Could we be witnessing the “bystander effect” on a global scale? – Facing a threat, inaction is triggered when people wait to see how others will react. —
No 2793 by fw, November 4, 2021 —
Here’s my synopsis of a provocative new article by Caitlin Johnstone, “It’s Really Weird How Little We Talk About Humanity’s Imminent Doom.”
We are already witnessing a drastic drop in numbers in the animal kingdom, the very underpinning of Earth’s ecosystems. Climate change has become the prominent one of numerous threats to our deathward-bound biosphere. Curiously, popular discussion tends to focus narrowly on temperature and carbon emission levels. Two threats that are most assuredly commanding attention are global warming and an ecocidal capitalist system. The UN’s pledge to reach “carbon neutrality” by 2050 is a “worthless neoliberal sham.” And now we’re told the planet is hemorrhaging methane, with no sure solutions to stop it. As if things weren’t bad enough, a multi-front cold war is breaking out. How come we’re not talking about all these existential threats we’re facing? What we may have here is the “bystander effect” on a world-wide scale — Facing a threat, inaction is triggered when people wait to see how others will react . What about the media’s response? Humanity is hurtling towards destruction and the media distracts us with nonsense. Is there anything that we, as individuals, can do? Caitlin suggests we spread awareness among our friends and neighbours of the challenges we face. Facing doom, what better time to embrace the here and now, to treasure the miraculous majesty and beauty of our lives.
Caitlin Johnstone is an Australian mother of two, working in collaboration with her American husband Tim Foley. Everything she publishes is the result of an ongoing all-day conversation between herself and Tim about what’s going on in the world, but especially the U.S. Caitlin has editorial control over everything she publishes. She has a journalism degree, but it became clear to her before she graduated that there’s no real path to doing real journalism in the legacy media. Caitlin began publishing her opinion pieces in 2016 when she became increasingly concerned about the unjust treatment of the progressive movement by the mass media and the Democratic establishment.
Below is my slightly abridged repost of Caitlin’s article, featuring my added subheadings, text highlighting, some reformatting, and added images. Alternatively, to read the full, original article on Caitlin’s website, click on the following linked title.
We are already witnessing a drastic drop in numbers in the animal kingdom, the very underpinning of Earth’s ecosystems.
Did you know the insects are vanishing?
They are. Land-dwelling insects like butterflies, ants and grasshoppers are now half as common as they were 75 years ago; that’s why those of you who remember catching fireflies on summer nights as kids don’t see them much anymore, and why car windshields don’t get covered in dead bugs like they used to.
This is a part of the animal kingdom that the rest of the ecosystem is built upon, and it’s undergone a drastic plummet that we’ve personally witnessed in our own lifetimes. If you were a sapient insect watching it happen, you wouldn’t be thinking in terms of a future Armageddon, you’d feel that you were currently witnessing it.
Climate change has become the prominent one of numerous threats to our deathward-bound biosphere.
People bicker and argue about global warming and what should be done about it and if it even exists, but climate change is only one of the many ways our biosphere is moving toward death. There’s also been
Curiously, popular discussion tends to focus narrowly on temperature and carbon emission levels.
The way the debate fixates solely on temperature and carbon levels is like if someone had stage four cancer throughout their body and they were in a coma and their vital signs were dropping and the doctor said death is imminent, and everyone was stuck on arguing over whether or not low blood pressure is necessarily a bad thing.
Two threats that are most assuredly commanding attention are global warming and an ecocidal capitalist system.
And nothing’s being done about global warming anyway. Conspiracy types have been claiming for decades that it’s a hoax designed to advance this or that agenda, and during that time the only thing that’s advanced is the temperature of the planet and the ecocidal capitalist systems responsible for it.
The UN’s pledge to reach “carbon neutrality” by 2050 is a “worthless neoliberal sham”
The 2021 UN Climate Change Conference has seen world leaders issue a non-binding pledge to achieve carbon neutrality “by or around mid-century” while taking naps and tossing coins into Rome’s Trevi Fountain for “luck” in addressing the issue they could all solve quickly if they actually wanted to. “Carbon neutrality” is itself a highly misleading and potentially completely worthless neoliberal sham designed to allow the continuation of carbon output but attempting to fix it with more consumption.
And now we’re told the planet is hemorrhaging methane, with no sure solutions to stop it
Meanwhile methane—a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon in the short term—has started hemorrhaging into the atmosphere from thawing arctic permafrost, and no one really knows what to do about it. This, like the albedo effect of polar ice loss and numerous other self-reinforcing warming effects that have been unlocking in recent years, can potentially cause the Earth to continue warming all on its own regardless of future human behavior.
As if things weren’t bad enough, a multi-front cold war is just getting started
That’s all on top of the western empire ramping up world-threatening aggressions against both nuclear-armed Russia and nuclear-armed China simultaneously, a multi-front cold war the likes of which we’ve never seen before and which is only just barely getting started. And if we don’t wipe ourselves out by climate collapse or nuclear war, we could still easily do it fairly soon with weaponized AI.
How come we’re not talking about all the existential threats we’re facing?
So, our species is facing existential threats on myriad fronts which could easily lead to horrifying extinction-level events that we could easily see unfold in our own lifetimes.
And it’s just so very strange how we don’t talk about that more.
It’s like if you knew you had a deadly but treatable disease, and not only did you not pursue treatment, you also didn’t think about it much and didn’t talk about it with anyone. None of your friends even brought it up.
What we may have here is the “bystander effect” on a world-wide scale — – Facing a threat, inaction is triggered when people wait to see how others will react
The way we’re just sitting around going about our lives like this isn’t happening reminds me of that experiment where participants sit in a waiting room that’s filling up with smoke without knowing that the experiment is already underway. If the participants are alone they’ll generally take action to do something about the problem, but if they’re in the waiting room with other people who are secretly in on the experiment and have been told to ignore the smoke, the participant will also ignore it. The smoke machine can be billowing into the waiting room at levels that would have killed everyone in it if it were real smoke, and they’ll still remain inactive.
“Nobody else seems to be worried about it, so why should we?
We’re all kind of doing that right now with humanity’s impending doom. Nobody else seems to be worried about it, so why should we? If it were a big deal then surely the news would be talking about it, and surely our leaders would be doing more about it.
It’s the bystander effect in action, on a worldwide scale.
What about the media’s response? Humanity is hurtling towards destruction and the media distracts us with nonsense.
It’s what Bo Burnham calls “that funny feeling“, that peculiar experience of watching the smoke pouring into the room while no one does anything, of knowing we’re hurtling toward our destruction while the media run headlines like “Elijah Wood touted a newly acquired NFT. A racism scandal ensued.”
A funny feeling indeed.
Is there anything that we, as individuals, can do? Caitlin suggests we spread awareness among our friends and neighbours of the challenges we face
But of course, it doesn’t have to stay that way. We can help our species fight its way out of our waiting room stupor by taking action to spread awareness of the problems we face and their underlying causes, since spreading awareness is the only thing that ever makes any real difference in such matters anyway. Whether we’re on our way to our doom or not, and whether struggle is futile or not, working to help as a gratuitous act of love is still the sanest possible response to this glorious mess.
Facing doom, what better time to embrace the here and now, to treasure the miraculous majesty and beauty of our lives.
And even if we are all doomed and our fate is already sealed, it doesn’t have to be all bad. Some people with terminal diagnoses will tell you they’ve been living more in their last few months of life than in all their preceding decades combined. The fact that this could all end at any time is all the more reason to treasure it with all our hearts, to become big enough to let its beauty and majesty in so we can really appreciate it. To behold this miraculous place with eyes full of wonder. To pursue spiritual enlightenment and then laugh to the heavens when we realize it’s already here.
If you don’t succumb to doomerism and defeatism and really embrace this moment in history for what it is, this is the best possible time for a human to be alive.
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