Friday, April 03, 2015

The End of the World, and one more letter--#31

Dear Governor Ducey,

Yesterday, I had kind of a grim day. A media-induced grim day. I listened to a new-to-me Podcast when I went running. Scott Carrier’s Home of the Brave. In this episode, he went around the country asking strangers if they thought this was the end of the world. The super-Christians he ran into said, yes, this is the end of the world and I’m glad because all the believers will be pulled up in the twinkle of god’s eye and meet together in the air. It sounded kind of Santa Clausy to me, but I was glad this guy pictured himself one of the saved even though, as a nonbeliever, he wouldn’t be sad to watch me burn through the Armageddon. Then, there were the scientists. End of sea ice by 2016, one said. The real possibility that the entire agricultural system of Africa and Central American will be baked into extinction. And where would the people go? Siberia? Well, there’s already a lot of Russians and Chinese in their way, looking to move to north. He thinks about 1 billion of the 7 billion humans will survive. Another interviewee was kind of a cross between science and religion—he grows his own food near Jackson, WY. He has an acre to grow crops. He thinks it’s enough to sustain his family. He’s collecting a small arsenal to stave off those who didn’t prepare as well as he. Hungry people, on the move, looking for one-acre-subsistence farmers. What do you do? Protect your own? Share? Shoot? He also interviewed a Navajo couple in Oklahoma. They didn’t think it was the end of the world. They saw everything as circular. As this world changes, well, it will change. Carrier called them believers of the Old Ways. It would be nice to be sanguine about the end of the world.

Earlier, I’d looked at pictures online about overpopulation. In Mexico City, instead of undulating hills of grasses, undulating hills of tiny houses. In China, fields packed so tightly with crops, the land looks like a game of Jenga. Whole forests clear cut. A guy surfing through a wave of garbage. In Port-au-Prince, Haiti, tiny shacks with corrugated metal roofs pile on the mountains like mounds of bottle caps. The end of the world is already here, for some people. Some people are already hungry, looking for the guy in Jackson Hole to see if he’ll share his carrots.

Not everyone believes that overpopulation is the problem. Some say its overconsumption. Some say it’s just a market economy. Some say the end of the world isn’t going to be so bad, depending on what side of Jesus you are on. Most say this change is coming, regardless of whether you’re a believer in science, religion, or the old ways. It seems to me we’ll need thinkers to deal with the change—scientists to see if they can put big mirrors in the sky to reverse global warming, biologists who will figure out if the Polar Bear can become the Grizzly Bear without completely dying out, political scientists to discover how to convince India and China that the western ways will delete the planet without sounding like “we got ours, now, step off,” philosophers who can describe the old ways and the new ways and how to synthesize the two, linguists who find the words for “love” and “give it a whirl” are the same. Writers who write about the way it was spring and the way it will be spring again, even if it doesn’t look like the spring we used to love before. I don’t know what I’d do without that hope that maybe, someone, or, more likely, a big group of us, working with our students, working with our colleagues, in any  discipline, some great minds, some minds with a little bit of time and support, at some regular old university will make a difference, regardless of which end of the world this is, in making the transition from old world to new world easier for everyone.

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