Managing One’s News Intake

In my book, I mention that I’ve found it helpful to deliberately moderate my intake of news. This doesn’t mean avoiding reality; it just means not taking in more media stories than I need to stay informed and on-task.

I’m well aware of the biospheric crisis, and don’t gain anything from hooking myself up to a steady drip-feed of horrific reports.

Then again, taking in a certain amount of the really scary news helps me maintain a healthy sense of urgency. When I say sense of urgency — in my case, I always know it’s urgent, but sometimes I need to be nudged to step up my communication with public officials and community leaders. The scary stories help me with that by reminding me of what’s at stake. Also they help me feel less “weird” and “goofy” in the face of mainstream people (or even fellow environmentalists sometimes) looking askance at what they see as my “excessively radical” lifestyle.

The horrifying news reminds me that nope, my lifestyle’s not at all inappropriate given the gravity of the situation. So when I find myself hanging back in my civic communication and other advocacy, I make sure to take in some scary climate coverage, backed by science, from the sources I trust. On the other hand, if I find myself getting despondent to the point of being paralyzed or nihilistic, I have no qualms about taking a news break. And this is my suggestion for everyone: Regulate your media intake as needed.

Here’s the latest horrifying report I’ve read. From Umair Haque, writing at The Age of Extinction Is Here — Some Of Us Just Don’t Know It Yet :

“My friends in the Indian Subcontinent tell me stories, these days, that seem like science fiction. The heatwave there is pushing the boundaries of survivability. My other sister says that in the old, beautiful city of artists and poets, eagles are falling dead from the sky. They are just dropping dead and landing on houses, monuments, shops. They can’t fly anymore.

“The streets, she says, are lined with dead things. Dogs. Cats. Cows. Animals of all kinds are just there, dead. They’ve perished in the killing heat. They can’t survive.

“People, too, try to flee. They run indoors, spend all day in canals and rivers and lakes, and those who can’t, too, line the streets, passed out, pushed to the edge. They’re poor countries. We won’t know how many this heatwave has killed for some time to come. Many won’t even be counted.

“Think about all that for a moment. Really stop and think about it. Stop the automatic motions of everyday life you go through and think about it.

“You see, my Western friends read stories like this, and then they go back to obsessing over the Kardashians or Wonder Woman or Johnny Depp or Batman. They don’t understand yet. Because this is beyond the limits of what homo sapiens can really comprehend, the Event. That world is coming for them, too.

“The analogy is often used to describe ‘climate change’ of frogs in a boiling pot. It’s useful, but only to a certain degree. When the pot boils, they’re taken out and eaten. We were in a boiling pot, and now we’re at the stage where we’re about to get taken out and eaten. This is when things start to get really, really bad — really, really fast.

“I don’t use the words ‘climate change’ to describe any of this, because, well, they’re inadequate. The way that we tell that story has led to a kind of shocking sense of apathy and ignorance about the reality of what we face. People read the science, and think that if the temperature rises by one degree, two, three, what’s the big deal? Ha ha! Who cares? That’s not even a hot day? Wrong. A better way to tell that story is something like this. On average, when the temperature rises one degree, the seasons change by a factor of ten at equatorial regions. One degree, one point five, which is where we are now — the summers are ten to fifteen degrees Celsius hotter. Two degrees? Twenty. Three degrees? Thirty.

“We’re heading for three degrees.

“It’s already 50 degrees Celsius in the Subcontinent. Spain is bracing for an extreme heatwave, of about 40 degrees plus as is Europe, as is much of America. That’s at one degree or so of global warming. At two degrees? The Subcontinent hits 60 degrees Celsius. Spain and Europe hit 50. At three degrees? Equatorial regions hit 70 degrees Celsius or more. Spain and Europe hit 60.

“Extinction happens.

“This is the threshold. We are already hitting it. We can see it now in startling, grim, vivid detail. The Event is not some kind of abstraction or prediction. Extinction is now really happening in plain sight in places around the globe — and they are revealing to us the limits of what our civilization can survive. That limit is hit somewhere between 40 and 50 degrees. After that point, life as we know it comes to an end.

“My Western friends still don’t really grasp this at all. They imagine that as the seasons get exponentially hotter, they can simply…turn up the air conditioning. LOL. Sorry, it doesn’t work like that. Why not? Not just because energy grids will fail, or even because at a certain point even air conditioning just fails. It’s because of life.

“My Western friends don’t think these days. This fantasy of turning up the air conditioning and sitting in your apartment or house? They ignore the now obvious signs. Birds falling from the sky, Dead things lining the streets. What are you going to do, sit in your air conditioned home while everything else goes extinct?

“It doesn’t work like that. Those things, those beings — birds, cows, sheep, chickens, whatever — they provide us with the basics, too. They perish, we perish. Insects nourish our soil, birds eat insects, and on and on. My Western friends don’t understand that we are part of systems. Ecosystems, in this case. And as their foundations are ripped out, we can scarcely survive. The idea that you can sit in your air conditioned home in comfort while everything else goes extinct is a fantasy, a delusion. What will you eat? Who will turn the soil? Who’ll keep the crops healthy? Where will the basics of life come from?

“Our civilization collapses somewhere between fifty and sixty degrees Celsius. Bang, poof, gone. Nothing works after that point. Everything begins to die — not just animals and us in the case, but our systems which depend on them. Economics crater, inflation skyrockets, people grow poorer, fascism erupts as a consequence. You can already see that beginning to happen around the globe — but it’s just the beginning. Imagine how much worse inflation’s going to get when Extinction really begins to bite.”