Reading the October issue of PN, the pieces about the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the people working on Peace News getting an issue out the door but not knowing whether they would live to put another issue together again, reminds me of the 1980s and that same sense of desperation I had then, lots of us had, that the end of the world could be coming any day, that nuclear weapons were about to obliterate us.
It is a very different feeling today. With climate change, it is almost certainly going to kill huge numbers of people, and devastate large parts of the planet, but it is a slow-motion disaster. They say, ‘We have only so many months to reduce greenhouse gas emissions’, and it is desperate, but it doesn’t feel like imminent death in the same way.
It is weird because at the same time there is a growing fatalism in the general public, even Hollywood is putting films out that involve the end of the world, where the hero doesn’t save the world, the world dies and a tiny number of people survive. It’s as if the popular culture is gradually preparing itself for the destruction of the human race and we believe that we deserve it, that the human race has had its chance and we’ve messed it up, we’ve been stupid and greedy and immoral and we don’t deserve to survive.
When you look at it through a telescope, as if you were on another planet, that can kind of make sense, but when you look at it from ground level, that means the baby in the pram in the street, the woman behind the counter at the baker’s, the people in the dole office, the Palestinian olive farmer, the woman protesting in Tahrir Square.
Despair is a luxury, when you think about it. There are people in the world who are in hopeless situations, but for someone like me, living in a largely free country, with lots of resources around me, lots of people willing to work on issues that matter, despair is a luxury.