megacities, airports, highways, stadiums, plane fleets, resorts ...

What appear to be disparate effects - say, the normalisation of plastic surgery for teenagers at one end, and wars for control of oil reserves at the other - are really shards of the same shattered vessel, our cup which hath overfloweth. As denial comes to the centre of the culture, two social tasks, steering rational action and reproducing an ideology, start to be confused for each other. The production of values is rendered cynical and strategic (the knowing emptiness of Paris Hilton) and planning comes to be based on illusion and fantasy (the empty knowingness of George W. Bush).

It seems to me that it is this aspect of our culture that will expand in the years to come. We are in the strange cultural situation whereby the core process at the heart of our civilisation - scientific rationality - overwhelmingly argues that we are undermining, or already have undermined, the basis of life. And yet there seems no way in which a real process of cultural change (as opposed to near-useless "carbon neutralising") might develop on a global scale, before visible and disastrous effects start to concentrate the collective human mind.

This is not to suggest that the case for global warming has been utterly, unequivocally proven, or that the (fairly rare) honest sceptics should cease to offer alternative accounts. It is simply to make the cultural point that the phenomenon has been taken into people's lives as a truth, and that the utter state of denial in which we find ourselves cannot but have a series of corrosive cultural effects. After all, if even the mid-range scenarios prove correct, then a vast amount of current human effort, the megacities, airports, highways, stadiums, plane fleets and resorts, amount to the most phenomenally futile project in human history.

Guy Rundle in the Australian Literary Review; full text here.

No comments: