Society is living completely unsustainably—not even remotely sustainably—and most people turn a blind eye to the problem. Within a few generations, the ecosphere will probably deteriorate to the point that it can no longer support billions of people, and billions of people will die. But of course, it’s diabolically selfish and anthropocentric to think that the fate of humans is the only important consideration regarding the ecosphere. Between 200 and 2,000 species are going extinct every year due to human activity. Extinction at such a rapid rate has never been seen before in the history of Earth. It’s so bad that geologists are calling today’s age the “Anthropocene.”
50% of the word’s rainforests have been depleted in just the last few decades, and the rate of depletion is only increasing. 35% of the ocean’s wilderness has been destroyed by humans, and it’s only getting worse. We’re killing off animals by the billions by hunting, fishing, poaching, cutting down habitat, causing fires, global warming, and pollution by medicine flushed down the toilet after being processed by humans and being released into the oceans, synthetic clothing particles being released by washing clothes, plastics in abundance that don’t degrade but turn into tiny particles that are ingested by animals and even end up in our foods in copious quantities, other trash, nitrogen and sulfur oxides in the air which cause acid rain, fertilizers, raw sewage in the ocean, and asbestos, lead, PCBs and pesticides in the soil, etc.
In light of all this, it almost seems that the thing people focus on most, global warming, is only a convenient distraction from the bulk of the wholesale we’ve already done and are continuing to do. By focusing on global warming, we reduce the multifarious problem of environmental destruction to just a single one of its aspects, and one which is based mainly in the future; it’s paying attention to something that’s far off on the horizon and disputable, rather than what’s present and factual.
Those who disregard the environmental crisis because “life finds a way,” or because “nature will will heal itself eventually,” or because it’s not the first time there’s been a mass extinction, or because the effect of humans can’t possibly be significant in comparison to the size and power of nature, are evil and dumb. What we’re doing is irresponsible and tragic, and we need to take drastic action and do it quickly, not find flippant ways to shirk all responsibility on the matter. You would avoid cutting off your own hand at almost any cost—or even worse, allowing you and your whole family to die–yet when it comes to humanity doing something literally billions of times worse than that, the problem is shrugged off with a “it’ll heal.”
For the individual, not being a part of the problem would require a drastic and hugely inconvenient lifestyle change, and for what? The earth would still be doomed; one individual’s action is just a drop in the bucket. That’s the paradox: we all need to rein in our lifestyles of luxury consumerism, but almost no individual does it because one individual can’t make a significant difference. The only way to solve this is with immediate and draconianly strict regulations on industry. (In fact, BP invented the idea of the personal carbon footprint in order to look environmentally conscientious while deflecting efforts away from legislative changes, which are what’s really necessary to make a difference, toward individual responsibility.)
The problem with trying to do instate strict regulations on industry—at least in the USA—is that the money is power, and the private sector is in bed with the government. Corporations hire ex-government officials and turn them into lobbyists; in fact there seems to be a revolving door between lobbyists and congressmen. They bribe government officials with better-paying jobs. They donate to the campaigns of corrupt, corporation-friendly politicians. Corporations actually write the bills that get accepted by congress. Their ex-employees even end up in government positions such as, in Trump’s administration, an climate-change-denying lobbyist being appointed head of the EPA.
To get the government to place stricter regulations on the industry would require first getting industry out of bed with the government. But that’s an almost impossible task because the politicians who gain from this arrangement aren’t about to change anything. in fact, the bigger the wealth imbalance gets, and the more avenues are created by the wealthy to influence government, the bigger the wealth imbalance will get and the more avenues for the wealthy to influence government will be created. It’s a vicious cycle, and it won’t end well. Probably the only way out of this is with a civil war that ends in us starting over from scratch.
Even that would only help one country’s part in the destruction of the environment, though; there’d still be plenty of other countries continuing in the destruction. Maybe the only way to really end the environmental destruction and avoid our own doom would be with the instating of a One World Government. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like we’ll get that any time soon. If we do get it, it’ll probably be through some kind of world war, and the problem with that is that World War III will probably be a nuclear holocaust, which will be worse on the environment than anything. And, realistically speaking, even if we got a civil war in the USA or a One World Government, the chances are still slim that we’d make the extreme sacrifices necessary to save ourselves and all the rest of life on Earth. It’s just too easy to turn a blind eye until it’s too late, and that’s probably exactly what we’ll do. There’s no hope.