This is a rant.
Warnings about climate change have been there since my birth. Hell, several New Age SF-writers –like Brian Aldiss and others– have been writing about “the world after climate change” since 1960 on.
Right now, in 2021, we are starting to see the fruits of a lack of proper action from governments, and the results of manegerial bullshit-concepts like “hyper-competition” mainly aimed at lower prices, higher production and massive turnover of useless and inferior consumer-goods bullshit.
While we –the consumers– bought into many of these schemes, it is not really like we had many alternatives.
Hyper-competition is –among many other things– about erasing your competitors from the market-space. You do this either by out-competing them (leading to bankruptcy) or by taking them over through mergers (after competing them nearly to starvation and death).
As a consumer, you get what remains. In most cases: brands owned by conglomerates, outsourcing their production to low-wage countries, mass producing goods of questionable quality using the cheapest means of production that is still within limits of acceptability. In brief: in most cases it does not matter anymore that a pair of jeans will wear down 5 times faster due to a shitty quality of textile, as most competition is murdered or part of your conglomerate now and those competitors who did survive will probably use the same shit you do, as quality no longer matters as much as it did, as a differentiator in the market.
As for products based on by-products from crude oil: it is not that we are “addicted to it” as some have posed in the past. It is that the oil-industry has a deep awareness that it is not sustainable, and the best solution they have found to remain relevant is to throw a lot of money into developing new and “innovative” ways to get profits from oil by-products like plastic. It is not like there are no alternatives. It is simply that the oil-industry has no reason to deviate from their strategies as long as it is profitable. And the sole focus of any “innovation” they make is to get as much revenue as possible from their main source of business: crude oil.
Same and similar tactics are used in any part of industry, from food to chemicals, to whatever is profitable. The main strategy is not to innovate and renew / re-invent the business based on current developments, but to maintain what is already there: so one can get maximum profit from whatever one is already doing. Even if that shit is killing thousands of people each year. While called “business strategy”, it is nothing more but lazy acts of short-sightedness and incompetence (to clarify: while your marketplace is under severe negative pressure and while you have numerous profitable options that will open new venues of future business, you continue to invest in the one that has almost reached its end and one that is most destructive) and destruction from incompetent people in places of massive amounts of money and power. It is as much a “business strategy” as robbery. While profitable for you, it is also destructive for others.
Additional to that: most managers are idiots.
And I understand it. It is really hard to find really good people, to punch through the networks of friends of friends of the idiots already working for you, to do something different, in places where anyone who proposes an alternate route, is discarded.
The only way forward for the people within those systems is not to innovate, but to repeat and to improve what has been done before, like magicians performing the same stale card tricks over and over again on TV and in major theaters while the world around them innovates and moves forward (or at least tries to). Until someone else stops them, or the business itself falls apart.
While political parties could have done a lot in the past decades to change the script, they did not. Part is due to lobbyists: people who bribe and scheme their way into places of power to buy the people who will decide over the industries they represent. Part is due to political pressure from other countries with vested interest in keeping things as they are.
For us, the consumers, this is a losing game. You can shower less. You can try to be sustainable by not using plastic bags or plastic straws, but until we massively boycott anything not sustainable, or unless our governments start taxing those companies differently, really forcing them to change the very basis of their industry, things will not change.
We are being fucked by people who –for decades– had no interest and/or had no clue how to move their business into proper modes of operation: modes of operation that will NOT kill us and that will NOT fuck over this Earth. And –since it is easier to lie and cheat than to rethink and update your abusive business model– those people use all kinds of media to spread misinformation to target us and others so that we remain confused and indecisive and oblivious of the real damages done to us, so that nothing really changes for them. For now.
It is not that WE don’t want to change. It is more that any possible direction leading to possible change is systemicly sabotaged by people with shitloads of money at their disposal. So while it is –for instance– really not that hard to move towards a life where we stop eating meat (and with that, stop roughly 40% of the current emission of greenhouse-gas) it is not in the interest of the meat-industry to support any movement into a global shift towards the use of plant-based and insect-based protein anytime soon.
But what if?
To me, today, the future looks bleak. If things progress as they might, the seas might end up becoming filled with more massive dead-zones. The land will be tortured more by extreme weather, bringing us periods of scolding heatwaves, massive rainfall and winters with insane temperature drops and hailstones the size of tennis-balls. And floods due to extreme rain-fall and mud slides from those floods, and failed crops due to extreme heatwaves and so on.
Then we have the massive oppression due to the reign of idiots who came into power due to friends and idiots, turning countries into totalitarian shitholes: murdering people who form any threat against the shitty, narcissistic bullshit narrative of self-proclaimed superiority that keeps others from taking action against the real-life large scale crimes done against humans living in that territory.
Then we have the general incompetence in governmental bodies, usually caused by people who stayed when they should have left or should have been fired, or who have been hired by incompentent and/or corrupt people. People who hold places of power where competence and impartiality is needed.
But what if we are not that fucked? What if there is room for change? What if competent people would lead those companies and governmental bodies that are now fucking us over massively, really going for positive changes instead of repeatedly using scorched-earth type tactics where you simply burn down a new forest and pollute the soil you work on instead of reworking and revitalizing the land you exhausted so you can grow new crops on that same piece of land forever without turning everything into a desert? (I did simplify things a bit.)
I write SF. And one of the options I have as a writer, is to think in possible solutions and present an alternative to the “buring world” scenarios where fascist regimes rule over withering communities.
So let’s take a look at things from a different perspective:
- The oil industry can actively invest in several new things, including but not limited to: sustainable and renewable sources of energy; and alternative and sustainable means to produce packaging-material; and alternative and sustainable materials to replace plastics used in every-day objects. And it is not that we never had those materials. Or that plastic is that superior. It is simply that plastic is cheap and the industry at large had no incentive what so ever to work on- or invest in alternatives to a profitable use for –what was once– a waste-product from oil.
- The fish- and meat-industry can invest in insect-farms and sources like lentils, beans and soy to replace the wasteful mass-murder-machine that is the current bio-industry. It is not that we have to wait for some stupid fucking meat-replacement to get started. And it is not that we don’t have any large-scale, generations-spanning human experience of a life without consuming any meat at all. Go take a look look at Hinduism, which centers around non violence. Part of that non-violence is not to murder animals. And their diet is vegetarian. There are over 1.2 billion Hindus world wide, who –for many generations– have proven that you won’t die from a meatless, murder-free diet. A meatless diet is not that complex. Neither does it have to be bland or boring as spices to flavor up any food are plenty and mass produced for mass consumption.
- The textile industry can again move towards textiles and products of higher quality. Stuff that does not wear down by the slightest touch and can can be worn regularly over several years without losing much of its beauty. It can also move from wasteful sources like cotton to more sustainable sources like flax from nettles and hemp.
- Food-production can be localized, reducing the need for transportation over longer distances, reducing the need for heavy trucks and heavy shipping over longer distances.
- Companies can decide to allow workers to work from home, wherever and whenever possible, reducing traffic on the streets, reducing the need for people to travel long distances and therefore reducing pollution in general. While not the biggest source of waste, it is significant enough.
- Governments can actively stop subsidizing all those industries who choose to still produce- ant transport in wasteful, damaging and polluting ways, by removing all the existing tax-breaks and by cutting any option for those companies to work through financial constructions that allow them to funnel all their profits to tax-havens. Thus cutting any incentive for those companies to continue their old ways of working.
- Investors can move towards funding companies who focus on sustainable resources. That is where the real growth will be anyway in the next decades.
It is just a short list. And not that comprehensive as it could be. And while some parts might cause some anxiety for some people, it will stop the fucking cycle that continues to push us closer and closer to the abyss.
But this is not enough.
Because this does not cover the effects on our society, including:
- Loss of income due to unemployment
- Loss of house and safety due to loss of income and/or war and/or the collapse of government and/or infrastructure due to climate change and/or mismanagement by governments.
- An increased instream of exiles from countries that either turned to shit, or are not able to support their population anymore due to climate change.
As the decades of incompetent fuck-overs from my own country has shown, it is very easy to mess up the process of incorporating these people into your own country and culture. Even if that incorporation is only temporary. Racism is one factor. Lack of vision is another.
But let’s be optimistic for fiction’s sake, and assume we will find solutions for all those problems, ranging from shelter, to food and everything. As these solutions ARE there, AND they are feasible AND they are doable AND they are affordable.
- Large quantities of quality food can be locally produced, on small areas of land –as Dutch producers have been proving for decades now. Start with potatoes, beans and insects and simple crops resistant to the circumstances. Plant fruit trees where possible. Build large underground storages for water to bridge the long periods between rain-fall. Release crops from their limitations based on patents by companies like Monstanto/Bayer to involve highly resistant species that will demand less maintenance.
- Erosion of the land can be slowed down by planting resistant trees and grasses and shrubbery and finding ways to keep water in the soil.
- Shitloads of money can be made by investing in green funds containing companies who focus on solving issues previous generations of industry have caused. It’s a market that is currently new and wide open for insane growth. So if you already are wealthy or rich, you can get even more shitloaded rich by buying into the “green revolution”
- The spread of forest fires can be reduced by using methods for fire-prevention that include burning dry grass before the dry season starts
- High-quality shelter can be mass-produced from cheap materials, including styro-foam, for relatively low prices that allow people –otherwise forced to live in tents– to live in something more close to decent houses.
- Local free energy for households can be produced from solar panels on rooftops, stored in high-quality batteries which are produced from not-so-rare materials (including the lead-cells used in old times)
- A governmental focus to invest in the wellbeing of people in general. It is a proven fallacy to assume that the only people worth investing in, are the people considered to be ‘productive’. Letting people rot away has a cost, comparable to letting stuff rot in your own house. You can ignore it for a long time, but the longer you ignore it, the larger the collateral damage becomes, and the higher the costs of repairs. And at some point, someone has to pay for that damage.
You can discuss the responsibility of any government to take care of people who were not born there, leading to the eternal discussion on immigration and refugees. The thing is, that avoiding to create any solution at all, NOT preparing for such humanitarian crisis is not a solution either.
So how do you prepare?
- Create solutions that can be implemented anywhere, with low costs and low interference from the outside.
- Help implementing those solutions anywhere, with the goal and intention for those communities to be and become self-supporting and self-sufficient
If you think: “Yes but…”, there are several reasons why this has “failed” in the past.
- Some organizations offering “aid”, profit by either not really solving anything, or they are sabotaged by local governments (required bribes, etc) or continue to paint dramatized pictures using local people as actors –hiding real progress if that serves their agenda– creating an impression over long time that (humanitarian) aid has limited to no use at all, but that it is important to continue giving.
- Dumping our overproduction elsewhere, disrupts the local markets
- Exporting all local production, then selling the refined result to those very same markets for higher prices, creates and maintains avoidable forms of local poverty
Ending with a positive note
Even if the word turns to complete shit, we have several means (and tricks) to prevent mass extinction and mass-starvation in the world. But it requires a massive change in how we manage things. It requires a massive shift in who decides what, when.
Mostly, it demands competent people in places of power. Not “competence” in robbing and stealing and pushing people into ditches where they can fuck off or die. But competence in solving real problems that keep us from dying as people. And that is the main problem we need to solve. Competence.
Right now, incompetence, selfishness and greed on places of power, are becoming acts of violence and murder not just against disenfranchised groups of people, but against us all.
But as said: as a writer I can choose to paint a picture where the above-mentioned strategies might work.
And as it is fiction, I can fix this global issue. At least on paper.