Collapse Aware

Thanks to the great article over here at Medium I finally have a diagnosis – I’m “Collapse Aware“.
I realized a long time ago that the civilization we have built for ourselves isn’t sustainable. For multiple reasons. And it will come crashing down – unless drastic measures that the public won’t want and thus no politician dares to propose, let alone enforce. It’s also a part of the diagnosis to feel frustrated, depressed, angry at how the rest of the world isn’t waking up to this fact and actually does something about it. And the diagnosis also comes with the doubt that I might be disillusioned and wrong about the whole thing.

I think it was back in 2004 back when I was finishing up my “world tour” working for our state department and traveling all over the world and I saw directly how different countries and cultures were living and using the resources of the earth that I had the first thoughts about “how in hell are we supposed to keep on going like this in our ‘western civilization’??”. The wasteful mindset of USA, the consumerism of Singapore contrasted by the “taking each day by day” in Kongo. Sitting in an airport counting the amount of planes every hour thinking how much fuel this is costing. The ever expanding population. How we keep getting older and older and not dying as much from diseases as we are ‘supposed to’. And this feeling just kept getting stronger and stronger over the years. It’s actually been growing for so long that I can’t even remember when it got to the point where I realized “this won’t hold for long”. But it was before I became a father because I remember having the feelings of “the last thing I should be doing is putting a child to this earth to hand over the mess we’ve made”. Which is one of the reasons we only had one.

But one pivotal thing I do remember was watching a documentary about the coral reefs and how they are slowly dying. And this I think was about 8 years ago. Also at this point I was having second thoughts about my job. I was working for one of the biggest charter/holiday companies in Scandinavia. Our bread and butter was flying people to Greek islands for all you can eat and drink vacations and back again. And even though that company was a leader in it’s field for fuel efficiency and being environmental aware, every time I was on one of those holidays and saw the waste at the buffet and the consumerism, it really didn’t feel good.

Since then it’s only gotten worse for our civilization – as far as I know. I try to be a critical thinker and not taking anything without checking the source but in these days it’s hard not to find a new scientific paper about how we’re sending this civilization down a spiral. Or listening to Johan Rockstr√∂m (or watching his Netflix “Breaking Boundaries”) talking with all his years of research and studies, it all get’s a bit too much to ignore for anyone. What makes things even more frustrating is that conservative political parties are gaining grounds globally. And conservatives aren’t really known to put the planet first. Yet people are voting for them more and more globally. Even in Sweden, one year ago 18% of people voted for a party that gladly says the environmental problems are someone else’s problems to fix, not ours and also says “more people are dying from cold than heat”??

But then in 2020 something happened that gave me a little bit of hope. At first I thought it was nature’s “finding a way”. A new global pandemic to reduce our numbers. And with changing our way of living and with all resources thrown at that problem we got out of it pretty “successfully”. So we can change our behavior, we can change how we do business, we can change how we live our lives. But then we also proved how good we are at returning to the old ways as fast as possible even though we shouldn’t.

So now as the heatwaves of 2023 in Europe has dissipated and the storm seems to be easing up, what’s next for us? Are we going to continue like we have for the past decades? Or are we finally going to realize that the civilization we’ve built isn’t sustainable and start moving away from it?

What we need to do? (in no particular order)

  • We need to consume less stuff – no more shopping cheap stuff of Wish and throwing things away all the time.
  • We need to stop using the car for every trip we do and we need to rethink our cities to have more green spaces, more parks and trees and less roads & parking lots – remember that cars have only existed for about 120 years, how can we be so dependent on it in our daily lives and build our cities around them instead of us?? Or when I was in Florida and wanted to go to a restaurant 500 meters away and they called a cab and I said “I’ll gladly walk those 500 meters!” to which they replied “no you can’t. You literally can’t, there’s no way to walk there”.
  • Be more efficient with energy – I still remember with horror when I was at Kennedy Space Center and they had a fleet of 30 touring busses parked and all of them blasting their AC’s at full power because it was 30’C (this was in late September)?!
  • We need to have fewer kids so we don’t blast to 20 billion people on this planet.
  • We need to stop flying and no more cruise ships. I hoped Covid would take care of this but apparently it wasn’t enough.
  • We need to have a CO2 tax for products that come with high CO2 emissions like beef. And this tax goes to planing trees.
  • Stop deforestation, or at least bring it down to a minimum.
  • We need to paint as much as possible white. Since the polar ice have melted we are lacking “whiteness” to reflect light back into space. No, seriously, Google “Albedo effect“. It’s been known for decades but we still tile most roofs with black tiles and pave roads with black asphalt.
  • We need to stop burning fossil fuels yesterday and have solar panels everywhere with ability to store the energy. This technology exists.
  • We need to change or abolish capitalism. It’s based on “perpetual growth” and you can’t have perpetual growth on a planet that’s not growing!

But most of all we need to change our mindset. Because this isn’t going to end well and what we can’t do is saying “they will fix it” (who are they exactly?) or “it will sort itself out” (because we won’t let it).

I unfortunately see a future where countries go to war just because their country isn’t enough or they can’t live there anymore. Like 1 billion people in India facing a water shortage and daily temperature averaging over 40′. I’m seeing Spain being too dry and hot to grow food. I’m seeing USA taking over Canada for the colder climate. I’m seeing the world being dependent on Russia as the biggest land for farming in the areas we used to call “permafrost”. That is if a nuke or two doesn’t go off. And no more champagne as Champagne wine region will get too dry to grow grapes. We need politicians with balls to implement these changes but they won’t do that until there are enough of us wanting a change. Because me changing jobs to one that works for the science of how to beat this, me installing solar panels on our house, driving an electric car and reducing amount of meat, it’s all voluntarily and it’s not enough.

But I seem to be in the extreme minority to think we need a drastic change. And believe me, I would love nothing more than to be proven wrong about all of this. But the people doing the research agree that it’s not sustainable and we’ve entered damage limitation territory now. And we aren’t even doing that.