It's Okay. You Are Living Through Collapse.
Everything doesn't have to be fine.
They cleaned up San Francisco.
For a week.
The city brought in thousands of police officers to "clear" homeless camps around the Moscone Center where world leaders gathered to talk about the future of the planet. You don't have to think long about why they did it. The president of China was coming. It would make the U.S. look awfully bad to make Xi Jinping wade through a sea of jobless drug addicts.
If you've ever paid attention to the country's homeless problem, you know what goes on when the police "clear" these camps. They toss people in jail. They throw all of their belongings in the trash. Those belongings include everything from identification documents they spent months obtaining to laptops, along with bicycles and work clothes. Yes, the homeless often have jobs. They don't make enough to afford the astronomical rent. When they get out of jail, they find out they were fired. They've lost everything.
They have to start over.
Imagine being homeless, and having all of your stuff thrown away so the U.S. can present the appearance of prosperity to world leaders. While you're in jail, losing your job and everything you own, your president brags about how well everything's going. I bet it would make you angry. It's the kind of thing dictators of undeveloped countries do.
Now for something completely different.
Today, I read an article about a new trend in the tech sector. A piece in Business Insider calls it overemployment.
It's the new passive income.
Now instead of gigs and side hustles, upper income workers are engaging in flat out fraud with their employers. They're juggling two or even three high paying jobs, earning as much as a million dollars a year. Most of them bring in more like $500,000. They go after jobs intended for junior employees, because those pay well but carry less responsibility. None of these people really care about depriving career opportunities from Gen Z grads.
They want to retire early.
If you read between the lines, you see what's going on here as well. People are scared, and they're desperate. There's no such thing as a high paying job anymore. If you really want financial security...
You need two high-paying jobs.
A growing number of people are willing to risk getting fired and even sued so that they can escape the hell of our economy. They aren't trying to advance in their careers anymore. They're trying to bail.
It's really something, isn't it?
Meanwhile, Philadelphia has started a program where teenagers are teaching high school. Yep, high schoolers are teaching now. The local news station says it's how they're dealing with their teacher shortage.
They're hoping it goes nationwide.
It probably will.
That's life now. Teenagers are working in meat packing plants and construction sites. They're waiting tables and serving beer. They're working the fast food jobs nobody else wants. They're driving trucks.
The kids are going to be running the schools.
The economy depends on them.
While the U.S. brags about employment, they don't talk about these things. They don't tell you the economy is being propped up by child teachers and adults so desperate and scared they're hoarding jobs. They don't tell you that climate change is disrupting supply chains and destroying infrastructure faster than it can be rebuilt. They don't tell you they've let a level-3 pathogen run through the entire population, killing and disabling our workforce. They're doing just what they did in San Francisco, putting on appearances.
It's a big lie.
Underneath that lie, the collapse is chugging right along. Earlier this year, a tropical storm grew into a Cat 5 hurricane overnight and obliterated an entire city. In Australia, wildfires are burning down areas the size of Spain. Six percent of Canada's forests went up in smoke, and that smoke choked half the U.S. Greece lost a quarter of its farmland in massive floods. The heat index in Brazil hit 137F (58.5C). For perspective, the highest heat index in history happened in Saudi Arabia, where it reached 178 degrees.
Brazil is supposed to be a rainforest.
Not a desert.
You might've seen some noise over a new climate study by James Hansen, the godfather of climate science. He's telling us that things have gotten much worse than anyone predicted. Everything we feared, from superstorms to megafloods, will hit us harder and sooner than anyone thought. We're talking about storms that can fling boulders the size of houses. We're talking about crop failures and famines. We don't have until the 2050s anymore. These things have already started to happen. Nearing $60 billion, this year saw the most destruction from natural disasters since we started tracking it.
It's all hitting us now.
Climate scientists are saying the disasters we're living through weren't supposed to happen for three more decades. For all the shaming and gaslighting, doomers were right the whole time. Even the most "alarmist" climate scientists were holding back.
In a surprise to no one who's been paying attention, bird flu has started surging again. This makes it the third winter in a row, and epidemiologists are bracing for a spillover to humans. We've already seen several close calls. We have one protein protecting us against a virus whose entire job is to mutate past defenses and find new hosts. You know it's bad when figureheads like Bonnie Henry get on television to preemptively downplay the disease, even while the Canadian government begs poultry workers to get vaccinated, even though the current vaccines we have probably won't work very well. Despite what you hear, bird flu kills nearly every bird it infects, and more than half of humans.
Bird flu is just one of several diseases spreading now. There's a handful threatening to start new pandemics. They include Ebola, Marburg, Machupo, and Nipah. A study in the BMJ predicts that zoonotic diseases will spill over ten times greater and faster now, thanks to the destruction of habitat for wild animals. Meanwhile, we're dropping like flies from opportunistic infections in the wake of Covid (SARS 2), an all season virus that disables your immune system and then trashes your entire body.
Let's face it, we're living in the pandemicene now, described by Ed Young as "a new age of infectious dangers." More than 40,000 viruses are going to be meeting humans for the first time. As Yong writes, "species that have never coexisted will become neighbors, creating thousands of infectious meet-cutes in which viruses can spill over into unfamiliar hosts."
It came early.
Every day, the unthinkable happens. We're experiencing deep levels of emotional and psychological whiplash. We've been catapulted 30 years into the future, and our brains are struggling with cognitive dissonance. We wake up thinking it's 2019, and then we realize it's actually 2049.
If that weren't enough, we're watching a genocide.
Not only is our government funding and presiding over genocide, but our government is using special forces to oversee it.
Here's the bitter truth. We're not just watching a genocide. We're watching the first genocide of the collapse age. There's going to be more. As countries become desperate in the mad dash for earth's remaining resources, they're going to engage in dehumanization like we've never seen. They're going to come up with all kinds of reasons to make it sound important.
As Jeffery Sachs of Columbia University's Earth Institute says, we're witnessing the end of a massive political failure: “Our politicians like wars. They don’t want to save the planet, in the right way.”
That's exactly right.
Our leaders will increasingly turn to war as a solution and a distraction from our growing problems. It's already happening. That's why our politicians are happy to keep throwing tens of billions into weapons deals. Not only are they competing for resources, but they're preparing to use those weapons to keep their own populations in line as things get worse.
That's where things like cop city come into play. It's no accident that as everything starts to crumble, leaders at every level are pouring funds into police and cracking down on protestors. They're going to need thousands of cops with military gear to clear homeless camps and put down protests.
If you want to understand our future, look at the start of the Great Depression before Roosevelt was elected. Read about the dust storms and crop failures. Read about the massive civil unrest. Then imagine how things would've gone if Reagan had been president then, instead of FDR.
The world isn't ending fast.
It's ending slow.
Over the last year, I've watched half my coworkers lose their careers to Long Covid. My friends and colleagues talk about heat depression. It's so hot for so many months out of the year, it hurts their mental health.
They can't enjoy an afternoon outside.
It would kill them.
Now we're heading into the winter months, and we can't spend time with our families without risking one of a dozen contagious diseases that would ruin our health. If you go to a hospital, nobody wants to help you. They're too tired and broken. ERs routinely close now due to staff shortages. Appointments and surgeries get canceled at the last minute. If you annoy your doctor too much, they'll just stop treating you.
This is what the beginning of collapse looks like.
It's full of denial.
Most people we know don't want to admit how much has changed over the last few years. We've gone from living relatively predictable lives to wearing N95 masks every single time we leave the house or interact with someone outside of our immediate families. We've gone from feeling a vague sense of dread about the climate to choking on wildfire smoke and hiding in our bathrooms from F4 tornadoes. At least, that was my year.
I'm not writing this to make anyone upset. If anything, I think it helps our mental health to acknowledge what's going on.
You are living through collapse.
It's okay to feel a sense of dread and anxiety. It's okay to feel fear. It's okay if you don't feel like hanging out with old friends who want to cosplay 2019. It's okay to sit alone in the dark, not thinking about anything.
Your mind needs a rest. It goes through a lot every day.
Every day, you have to hold two contradictory ideas in your head. On the one hand, you have to accept that you're living through the collapse of industrial civilization. You have to deal with the moral injury that comes from realizing that many of your friends and family don't care enough about you to do a few simple things. You have to deal with a government that isn't just funding genocide but is actively participating it in it, while lying to you when it comes to... just about everything that pertains to your survival.
On the other hand...
This collapsing civilization isn't going to give you a break. It requires your participation. You still have to go to work. You still have to smile at customers, even through a mask, if you're allowed to wear one. You still have to go through the motions. You have to observe superficial politeness. You have to pay for rent and groceries. You have to pay taxes.
It's a lot.
You spend enough time pretending everything's fine. It's okay to sit down and think about the world you're actually living in now. It's a world where adults hoard high paying jobs and children lead classrooms because there's no more teachers. It's a world where we could soon have two or even three pandemics happening at the same time. It's a world steeped in epidemic levels of respiratory illness every single winter. It's a world where storms are going to start flinging boulders at us. You can only prepare so much.
It's okay. You don't have to lie to yourself.
You're living through collapse.
We can talk all day long about what we can or should be doing to slow it down or make life more bearable for each other. Before any of that happens, you have to just sit down and ground yourself.
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