The more people are led to anticipate getting through the climate emergency all right, the more likely they are, I think, to turn their focus on other concerns, of which there are all too many these days, locally, nationally, and internationally. Broadly stated categorical statements predictive of the end of times will be largely dismissed or will in some folks validate their inaction. They will lead others to get active one way or another, locally or on a larger scale. Reductive oversimplification of the positions of scientists or commentators will also lead to inaction, for the most part, for instance when Deep Adaptation’s activists are inaccurately represented as hopeless doom-sayers. Publicity from advocates for terrific technological engineering of solutions to the climate crisis will likely reduce activism and problem-solving on a local scale or retard the challenging projects iunvolved in fundamentally different systems of economic, commercial, and political processes.
I firmly believe that all predictions are off, including predictions of just how collapses, unravelings, and catastrophes will occur and when, and how people will respond and when. The whole situation is truly unprecedented. We can only predict that it will get more severe. Will that lead to more citizen activism? I presume so.
Meanwhile, large scale national and international systems and customs seem to show little to no sign of transformation at this point. We don’t really need to decide whether humanity will go extinct or whether Wallace-Wells’ upbeat enthusiasm is justified. There are many fronts on which radical and urgent action is desperately needed and not happening, particularly to address the recent, current, and coming harms coming to the ecosystems and safe survival of people of color and the “global south” as climate chaos advances its mercurial designs. To focus on helping people in the NYTimes readership feel optimism and acceptance of our demographic’s hopes for less disruption and more safety in the coming era feels to me like a willing extension of the betrayal of our sisters and brothers around this home planet, a continuing exploitation we can’t easily fight our way out of.