When you think of people who believe the world is going to end, what comes to mind? Most likely it’ll be a crazy beggar holding a tatty, illegible cardboard sign, standing underneath a motorway overpass while screaming at passing cars.
Well here comes the awkward part, technically I’m in the same boat as those clichéd homeless people as I also think the world is going to end, and rather soon too.
Now before you start Googling ‘how to get someone sectioned’ I would like to point out that there is at least a smidgen of rationality to this belief. Additionally, a more accurate description of this pessimistic prediction is that ‘modern civilisation will largely collapse well before the end of the century’. So it’s not that mental; it’s not like I think God is going to instigate Armageddon on a rainy afternoon sometime this August because gays can now get married in the US (although, you never know!).
But why do I think this? This paper gives a good overview, but in brief: the continued growth of capitalism is causing (and will cause further) multiple, inter-connected, catastrophic environmental disasters which will undermine the foundations of human civilisation. Most importantly, the global food supply will not be able to match the growing, already over-sized human population. Additionally, large areas of land will be rendered uninhabitable because of sea-level rise and extreme weather conditions. This will result in mass migrations and unprecedented political instability across the world, with the majority of countries becoming failed states (which I think is a nice arbitrary way of defining global collapse) before 2100.
So that’ll be a barrel of laughs, if shit really does hit the fan in this manner. But how does having these rather pessimistic beliefs affect me?
Well, the main effect is that I’ve become a bit of a nihilist; since global civilisation is (so I tell myself) going to violently and unpredictably restructure itself into a Mad-Max-esque society within my own lifetime, then what’s the point in doing anything? Everything is just going to get worse, most probably apocalyptically so. Why bother contributing to a currently, sort-of functioning society which is very likely to massively fail within the near future?
Additionally, it has made me a tad bit depressed, although not perhaps enough to warrant a trip to the doctors for some doses of soma. It’s not so much the end of civilisation which is depressing; that was always going to happen at some point. It’s that seeing the ending of civilisation is going to suck. Although as a privileged European I’m not actually that worried about my own safety, most others won’t be so lucky and seeing their bad luck will perhaps be just a little bit tragic. The widespread human suffering which is well on its way is going to make the current European refugee crisis seem like a picnic in the park. Whether it’s massive food riots in South America, millions fleeing the flooding coast of Bangladesh, mega-droughts in sub-Saharan Africa or deadly heat-waves in Europe, it’s all going to make the world a rather gloomy place indeed.
So, I can’t really say there are many positives to having apocalyptic beliefs (unless you consider nihilism and mild-depression useful attributes). Although, having said that, the whole ‘life-is-short’ mantra does start to develop a greater sense of urgency- and who could complain about that?
But, anyway, is there anything one should do about all of this? I think there are two options.
First: delude yourself! Buy organic Starbucks coffee, switch your phone charger off when you’re not using it, recycle the drinks cans you get on your next international flight, make sure the next TV you buy is ‘energy-efficient’. Join the growing population of consumers who are purchasing their way to planetary salvation. Never mind that the global economic system is dependent on exponential growth for its own survival, forget about those hundreds of millions of humans (mainly in China) now rich enough to try and emulate the nauseatingly consumerist American lifestyle that mass-media so gleefully promotes. Forget about all that, do your bit for Mother Earth and become a ‘conscious consumer!’
And for the second option I must quote Denethor the 2nd of Minas Tirith; “Abandon your posts! Flee, flee for your lives!” (although, I don’t condone setting yourself on fire and jumping off a giant castle).