Apocalypse Mirage

Apocalypse, Apocalypse,I love ya, Apocalypse,you’re always a day away…(w/ apologies to Annie)

[last updated June 27, 2021 6:31 AM (MDT)]

Having been born into a fundamentalist Christian household, I am intimately familiar with the apocalyptic mindset. From the beginning, the end of the world has always been nigh. The writers of the so-called ‘gospels’ put apocalypse in Jesus’ mouth frequently. He told his disciples of a time, supposedly before they would die, that the entire temple in Jerusalem would be a pile of rubble. By the time the writer of ‘Revelations’ was finished, Jesus returns and the entire earth would be destroyed and a ‘new heaven and earth’ would be created, along with a 1,000 year reign with Jesus as literal king. After this, Satan would, for unknown reasons, be released from hell and the final war to end all wars would be fought. After this, actual heaven.

Yes, it is completely wacky from the outside, but on the inside it has consumed a lot of Christianity’s time ever since. The number of people who decided that, in spite of biblical admonitions to the contrary, they had, in fact, determined when Jesus would return to set all of this into motion, is surprisingly large. Once newspapers came into being, almost any headline could be interpreted as a ‘sign’ that the prophecies of Revelations had begun to be fulfilled.

The most famous recent example of this was Hal Lindsey’s book ‘Late, Great Planet Earth.’ Around the same time, similar books were published in the secular press, such as “Silent Spring” and “The Population Bomb.” All predicted apocalypse, just for different reasons. But they had one common theme – the culprit to blame for the end of the world was humanity.

In the Bible man was implicated from the start. Or, more accurately, ‘that woman’, Eve. We all inherited our ‘sin nature’ from her desire for a fruit. Again, I know that sounds bonkers from the outside. But Rachel Carlson and Paul Ehrlich touch on similar themes. Man’s hubris, in the form of capitalism and consumption and greed were killing the planet. If we don’t stop (repent) we will all die, and take a lot of wildlife with us.

Here there is a bit of a disconnect. From a Christian viewpoint, ecology is a bit of a waste of time. If God will destroy and remake the world, why bother saving trees? Better to focus on our immortal, eternal souls. But for the Environmental movement, the earth is everything, and these two books helped launch a movement.

Carlson’s efforts may or may not have actually saved any birds, but it most definitely cost millions of lives from malaria, especially in more poor countries. Ehrlich’s book(s) have proven ridiculously incorrect, thanks in large part to the ‘green revolution,’ but that hasn’t stopped him from continuing to parrot his original thesis of an eventual tipping point where famine and the resulting chaos will kill much of humanity. Even though the world population has grown massively since Ehrlich’s first book, we continue to think of the earth as over-populated.

But now we have reached the ultimate apocalypse – for our sins, the planet itself will kill us all.

Gaia’s Revenge

Generally speaking, climate change proponents share a belief about the world with environmental apocalyptists: it is fragile! Our man-made chemicals are evil, our very bodies consume more than we can produce, and now even the very act of breathing changes the atmospheric balance in a way that dooms the earth. Our exhalations are pollution.

Skeptics, on the other hand, believe CO2 is an important but minuscule part of our atmosphere, one which enables us to live by giving life to plants. Any greenhouse impact it may have is negligible and mostly offset by other factors in our extremely complex and chaotic climate system.

Up until 2005 or so I took the default conservative position of generally laughing and scoffing at climate change/global warming ideas. Once I shifted my politics to the left I eventually ran across Greg Craven’s infamous video series which caused me to change my opinion on climate change.

I settled into this mindset for many years, but balanced by hope that we would turn the ship around and reduce emissions just in time to save us from the worst case scenario. Then I read a couple of books and basically lost all hope and sunk into despondency. I had a full-on existential crisis!

One book was The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace Wells. Unfortunately Wells chose to try and provide a little hope in the form of geoengineering, which didn’t sit well with the Doomers who criticized him for wearing rose-colored glasses in this open letter to Wells, published in The Ecologist. The emphasis in the book was on how unlivable the world will be if emissions aren’t reduced.

The other book was The End of Ice by Dahr Jamail. Jamail basically has zero hope left, and presents none in his book. Basically he talks about living out the rest of his life as a form of wake, bearing witness to the end. He is, evidently, still living on acreage on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington state with a community of friends.

Even though there was still a part of my brain to which this apocalyptic worldview appealed, my thinking had shifted enough that I was able to pull up before it was too late for me. This came as a result of a lot of reading, much of it on the internet, but a couple of books really helped:

The End of Doom by Ronald Bailey and Apocalypse Never by Michael Shellenberger

A final quote and link:

"in every age everybody knows that up to his own time, progressive improvement has been taking place; nobody seems to reckon on any improvement in the next generation ... On what principle is it that with nothing but improvement behind us, we are to expect nothing but deterioration before us?". - Thomas Macauley, 1830

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