by Liam Campbell
How bad is our current trajectory? Looking back through geologic history, there are a handful of examples of abrupt climate change and ecosystem collapse, periods when runaway feedback systems changed the planet so suddenly that biomes didn’t have time to adapt. These events were always accompanied by mass death. About 55 million years ago the Earth experienced an era of rapid ecosystem collapse called the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), which was most likely triggered by a sudden increase in atmospheric CO2 and a cascade of self reinforcing climate feedback systems; this is eerily similar to what we’re witnessing unfold today. One shocking difference between today’s events and the PETM is the rate of change. It’s estimated that the PETM released about 0.24 gigatonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere per year, over the course of 20,000 to 50,000 years. By contrast, humans are now releasing over 37 gigatonnes of CO2 per year (~150 times more). Compared to the PETM, what’s unfolding today is more akin to an explosion, which means Earth’s ecosystems will have dramatically less time to adapt. Any reasonable person would conclude that we’re now in the midst of a global mass extinction, and that the only rational response is to cease all industrial scale ecosystem destruction in order to mitigate the harm.
Unfortunately, humans have developed an extreme addiction to industrialism, an addiction so severe that many people prefer to retreat into delusion rather than face the consequences of withdrawal. A common excuse for continuing the addiction is that “ceasing industrial-scale exploitation of Earth’s ecosystems would result in a lot of people dying.” While this is technically true, it blatantly ignores the obvious conclusion that continuing industrial scale ecological exploitation will result in essentially all people dying, alongside the vast majority of other species. These ridiculous mental gymnastics would be painful for a healthy person, but they are commonplace among addicts — after all, immense cognitive dissonance is less excruciating than consciously acknowledging that you are cannibalising your children’s futures in exchange for modern concenviences. How then are we supposed to mitigate ecological destruction in the midst of a planet ruled by irrational addicts? It seems reasonable to rule out the possibility of doing so via consensus. What about mass mobilisation against industrialism? Given the fact that any meaningful action would result in a significant decline in the quality of life of every “civilised” culture on the planet, mass mobilisation seems unlikely; most of these people will be easily distracted by delusions and false solutions, both of which will be sold at rapidly inflating prices. So that leaves us with asymetric and unpopular solutions — after all, the majority of the world is addicted and addicts become upset when you take away their drug.
Deep Green Resistance approaches the problem from this perspective, that any viable strategies must be executable by small numbers of people and must not require public support.