I didn’t think much about water until my friend started talking about it.
We were sharing doomsday scenarios about the future of humanity, and I checked off the usuals- climate change, nuclear war, etc. He mentioned water, and the fact that huge swaths of the global population either does not have access to clean water on a mass scale, or won’t for very long, including right here in the United States. A podcast I listened to last week paints a particularly dire picture, predicting that population shifts and droughts could lead to the collapse of entire nations.
Water crises do not supplant the traditional nuclear holocaust and severe climate change threats; it’s simply one more to add to the list. And while we’re at it, let’s consider that more and more experts are warning that the United States is heading for another economic disaster, potentially even worse than the Great Recession. It’s not just government debt, of course. Take your pick: student loan debt, credit card debt, housing debt. Interest rates are going up, and it looks like the zombie corpse of the economy which died in 2008- and was reanimated by “quantitative easing” – is falling apart, limb by limb. Oh yeah, let’s not forget the reemergence of preventable disease, the rise of populism on a global scale, and the risk of regional conflicts in places we’ve never even heard of.
In short, we’re fucked.
I think it’s important that we accept that something (or multiple somethings) really, really bad is going to happen in the near future. It’s too late to prevent most of the things we’re being warned about. We’ve already spent the money, and now the bills are coming due. Persisting with the fantasy that we can head off catastrophe if only X miraculous thing occurs is going to get a lot of people killed when the inevitable happens anyway. Wars are going to happen. Economies are going to collapse. Climate is going to change. There’s no avoiding it.
But this is not a call for nihilism or despair. If we accept the reality that is before us, then we can do the work we need to be focused on right now: saving as many lives as possible. If Jakarta and Louisiana are already sinking into the ocean, how can we save those people? How can we grapple with resurgent nationalism, not to prevent the wars this ideology will cause, but to stop those wars from becoming Armageddon? The same old solutions are what has partly led us into this mess. We need really creative responses to not try and prevent catastrophes, but to deal with the ones that are happening right now.
This is not the end of the world, and it (probably) isn’t the end of the human race. It is the end of the Pax Americana and the unipolar world order; it is the end of ruthlessly exploiting natural resources without regard to consequences; it is the end of the assumption that progress is always forward and the arc of history is moving in a positive direction. Shit is about to get real, and we have to prepare for the worst if we hope to avoid it.