SOAPBOX

★ ★ ★ ★

HERE’S TO LIFE

Image by Koshu Kunii

By Mike Hembury

We had a good run, didn’t we?

Yeah, so we scooted through 1.5° without the oil industry so much as batting an eyelid, but hey, who wants to stick to the same old, tired old, same old?

Liveable planets are so last year. 

The in-thing these days, the hype du jour, is riding out multi-species – aka “great” extinction events, whilst normalising mass death. 

Because the thing with great extinction events is, it’s what it says on the pack. 

There’s no such thing as a get-out-of-extinction-free card for humans in our current monopoly capitalism board game. 

Not when species going extinct could include things like wheat, or rice, or fish. Or pollinators. Or insects in general. Or krill. 

Or any of that stuff that goes to make up the food chain. 

Just because we sit at the top of the global food chain doesn’t make us some kind of apex predator. 

It makes us vulnerable. 

Look at what happened to global supply chains during Covid. A couple of chip factories shut down in China and the West starts crapping its collective pants. 

So think what could happen when Asian rice crops start to fail a) because there’s a heat wave and the water table is being tapped out anyway and b) rice fields are getting flooded with saltwater due to sea level rise. 

I’m thinking Bangladesh or the Mekon Delta here. Also known as: The breadbasket (ok, rice basket) of the world. 

Or when India stops exporting wheat and rice. Oh, it did that already?

Or when places like the Great Plains and Zambia become too hot to grow maize and other staples. 

And it’s so hot that the cattle are dying. 

And factory ships are so busy hoovering up krill to feed to farmed salmon that the rest of marine life has nothing left to eat. 

I’m not trying to scare you with this shit. 

I don’t even need to try. 

If you’re a sentient being, I know you’re already scared. 

Just open up any news feed of your choice – no, not the corporate pabulum that comes over the airwaves. Not the rancid gutter press. Not the “serious” right-wing press. But anything that dares to look the huge existential clusterfuck staring humanity in the face without resorting to capitalist Pollyannaism or blood-drenched fascist delusions. Just listen to any climate scientist, or biologist, or earth systems scientist, or food security analyst, and you’ll be scared shitless. 

But dealing with scared is not a good place to be. 

Scared leads to paralysis, scared leads to stasis. Scared leads to putting your head in the sand, when what we need now is to look the situation squarely in the face and do everything necessary to change it. 

It’s just six years ago that Extinction Rebellion famously dropped two 37-metre-long banners from Westminster Bridge in London saying “CLIMATE CHANGE” and ‘WE’RE FUCKED’. 

And if you’re asking what has changed in the time intervening, then my take on it is this: Next to nothing, my friend. 

Sure, there has been some tinkering round the edges with green initiatives here and there. But stopping the fossil fuel industry, reducing CO2 emissions?

Forget it. 

The fossil fuel industry has captured the COP process. 

Oil exploration continues. Fossil fuel subsidies are in the trillions. CO2 emissions are increasing, not decreasing. 

Deforestation is increasing. Temperatures continue to rise. The past eleven months were the hottest eleven months in recorded human history.

Global initiatives to combat climate change? Zero. 

Global initiatives to keep planetary conditions within boundaries fit for human life? Zero. 

Initiatives to save the Arctic/Antarctic, the oceans, the Amazon? 

You guessed it. There ain’t none. 

And to those who say that changes are happening – electric vehicles and the like – but these things take time, I would say: Time is the one thing we haven’t got. In the climate catastrophe sweepstakes, winning slowly is the same as losing

Some people’s answers to all of this go along the lines of: “It’s human nature”, or “humanity is cutting its own throat”. 

All of which is bullshit. We’re not cutting our own throats. The oil industry is doing it for us. 

Just 57 fossil fuel and cement companies are responsible for 80% of greenhouse gases

These are the companies that we need to stop if humanity and the natural world are to have any future. 

The alternative will be scorching heat, drought, flooding, storm damage, famine, civil conflict on a scale humanity has never experienced. 

We’re just at the very beginning of the Anthropocene era, and the changes are already horrifying, with human suffering already increasing exponentially. So far most of the suffering has been in the global South, but the countries of the North, or more specifically the collective “West” won’t be immune to it either. 

But if you think that neoliberal western governments will be forced to act by the scale of mass suffering and death, think again. 

Think Gaza. Think Darfur

The collective West can tolerate, even facilitate, genocide if it fits in with their interests. 

Nobody in government in any western country has seriously started to contemplate the impending human cost of climate change. 

Yet – to quote Adele – we could have had it all. 

If we had spent the past thirty years preparing for climate change and transitioning away from fossil fuels, we would be in a vastly different place. 

But the powers-that-be pissed away humanity’s future in return for a handful of cash. 

You know, people worry about artificial intelligence taking over the world. 

But I think we are already ruled by artificial intelligence. How else to describe a system of domination that will lead inexorably to the extinguishing of all life on the planet? Where the parameters of the thinkable and permissible are set by profit motive first and foremost? Where casualties and deaths are categorized into the acceptable/reportable and forgettable/insignificant? 

Ok, I’m joking. There are already words to describe these things. Capitalism, imperialism. Genocide. Even bourgeois democracy, aka “business as usual”. 

But make no mistake, the longer we go down this path, the harder the fight for resources will be, the more fossil fuel capital will struggle to maintain its dominance, and the more capitalist politicians will be reduced to de-humanizing broad swaths of the world’s population, just to put “their” nation first. 

Which is why, in this last edition of the much loved and shortly to be sorely missed Wild Word, I want to send out a message of solidarity and respect to all those protesting against the ongoing genocide in Gaza. 

It’s not because they are making some point about climate change, or the Anthropocene. 

It’s because they are standing up and saying this is wrong. 

That the answer to a war crime cannot be an even greater war crime.  

That the governments of places such as the UK, USA and Germany are complicit in genocide by virtue of the weapons they are supplying, and this is an outrageous affront against human decency. . To do so at the same time as preaching human rights and anti-terrorism amounts to a sickening hypocrisy that is clearly visible to people everywhere. 

The vast majority of the students protesting and occupying university campuses around the world are not harbouring some secret anti-semitic agenda. They are expressing a basic human truth that it is wrong to take innocent lives. It is a crime against humanity to starve a people into submission and to destroy medical infrastructure. It is a war crime to bomb refugee camps. 

This is not just me talking, this is Amnesty International, Medicins sans Frontières, the United Nations, the International Criminal Court, the International Court of Justice

And just like in 1968, it is the students who are serving as the conscience, not just of individual nations, but of humanity as a whole. 

They are the ones who are saying out loud: Genocide is not acceptable to us as a human civilisation. Not present genocides, but not future ones either. 

Continue down this road and we are heading for barbarism. 

We’re all human beings, goddammit, and we all have a right to live. 

The right to life is a basic human right. All the more so for a civilian population, all the more so for refugees.

And especially so for children and future generations. 

Here’s to the protestors, here’s to the resisters. 

Here’s to life.  

Thanks for reading, good luck to you, and with special thanks to our own editor-in-chief and magazine director Kusi Okamura: “Go n-éirí an bóthar libh”  – may the road rise up to meet you

Mike Hembury is an Anglo-Berliner originally from Portland, England.  He’s a writer, translator, musician, coder, sailor, environmentalist and guitar nerd in no particular order.  He is the author of New Clone City, nominated as a “Hot Berlin Read” by Exberliner magazine. You can follow Mike on Twitter here: twitter.com/schnappz

1 Comment

  1. X22Thawn

    Hey people!!!!!
    Good mood and good luck to everyone!!!!!

    Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.