The Golden Age

It can’t go on, you know – it really can’t. I work 18 hours a week, and still I produce nothing physical of any actual value. I buy my food from a shop, have no idea where it comes from and am incapable of making it for myself. For my day-to-day existence I rely on energy generated halfway across a country, by machines I barely understand, transmitted through wires as thick and temporary as my thumb.

I consume coffee and wine and sugar and think that it is perfectly natural to fly to another country twice a year. My clothes are made from hydrocarbons while the appliances in my house last five years if I am lucky, and must then be tossed away as nobody can be bothered to repair them.

A vast chunk of my life is “electronic”, existing only as long as the hard disks and CDs that support it, which is not very long at all. I cannot trap an animal, or preserve fruit, or even repair my own shoes but I think of myself as “educated” and “useful” when all I really do is convert raw materials from a distant source to a constant stream of waste and noise.

We are living in a golden age and it’s already starting to unravel. We have spent our inheritance – that fantastic gift of fossil fuels, ready-made energy with which we have build a vast and ever-expanding and all-consuming civilisation. Ecosystems have been pushed past their limits like springs stretched too far; soil and water and air have been depleted and degraded to a degree never before seen; people have exploded across the surface of this world as if it will expand like a balloon to accommodate them forever.

Well it won’t, and we’re not as smart as we think we are. Great civilisations have fallen in the past – the Romans, the Mayans – and the current one will go the same way. It’s a toss-up whether we get taken out by resource depletion, or climate change, or war, or disease, but either way we are clocking in our timecard. Unless we make radical changes to the way we behave, to the economic systems that demands permanent growth in order to survive, and to the privileged idiots who run the whole circus, we are sliding all the way down.

And after we have slid just a little, there will be no return. Every resource will become valuable, every neighbour will become an enemy and every horrendous weapon will be used. There will be no magical last-minute technological fix to pull 6 billion arses out of the fire. Unless we do something now – and we all know that we won’t – then it’s simply time to stack the chairs on the tables, turn out the lights and say goodbye to several hundred years, and several thousand terrabytes, of mostly crap.

/ paddy


8 thoughts on “The Golden Age

  1. I like your writing Paddy. I grow my own vegetable on my deck in the city during the warm monthes and they supply half of my needs for fresh produce to eat during most of those months. It is a lot of work but it is also something I enjoy doing.

    I went to see a movie yesterday. I go to a theatre about twice a year. It’s so expensive to go to one here. I watched “Children of Men”. This post you wrote rings true to me. Have some hope though… as much as there is nasty things going on in the world there are also some beautiful things happening to.

  2. True: I know a lot of good is happening, so maybe in the end it be be a tie…I grew tomatoes on my balcony this summer, and chillies, but they all died in one way or another. I have red fingers, it seems.

    Children of Men looks great…I wonder when it comes here. We get everything about 3 months after the rest of the civilised world

  3. Another little bit of hope. I was out with my family for dinner last night. Nearly all the conversation was about global warming, its effects and what needs to be done. This included my dad who not many years ago remarked ‘why would anyone vote for the Green Party? They’ll have everyone on bicycles!’. He may even vote for them now.
    To be fair he used to think Colin Powell was trustworthy and if he said war with Iraq was necessary then it must be. My dad is not afraid to change his mind when the evidence is there.
    Then I go to work today and everyone is talking about the same thing. its amazing what a few news reports and TV programmes can do.
    I’m not saying everyone is going to sacrifice their lifestyles voluntarily by stopping use of fossil fuels, but more and more people are becoming aware and realising something has to be done.
    This mood has to fostered and built on.
    The War On Environmental Terroism is at hand!

  4. Stu: well I guess that’s good. People over here are talking about it too, although almost nobody will do much on their own steam – a nice lifestyle is just too, well, nice. And it just points out the fact that the media completely control what we think, that it takes some media coverage to get people interested. Where were the fucking media years ago when it would have made a bigger difference? It’s a scary fact the the Sunday World is such a controlling factor in our lives…

  5. I agree that media has a big role to play. Maybe even this sort of media?
    Again on the radio just now there was quite a heated discussion about Bertie Ahern getting the government jet to fly from Baldonnel to Dublin Airport to pick him up – saving him the bother of travelling acroos the city. This 8 mile trip was flown 43 times in 2006 at a cost of €101,000 and 37 tonnes of carbon. The debate was very much against him not just in the cost to the taxpayer but also to the environment and that as a leader of the country he should be leading by example. This ‘panel’ were not made up of environmentalists, socialists or political party members.
    Keep it up.

  6. I have grown both tomatoes and chillies. I do well with tomatoes but the chillies… I have red hands also.

    As for media coverage. I remember off the Eastern Coast of Canada when the last Iceberg off the coast of Newfoundland melted. I was born in in the early 70’s. I grew up with the largest Candian Oil refinery in my backyard. There were a lot of environmental protests in the 80’s to get the air cleaned up for the city of Saint John.

    I was back last year around this time. It was 15 degrees celcius when I steeped off the plane. I couldn’t believe it.

    Stuart I think all of our parents have been aware of what is happening. We all are. The question is what do we do? Governments around the world will need to take a harsh stance on major poluters of the world and force everyday peoeple to amend their daily lives from one of consumption to one of conservation and renewable energy.

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