A Grim New Definition of Generation X

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            People born in the 1960s may be the last human beings who will get to live out their full actuarial life expectancies.

            “Climate change now represents a near- to mid-term existential threat” to humanity, warns a recent policy paper by an Australian think tank. Civilization, scientists say, could collapse by 2050. Some people may survive. Not many.

            Some dismiss such purveyors of apocalyptic prognoses as hysterics. To the contrary, they’re Pollyannas. Every previous “worst-case scenario” prediction for the climate has turned out to have understated the gravity of the situation. “Paleoclimatologists have shown that past warming episodes show that there are mechanisms which magnify its effects, not represented in current climate models from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to the Paris Accords,” reports The Independent. It’s probably too optimistic to assume that we’ll make it to 2050.

            Gives new meaning to Generation X.

            Millennials and the children we call Generation Z face the horrifying prospect that they will get stuck with the tab for humanity’s centuries-long rape of planet earth, the mass desecration of which radically accelerated after 1950. There is an intolerably high chance that today’s young people will starve to death, die of thirst, be killed by a superstorm, succumb to a new disease, boil to death, asphyxiate from air pollution, be murdered in a riot or shot or blown up in a war sparked by environmentally-related political instability long before they survive to old age.

            Long threatened, never taken seriously, not even now that it’s staring us right in the face, human extinction is coming for the children and grandchildren we claim to love but won’t lift a finger to save.

            Shelves sag under the weight of books that have been written arguing that we still have a chance to save ourselves. I wish I could believe that. Human population has tripled since the 1950s. More than a million species have gone extinct. Ninety percent of the fish in the ocean have vanished, replaced by one billion tons of plastic. Two-thirds of the trees have been cut down. The polar ice cap is gone; it’s never coming back.

            We can’t stop global warming. An increase of four degrees Celsius over the baseline set at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution means game over. We’re well on our way there. It doesn’t make sense to think that we can avoid extinction.

            What if we woke up and demanded action from our political leaders? Radical problems require radical solutions; only the most radical of solutions could resolve the most radical problem of ruining our planet’s ability to sustain us: revolution. We would have to rise up and abolish—immediately—consumer capitalism in all the major greenhouse gas-producing nations, prioritize cleaning the environment as the human race’s top concern, and pivot to an economic mindset in which we extract the bare minimum from the ecosystem that we need in order to survive and nothing more.

            Voting might achieve some incremental reforms but reform falls far short of what we require. Saving our young people (and their children, should they be foolish enough to have any) would require global revolution, the violent overthrow of the ruling elites and replacing them with people who understand what must be done. It would need to happen today. Fifty years ago would be better. Got a time machine?

            None of this is going to happen. We are going to sleepwalk to our doom in a haze of social media and corporate entertainment distraction.

            So it’s time for people who are younger than I am to start thinking about how they want to spend the rest of their likely-to-be-truncated lives, and how they plan to face mass premature death.

            Pending human extinction destroys the answers provided by religion and philosophy. Knowing that there won’t be anyone to know that we were ever here raises the question: why bother to do anything? This column, this year’s “important” presidential election, love, hate, everything will lose its meaning when the last member of our species draws her last breath. Earth is unlikely to be visited by an alien archaeologist, much less uncover everything we’ve made and created (assuming any of it survives), much less figure out what any of it meant, before the sun expands into a red giant and ends it all.

            Much is to be said for hedonism: eat, drink, have sex, and don’t bother to sort your recycling, for tomorrow we die. Stoicism has its advantages too; go out with dignity rather than weeping and gnashing your teeth and making your fellow survivors miserable.

            Nihilism is about to become the best worst possible life strategy. Life is meaningless. That will soon become obvious. Moral principles, relics of a time with a future, will blow away like the irradiated dust we leave behind.

            None of this will have mattered.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Francis: The People’s Pope.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)


  • happy new year? 🙁

  • At least I’ve heard more people out in the media openly discussing their fears of global climate catastrophe. I don’t know how we can turn around this capitalist economy toward a sustainable green one, but we have to do it. Perhaps revolution is the only way to wrest control from the overlords.
    “We are going to sleepwalk to our doom in a haze of social media and corporate entertainment distraction.”–this is what I’m afraid of if we don’t mobilize enough people.
    Or else we could also be killed by 5G technology

  • “Manson showed up in court with an “X” carved into his forehead, and would later alter it into a swastika.”

    The inspiration for Generation X, for X-ing out their own children, and then with moves “ever to the Right”?

    “Dog help us,” says the dyslexic atheist.

    • alex_the_tired
      January 1, 2020 9:26 PM

      Well, after a swastika, it’s kinda hard to upgrade further. I mean, you can make it a Windows logo, but, wow, I say stick with the swastika, at least some people are pro-Nazi. …

  • alex_the_tired
    December 31, 2019 7:00 PM

    You leave out much of it. (I recognize a negativity-off when I see one: “Draw!”)
    I’ve thought about this a lot over the years.
    I think the only hope left now is to let global warming run its course. It can’t be stopped. Sure, do what we can to mitigate, but realistically, what we have time for now is to prepare warehouse-sized time capsules for the future.
    I also think the end will come surprisingly quickly for most of us. How much food do you have in your home right now? A couple weeks probably. But keep in mind, if food has stopped flowing into the cities, water, sewer, electricity, and cable has stopped too. And people are going to start dying.
    If you can do it, prep some place to hide out for six months. Start planting crops. Hope you don’t have appendicitis or a bad tooth, and when you come out the other end, remember us once in a while.

    • Michael Moore recently said pretty much what you have written(I think it was on the podcast hosted by Matt Taibbi). Moore has started a new podcast himself, since he says it’s urgent to address what is going on now and making a film would take too much time before the election.

      • alex_the_tired
        January 1, 2020 9:24 PM

        Dear No,
        Thanks for that source to look/listen to.
        It’s funny though. Even as I type that, I realize another part of the problem with climate change. There’s SO MANY sources of information. It’s like when Family Guy did their Christmas special …
        Brian and Stewie get to the North Pole. Santa’s there and suicidal. The elves have inbred so much to produce enough workers to make all the iPods and other stuff that a lot of them just wander off into the snow. “I don’t even pray for them anymore. What’s the point? What kind of God would allow this?”
        That’s what it’s like in the new Information Age. I feel like one of the elves and ALL these sites are demanding my attention for Christmas. If it still snowed, I’d wander off into it myself …

  • Beach Watcher
    January 1, 2020 3:54 AM

    In his “World Made by Hand” series of novels James Howard Kunstler portrays life on a post-industrial/rechno planet. Some aspects are discouraging (tetanus is again fatal), but there’s merit in the idea of a scaled back civilization more closely aligned with the environment.

  • alex_the_tired
    January 1, 2020 7:53 AM

    On “Adult Swim,” (the late-night anime block on Cartoon Network), they run a program called “Dr. Stone.” The main character has been frozen in stone for 3,000-odd years. He revives in a world without technoloy and attempts to restore the world to 21st century levels of tech. It’s fascinating to realize how the knowledge is the crucial part for restoration. I wonder how hard it would be to manufacture the cure for tetanus in, say, a 19th century world. An 18th? 17th?

  • Margaret Atwood’s Madadam trilogy is also a good dystopian work of fiction. Especially the 2nd book. Atwood’s wry humor shines through so that it’s not so grim, yet still thought-provoking and a good read.

  • Well, Ted – there’s not much one can say when confronted by the extinction of one’s species, in particular when it is that very species which is reponsible for the debacle. The average life span for mammalian species is said to be about 1 million years – but we, being at least three times as smart as any of the others, have managed to cut that of our own by some two thirds. Not bad for a species that is pleased to call itself Homo sapiens sapiens….


  • Ted is right.
    Don’t forget cannibalism.

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