That Sinking Feeling

As I’ve been saying since 2016, this isn’t going to end well.

The global trend is away from order, away from rules. I fear we’ve shifted so far we lack the means to correct our global course.

Antonio Guterres rails against the four—sorry, five—horsemen of the Apocalypse abroad in the world today:

  1. The highest global geo-strategic tensions in years.
  2. An existential climate crisis.
  3. Deep and growing global mistrust.
  4. The dark side of the digital world.
  5. Oh, and Pestilence. Why does everyone but Brueghel forget Pestilence?

No one cares. Under his leadership, the UN has died on the vine. It’s not entirely his fault, of course. Like countless before him, being utterly nonthreatening is his stock in trade.

I’ve met him briefly. I got the impression he brings a lot of that to the job. It’s Sec Gen, after all, not Sec Gem.

The fact that he thought that TIME cover was a good idea is a monument to his ineffectuality. Whatever convictions he may have, his tenure at the UN will be remembered as the time when it largely ceased to matter.

Anyway, he doesn’t matter now. I’d like to think otherwise, but let’s be frank: what chance does the UN have of fixing any of the many crises afflicting us right now?

None. We can beat our breasts all we want about missed opportunities and the failure of international entente, but self interest has won.

Self interest, pace Homer Simpson, is the solution to—and the source of—all of life’s problems.

We’ll do stuff about climate change. Self interest dictates it. Investors, insurers and entrepreneurs will do what they can, and states will occasionally use it adherence as policy stick to drive protectionist or interventionist policies.

Heck, it’s possible that global conflict or economic collapse might decide the matter for us.

But even if it doesn’t, I’ve seen with my own eyes just how little Alex Hawke actually cares about climate. He can’t hide his disdain for what he calls ‘climate activists’. And more to the point, we’ve all seen just how little Alex Hawke matters to Scott Morrison’s political future.

And at the part of the point that angels dance on, we can all see just how little Scott Morrison matters to the coterie of business buddies who put the Coal-ition through its paces.

And right where the last angel stands is the coming civil strife in the USA. None of us really matter either.

Chinese belligerence matters, but not as much as the fall of the American Empire, especially since they seem intent on taking us all down with them.

Back when I was 17, I began to write a little ditty called the Fin de Siècle Blues, about a society watching their world fading in front of their eyes, and quietly beginning to accept that it’s never coming back.

I guess I better finish it. Because it is us.

It should be clear by now to Pacific leaders that not only do the things that matter to us not matter to them, we don’t matter to them. We are in fact descending past cynicism to nihilism, and nothing we say or do is going to stop it.

We still have agency though. I said on Twitter recently that lacking the ability to control the outcome of world events doesn’t mean we lack agency.

Control is dredging the harbour. Agency is learning to surf.

We’re going to pass 2 degrees Celsius. Probably 3.

We’re going to see military confrontation in the Pacific, and though I doubt it still, it might reach Melanesia.

I want to be wrong. Not only for my or my family’s sake, but for yours too. I’ll probably get through this. My kids almost certainly will. We live in a Goldilocks zone—a warm place moderated by maritime climate, far away from the worst of everything. What land we have will remain fertile long after Australia and much of Asia have become much less habitable.

If conflict reaches us, it will get here after it’s already swallowed millions. We’ll have time to brace—or hide.

Relatively speaking, we’re where you’d want to be to make it through the mess that’s coming. All we can do now is get ready.

So should you.