retreated to our desktops, and tweeted vituperation about bureaucrats. We had no vision for the common good, no vision for the future. And for want of understanding of science we denied we were in crisis until after it was too late and we had made for ourselves that dystopia.