Oil Slick

COP26 is unfolding in Glasgow. Sounds like, once again, an exercise in window dressing, a bunch of leaders coming together to pay lip service to environmental concerns. And once again, Greta Thunberg is riling things up, cutting though the BS, rallying young and old to demonstrate and get the attention of a bunch of people beholden to fossil fuel lobbyists and a world (er, a northern hemisphere) full of people who are used to not giving a second thought to how they live their lives.

The simple truth is that we’ve given ourselves no leeway, no wiggle room anymore. Our habits, lifestyles, sense of entitlement are all on the chopping block. Our whole economic way of life lies at the root of this. We’ve been careless and carefree for so long that we can’t really envision changing our ways.

Cold turkey probably would be calamitous, but we as a world have to start somewhere, start a trend toward some level of selflessness. Very painful, no doubt. The Kardashians will likely have a hard time with this, along with all those who have preyed upon a pervasive sense of shallowness and superficiality and god-awful selfishness.

So, do we all need to return to living in huts, revert to clans and fiefdoms and cans with string, and smoke signals? Maybe this is the fear—that in order to save the environment, we’d have to give up too much, we’d have to regress and learn to live with less. For many, there would be no going back, and maybe our options need not be so stark. It’s just that we’ve wasted so much time, frittered away precious days and years listening to the wrong voices, refusing to believe that things are as bad as people are saying.

The Cuyahoga River literally caught fire—for the 13th time since the late 1860s!—in 1969. Fifty-two years later, it looks like we’re still having trouble putting two and two together.

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