Transition to redemption | Guest column

Submitted by Steve Ulvi

As a blue-collar kid in suburban California following WWII, we enjoyed many simple freedoms. Young families rapidly infilled modest developments in old walnut and almond orchards, grassy oak hills to roam. We didn’t feel the urban apprehension of economic displacement, social injustice or class-constrained dreams.

Futuristic sci-fi films like “On the Beach” and “War of the Worlds” pushed aside the stodgy horror of Count Dracula to stimulate our amygdalae in new ways. There was always a bright line between the worrisome screen images and our secure lives.

The Cold War heated up some. We were reminded by eerie siren tests and absurd duck and cover drills. Students walked home pretending an ordered public response to incoming intercontinental ballistic missiles that would incinerate, or in time, invisibly poison us all. Billowing mushroom cloud footage dwarfed human things and vaporized atolls and desert sands.

Then in October 1962, gnawing fears spiked as grainy aerial images of silos and missiles taken over Cuba, proved an imminent national threat. The intense stand-off was a global drama that lasted 13 days and juddered our sense of security and the future. Eventually, reasoned choice avoided mutually assured destruction.

At this moment, we live together on the landward margin of a colossal, yet invisible tectonic plate subduction, understood by sensitive instrumentation and elegant scientific research. Casually we prepare for the release of immense pent-up kinetic energy beneath the pacific swells. We know that 319 years ago mayhem was last unleashed; minutes of sudden upheaval, coastal tsunamis and the awful silence of villages erased.

For today’s human swarm and unsustainable communities, we should expect patchwork apocalyptic destruction, serious loss of life, criminal disorder, exodus and years of third-world conditions. Individual fates will be dictated by where we happen to be in that existential moment. Pure chance.

In contrast, the escalating climate emergency dwarfs these sorts of existential threats in terms of scale. Over time and geography. Ignorance of atmospheric physics and chemistry, the fuzzy thinking of faith, political dithering and corporate malfeasance create perilous inertia. Never mind that there is a thoroughly settled scientific understanding of cause and effect built upon a mountain of factual evidence. An irrational abuse of life-affirming natural systems, and worse, the planet’s crucial atmospheric envelope, is creating a hell on earth.

Paradoxically, the explosive industrialization that spawned human overpopulation, ecological destruction and global climate weirding also provides the technical knowledge that may provide some salvation. Avoidance of the chaos of accelerating biophysical feedback loops and the intensification of extreme conditions rests with informed masses of citizens rapidly wresting control from those in power who continue to deny reality and elevate their own selfish interests over the biotic community.

Circumventing an endless Dark Age will not occur by chance, but by collective choice. A transition back to local sustainability. There just might be time for globally unified action, first world sacrifices and reduced consumption to avoid climate apocalypse. Otherwise, we may be known as those who failed humanity; the “Unforgiven.”