Alien Anthropology

One Planet: a Smoke Signal in this Warming World

Every day, in the afternoon or early evening, for around 4 weeks a blanket of smoke has drifted across my city. I reflected on this here recently but tonight I found myself inadvertently caught up in the smoke as I was walking. My eyes are stinging, I have a sickening burnt wood taste in the back of my mouth and everything smells like smoke.

Iconic. Visibility – 250 meters.

There are not even any fires particularly close to where I live, the closest being 30 or 40 kilometers away. The problem is that there are just so many fires across Australia at the moment that the cumulative effects have generated this persistent oscillating daily tide of smoke where I live. Closer to some of the major fires, the effects are even more serious and air quality is utterly suffocating for many millions of people.

I am exasperated by the rank political cowardice being shown on the issue of Climate Change. This bushfire crisis is unprecedented. It is (apparently) just too politically dangerous for Australia’s incumbent Government to call a Climate Emergency – they have been far too busy doubling-down on a parochially anachronistic coal mining and unsustainably old-world energy-production industry for all the short-term benefits they (and it) can gain.

Apricot sunrise, a few days ago.

If our current politicians can not face the impending Climate Catastrophe and face it and all of the dramatic changes it will inevitably invoke for our collective way of life in this country and across the world, it is probably not purely a measure of failure by those politically self-interested actors. The issue is much deeper than this and runs the gauntlet of geopolitics, psychology, history and corporate (as much as political) self-interest. Just because we can not agree on the best way to organise this world does not necessarily mean that we need to destroy it through mismanagement and poorly-informed choices.

A morning view: East across Canberra’s Lake Burley Griffin, yesterday morning. Is this the sun or is it a Stop sign?

The entire global economic, geopolitical and nascent technological civilisation we inhabit is precariously balanced on the edge of a yawning abyss of unmanageable complexity, entropy and relentlessly accelerating Climate Catastrophe. This is not a game. Our political systems will change as a rapidly warming world does – the extent to which we can actively shape the inevitable political and cultural change is directly influenced by the amount of time we wait before we do something.

No one is listening to this opinion of mine that I wave around out here on the periphery, but in as much as the bottleneck to effective Climate Action is the intransigent, intractable inertia of political argument and bureaucratic waffling – any plausible solution is certainly not more of the same. My prediction – a new and Globally integrated political and organisational system of some indeterminate kind is inevitable in response to an ongoing and globally-threatening environmental disaster but, to repeat, the extent to which we (all) delay in accepting this as a necessary fact is a direct measure of how much this will be a painful birth or a relatively smooth one. We will soon enough all see that there is no choice: work constructively together or bicker and fight as we all just fade away, alone.

We are of course not supposed to say such things, are we – we are supposed to knuckle down and suffer through the intellectual and ideological poverty of both national and Global political systems, such as they may be. I am calling bullshit on this. We no longer have a choice and Greta Thunberg was eminently correct: “how dare we?”

We either all work together or we all fade away, alone in the darkness and rising turbulence of our rapidly warming world.

Context: State of emergency: the bushfires raging across Australia – in pictures

I return to this a few days later. In somewhat less emotional retrospect – global political systems, as in unified global political systems, are probably impossible. The unlikelihood of complete and final explanations or enduring epistemological (ergo – organisational) closure makes such unity impossible; however – there are other solutions and possibilities which are hinted at by this impossibility.

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