Most of us have heard the Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times.” But I wonder if there has ever been a period of history when people weren’t living in interesting times. It is worth remembering that the grandparents of most Boomers lived through a savage epidemic, two world wars and a global depression. Nevertheless, after four years of Trump, an epidemic, the current war in Ukraine, and the looming climate crisis, I find myself feeling a bit overwhelmed these days.
Back to the Future
Francis Fukuyama’s 1992 book, The End of History, couldn’t have been more wrong concerning its central thesis that liberal democracy was destined to triumph in the new world order after the fall of Communism. In fact, the future of liberal democracy is by no means certain, considering the rise of illiberal semi-democracies like Hungary, Poland, and Turkey, and outright autocratic regimes like in Russia, China, and North Korea. Just last week, Emmanuel Macron eked out a victory against far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, while the effects of Trump’s attempt to subvert the democratic process are ongoing even while the details of his failed coup become more and more lurid. Now Putin is resorting to the sort of imperial politics that characterized the worst excesses of the last few centuries.
Badges? We Don’t need no Stinking Badges!
Meanwhile, the patchwork global response to the Covid 19 epidemic was a shit show which cast great doubts on humanity’s ability to collectively manage the far greater dangers of climate change that lie ahead of us. David McSwane’s new book, Pandemic Inc. details how profiteering abounded as Trump’s government shoveled hundreds of millions to companies with no medical supply experience to provide PPEs during the worst parts of the epidemic. To top it off, anti-maskers couldn’t be bothered to wear masks that might save their own grandparents, never mind take a vaccine which would help achieve herd immunity.
Given all this, how are we ever to make the systemic changes required to avert the worst effects of the climate crisis? Climate models show that the world is on an irrevocable course to becoming uninhabitable. CO2 levels have risen almost to the point of no return, reaching 419 ppm last May, a level which hasn’t been seen on this planet for more than 4 million years. I believe in positivism but I am by no means a Pollyanna. More and more these days I just want to turn off my TV and curl up in the fetal position with a blanket over my head until this all blows over. But as I implied at the beginning, there really is no escape from living in interesting times.