Before We Get High, Let’s Try To Save The World. (Essay on Culture & Technology)

In every lifetime there are pivotal moments; either in the past, future or present. Moments that come to define oneself. The older one gets, the more we think of them. At least, I do.  There are plenty of folks out there that claim they have no regrets. I submit to the courts that those people are in fact, lying. There are plenty of moments I wish I could take back.

And what of those Back To The Future moments? In other words, like Michael J. Fox’s character Marty McFly, returning to moments of his own life, or his parents – what would we tell ourselves? What parcels of wisdom to contemplate smuggling back in order to shift any given timeline?

What would I tell me if I saw myself, smoking hash on someone’s unsuspecting, out of town parent’s porch, on some summer night, thirty odd years ago? “Hey man, you know what? That shit gets legalized, eventually. Stay in school, punk!” Well, that moment might well be more Bill & Ted than Back To The Future, but you get the idea.

If there are pivotal moments for individuals, there are certainly ones for larger groups. Perhaps, even for entire species of beings. This feels like one right now, for us. Not just with the herb of choice being legalized this week, at least in Canada. But there is perhaps a more profound news item of late – more on that later.

In almost any given episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, someone hits the red alert button. Usually it’s Captain Jean-Luc Picard that makes the call.  “Red Alert!”, he would command with signature Shakespearean authority. It’s pretty much guaranteed to be my favourite moment. An alarm signal gets activated, red lights flash on and off. All hands head wordlessly to battle stations. Shields are raised.  Dramatic music plays.  In the finely tuned crew of a star ship, everyone has an essential role to play.

When I was twelve we were taught about an imminent danger. The ozone layer had been compromised. The image presented was a protective membrane around our precious planet with a menacing giant hole over the arctic. The scientists hit the red alert button. We listened. It got fixed.  Maybe the marketing success lied in that simple image of a giant hole bathed in colourful infrared. It was enough to scare our little reptilian brains into doing something constructive. We banned CFCs, the pollutants responsible for the damage.

What about climate change? We’ve known about it for some time. As early as the 1970s, the Exxon scientists knew about it, knew what caused it and what it would do.  What did we do about it? Not much. Exxon covered it up.  Pop culture was mired in doubt and disinformation stoked by oil companies and conspiracy theorists.  Plus, you know, there was lots of other stuff going on.  Really interesting stuff.  Like Alf and Perfect Strangers. Look – okay, that ship has since sailed. *Note: to any time travellers, that might be a moment to go back to and change things, back to the 70s. Exxon. That’s like, the equivalent to Skynet’s debut in Terminator 2.

Why things haven’t gone the same way as the ozone layer perhaps lies in a marketing quagmire. Lets face it; watching polar ice melt is, well it’s as boring as watching ice melt. Or boiling a kettle. It happens very slowly, too slowly for us attention deficient apes to take note.  Scientists have finally hit the red alert button last week. But instead, we’re still talking about Kanye making a visit to the White House wearing a MAGA hat.

So what can we do about it? It’s tempting to feel overwhelmed, and fire up that soon to be legal kush, or reach for that bottle or glass or whatever, just like we’ve been doing for decades.  But the new IPCC report says otherwise. If we don’t do something radical in the next ten years, our climate will not sustain us.  Things are going to get way ugly.  If you have kids, want kids, or are a decent human being, it’s time to man up.  Forget Occupy Wall Street, forget Black Lives Matter, forget Blue Lives Matter, forget Me Too, forget Him Too, forget Time’s Up, forget being a conservative, forget being a liberal, forget being a Jew, forget being a Christian, forget being a Muslim, forget being an atheist. Forget being a woman. Forget being a man. Forget being trans. Forget being straight. Forget being gay. Forget being bi.  Forget what colour of skin you are. Forget what country you were born in.  Forget Trump. Forget Kanye.  This issue affects us all.

This singular problem to solve is the only one that should be front page news, all day, every day.  Even though it might be too late to meet targets set earlier by the Paris accord, it remains prudent to try to scale back our lifestyles as much as possible.  Here are some ways to do so.

  1. Buy less meat.  Or become a vegan.
  2. Fly less. Take a train or bus to travel local. If you absolutely must fly, then try offsetting your footprint.
  3. Recycle.
  4. Buy used clothes and electronics.
  5. Go electric.  Electric cars have come a long way in terms of range, price and practicality.
  6. Vote for Green initiatives.
  7. Have less kids.
  8. Drive less. Take a bike or walk.
  9. Get your devices involved.  There are plenty of apps that can help in the fight.
  10. Stop investing with carbon causing entities.  This might be the single biggest weapon we have.

While it’s important for us as individuals to act, let’s not forget – it’s corporations creating most of the problem.  In fact, only 100 companies are responsible for 71% of climate change over the last few decades. But corporations depend on investment. Take away the money (re-invest it in renewables), and they will eventually either die, or adapt to new technologies. Just like the rest of us.

The scientists have hit the red alert button for us. We have leaders either too weak or in the pocket of fat cat corporations to do anything about it. It’s time to rise up, head to our battle stations and make the change ourselves. The future demands it. Let’s figure it out before more people find out what it feels like not to have food. Now pass that dutchie!

Top featured image courtesy wikipedia.

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