[...] Parfit disagreed, writing the following in his 1984 book Reasons
and Persons: “Civilization began only a few thousand years ago. If we do
not destroy mankind, these few thousand years may be only a tiny fraction
of the whole of civilized human history. The difference between
[possibilities] 2 and 3 may thus be the difference between this tiny fraction
and all of the rest of history.”
Extinction, as the environmental slogan goes, is forever.19 The true
horror of the end of the world is measured not by our own deaths, and the
deaths of everyone we know and love, not just by the deaths of our children
and grandchildren, but by the nullification of all who would come after
them, all those who would live and love and carry this species forward. An
existential risk realized is the death of the future.
People have changed, of course. We’ve largely abandoned hideous
practices like slavery, expanded the circle of human rights, and fought for
the power to rule ourselves. But those changes mostly fed the engine of
growth, and put more power in the hands of individuals, to be used for good
or ill. Short of a fundamental political or even spiritual revolution, what I
can’t see changing is that primal human drive to expand.
Perhaps I’m suffering from a failure of imagination. The Marxist
political theorist and literary critic Fredric Jameson, after all, once wrote
that it is “easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of
capitalism.” But everywhere I’ve traveled on this planet, I’ve seen people
who want more. More for themselves, and more for their children. Who will
tell them they can’t have it, even if it may cost the world?
So we must run faster, as if we’re running for our lives.
Bryan Walsh, End Times, 2019.