That man-made climate change is real, and potentially an existential
threat to many communities around the world and many aspects of
civilization, is so well established as a scientific fact by this point that it
seems kind of dull to run over the evidence again. We’re way beyond the
point where this might all be another polywater or N-ray-type situation that
everybody’s going to be embarrassed about in a few years’ time. And yet
apparently there are still plenty of people who have enough reasons to deny
it—financial, political, the sheer bloody-minded joy of being a contrarian
knobber—that we keep getting dragged back to the “debate about whether
it’s real” stage every time it looks like we might make some progress on the
“actually do something about it” stage. It’s pretty much the playbook the
manufacturers of leaded gasoline used back in the day: you don’t need to
disprove something, you just need to be able to claim the jury’s out long
enough to keep raking in that sweet, sweet profit.
In some ways, it feels like it would be a weirdly poetic end to the journey
that Lucy failed to begin all those millions of years ago. All that
exploration, all that progress, all those dreams and grand notions, and that’s
where we end up: trapped on our planet by a prison we’ve made from our
Whatever our future holds, whatever baffling changes come along in the
next year, the next decade and the next century, it seems likely that we’ll
keep on doing basically the same things. We will blame other people for our
woes, and construct elaborate fantasy worlds so that we don’t have to think
about our sins. We will turn to populist leaders in the aftermath of economic
crises. We will scramble for money. We will succumb to groupthink and
manias and confirmation bias. We will tell ourselves that our plans are very
good plans and that nothing can possibly go wrong.
Or...maybe we won’t? Maybe this is the moment that we change, and
start learning from our history. Maybe all this is just being pessimistic, and
no matter how dumb and depressing the world today may sometimes seem,
in actuality humanity is getting wiser and more enlightened, and we are
lucky enough to live at the dawn of a new age of not fucking up. Maybe we
really do have the capacity to be better.
— Tom Phillips, Humans: A Brief History of How We F*cked It All Up, 2018.