In a few generations our way of life will have become a struggle known now to only those who inhabit the third world. Our exploits over the past two centuries will be our demise as we suffocate on our own filth–the aftermath of easy living and no foresight. As we enter the beginning of the 21st century, terrorism, the question of whether or not gay marriage is okay with God, a bad economy, and taxes seem to be our primary areas of focus and worry. The widening gap between rich and poor nations is a non issue–the rich and poor gap is only an issue for us when it’s between Americans being able to own one car or four cars. The problems of the third world (civil wars, massive refugee camps, lack of drinking water and food, and rampant disease–many of it curable with cheap but unattainable drugs) are not discussed, because the guilt of knowing we’re responsible for it would be too much for the average person to cope with or even understand. The principles of cause and effect are lost on the average idiot. The dirt-poor billions that inhabit the slums of the third world and the day-time TV charity commercials of the first, are the victims of a greedy, unchecked and insatiable appetite of capitalism–a system in which the word excess does not apply, and progress means psychotic rates of consumption at whatever cost to the rest of the world, including the environment, which, in a way, will be able to fight back unlike the poor.
We can no longer use the term natural disaster. There’s very little nature left on the earth; the impacts of climate change have already begun and the fallout won’t be going away any time soon, no matter what we do. We’ll be alive to see most of it happen, an our kids will be alive by the end of the century when things will be even worse. Over their lives they’ll see the sea level rise between 1 and 2+ meters, which begs the question: how many times will we rebuild doomed cities? Probably not many times once $100 billion storms roll through every year. With warming ocean temperatures and stronger hurricanes reaching farther north, storms like Sandy will become normal, not “storms of the century,” like Sandy has already been dubbed. Combine these hurricanes with a sea-level-rise of just one meter and huge areas on the East Coast will be drowned in Nature’s uninhabitable payback. Much of New York City is only a few feet above sea level as it is now.
Sea level rise will displace hundreds of millions of people, causing refuge numbers the likes of which have never been seen. With world population spiking out of control-especially in the poorest places–the least fortunate humans will be left to die of disease, famine, war, and lack of drinking water in numbers much larger than today. We’ll be busy with our own problems, as we are now too. The first world has already begun its decline into the third, and the third will reach a new level of misery.
Acidification of the oceans due to increased CO2 will destroy what’s left of the coral reefs within 50 years. Mass extinctions will ensue. The oceans will become a graveyard once and for all.
Drought, flooding, and a surge of pests and invasive species will throttle not only nature, but agriculture, causing more starvation. A lack of oil to produce the fertilizer needed to grow crops will further this starvation. Disputes over the lack of natural resources, food, and the decreasing availability of habitable land will cause world and civil war without any discernible sides. This is, of course, already going on in the third world. It will soon be our turn.
One American uses the electric energy resources of 390 Ethiopians. With our lavish lifestyles, each of us single-handily produces as much CO2 as 170 Nigerians or 170 Nepalese. We may be the worst, but no developed nation can shy away from this guilt. Not only have we enslaved the third world into cheaply producing our goods and stealing their resources with force, but we’ve also destroyed our way of life as well by plundering the world in which we live.
I feel guilty. But not that guilty. Not guilty enough to do anything that will really matter. I do little things, like refusing to use plastic produce bags at the grocery store. I pile all my loose apples, tomatoes, and kale on the conveyor belt as the people behind me furl their brows with impatience. Not using plastic bags is a tiny, insignificant thing especially when compared to the thousands of miles I travel every year by jet, releasing thousands of pounds of CO2 high up in the atmosphere. My moral compass points to the most convenient north.
Even if you don’t own a car, don’t eat meat, live in a tiny apartment, leave the heat and air conditioning off, compost, recycle, vote Green Party, and donate money to charities, your way of life is still completely unsustainable, destructive, greedy, and overly-contributive to greenhouse gases when compared to the world average. There aren’t enough resources for seven billion people to live like even the poorest Americans, and yet we’re a nation that prides itself on equality, which would be quite laughable except for the fact that this is all extremely depressing.