6 min read

We're Doomed, Not Dead (Pt. 2 of ?); Living Among Ruins

We're Doomed, Not Dead (Pt. 2 of ?); Living Among Ruins

A reminder: if the title wasn't enough of a red flag, we are going to be discussing some depressing, sensitive subjects this week and next, at least. If you need to skip over these couple letters, my feelings won't be hurt.

Today we're going to get into the thick of it, and by "it" I mean the mess that is going to be our planet in the coming years. Now, to be clear, it is years. It's not, as I said, tomorrow, or just around the corner. Climate change is accelerating, and that very acceleration is going to feed the rate of acceleration, but we're not talking about fire and brimstone by 2030. We may even be talking about building communities of equity and sustainability for the next generation to survive within, rather than our own. But the bell has been rung, and that means our lives are going to be lived within ever-tightening means, no matter how slowly the knot is cinched.

"What Do You Think This Country's Gonna Look Like in the Year (2033)?" "I Don't Have a Mind That's That Inhumane."

I'm not putting a date on this–2033 is purely for symmetry with a reference hopefully some of you get. And I am not going to attempt to bring other potentially apocalyptic scenarios into this mix–we're not going to discuss the (likely enough) possibility of a civil war of some temperature, or of a crises-exacerbating conflict overseas, or anything like that. Because while those are mere possibilities (though with decent odds), I am operating from now on as though the climate crisis advances with certainty and without abatement. Because it will.

And while the main impetus for this series is the victory of climate change over human ingenuity, it wouldn't be realistic if a few other factors didn't come into play in our thinking, in the most dreadful soft-serve swirl you could imagine. Whether or not anyone in power wishes to blame climate change, the number of climate refugees seeking shelter in the United States is going to rise, and with them comes a rise in anti-immigrant sentiment. Couple this with the struggle for our economy to grow in an increasingly hostile world and you have, thanks to our booming fascist population, all the ingredients you need for a hostile, bearish federal and state government–not to mention vigilante militias. Unless something nigh-on miraculous happens, we can count on money being poured into the coffers of police departments and the military, not into social services, meaning everyone trying to stretch a dollar is stretching it only thinner and under threat of state violence.

The other side of this is the intersecting crises of our depleted topsoil, freshwater, and greater ecosystems under the threat of climate change. We have already seen food prices rise from a foreign conflict–imagine what will happen when we face our first modern breadbasket failure here in the US? That is, unfortunately, coming, and we may even get a taste of it sooner rather than later, as a major hailstorm tore up a significant amount of wheat and corn crops in Kansas just last week. And that's just right now. Our soil situation is only getting worse, and groundwater, especially out west, is dangerously low. Once the aquifers that keep the Great Plains viable run out, the land will revert back to the Great American Desert. That doesn't just mean that for a season or two wheat and beef are expensive–it means wheat stays expensive, gets hard to find, and beef is suddenly only for rich people.

So the government is no help, and inflation is running amok. Add to that the spread of disasters like we're beginning to see every day. A siege of droughts and fires, ameliorated more often by flood than by simple rain. Heatwaves that buckle our electric grid and wreck plant and animal life. Increasingly powerful storm systems cutting swaths across the country and coastline. This is an environment that's difficult enough to live in every day, to support a voracious economic system upon which we still depend. Which brings me to my next point.

Eventually, parts of this country are going to become unlivable, and before that they will be unprofitable. When the latter happens, the former hastens. Money will abandon difficulty, and government will falter and vanish thereafter. Folks who stay behind will have to deal with crumbling infrastructure and lack of services. Folks who leave without a destination will be treated as the United States treats all migrants–meanly.

By turns we have a country that is becoming more crowded and more uninhabitable, that sees life-changing disasters with increasing frequency–sometimes compounding on one another. And this is still largely discounting the fact that these crises increase the threat of all the other things we talk about here. In short: this is a harder, harsher world, which only gets more hard, more harsh. There is no upper limit on this dial. It will continue to get hotter, drier, flash-floodier. I can't stress that enough. In 2033 it's anticipated that we will have crossed the 1.5°C threshold of warming over the pre-industrial era. To put that into perspective, we're currently sitting around 1.1°C. And to put that into perspective, ten years ago we were at .86°C. Which means the heat is speeding up, and with it, rather dramatically, the problems. Which is why our preparations have to begin now, and have to accommodate an ever-growing gauntlet of challenges.

It Takes a Village

Way back when I started this thing, I introduced the idea of prepping by putting it into a cozier context: your grandma prepped. And while that remains true, and you could learn a lot from your grandma, unless she was living out in the country and away from all other inputs, you need to step up your grandma's game. I'm not talking about food for a couple weeks in case a COVID variant locks us all away again. I'm not even talking fasc bombing a city's water supply. What we need to prepare for, to be pat, is something like a rolling apocalypse, ever-gaining speed and ever-worsening. How you prepare against something like that in the very long-term, I don't know. But how you prepare for it from now until about 2050? That I can tell you.

We always start with the core ideas of prepping, and ourselves, because they're simplest. But it's also so that we aren't immediate liabilities to our community. Margaret Killjoy puts this very well when she says that your having (x) supply in a disaster isn't just for you–it ensures that you don't have to take (x) when relief comes, denying someone in need. It's passive assistance that means a lot when resources are scarce. So we start with the core of prepping: water, food, and shelter. But blow these ideas out into the long-term immediately. I want you to be looking at a store of water and shelf-stable food for at least a month, bare minimum, that you are always in a position to replenish. Already some of you are looking around at your apartment and thinking, "the fuck I am." But our solution to surviving in a runaway climate crisis was never, never going to involve your resources alone. It will take a village.

To that point, a village has people in it who share in responsibilities to the well-being of the village. Which means you need, and I mean need, to find your people if you haven't yet. You can't master everything you will require in this coming world. You can't defend against every possibility, every disaster. You will need to foster relationships with friends, acquaintances, and neighbors in order to keep one another healthy and, ideally, happy. Practically speaking, today this will look like mutual aid in some instances and simply commiserating in others. But in our world of tomorrow, this looks like a whole other beast–an idea for the end of this series.

Next week, we will look more closely at the preps that we need to make, the skills we need to hone and acquire, and the general outlook we must foster in order to keep ourselves and our people together as climate change spins further out of control. And we'll end the week after that on what is, I think, a hopeful note. Until then, talk to your friends realistically about climate change and where we're headed. If you break it to them now you can break it somewhat gently.