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Extinction On My Mind

I now believe that the survival of humans and the survival of the planet are mutually exclusive

By Randi Hacker

June 13, 2024

As you’ve probably heard, democracy is dying here in the United States, but you know what? I don’t feel passionate about saving it. Oh, I vote, and I sign petitions, and I write letters. But I have no real investment in the outcome. Here’s why: A culture that promotes a dishwashing liquid for the fantastic way it cleans oil off a duck instead of addressing the issues that caused that duck to be covered in oil in the first place is in bigger trouble than that.

This past year, Scientific American ran this headline:
Humans Have Crossed 6 of 9 ‘Planetary Boundaries’

For more than thirty years, I have been writing about the environment, much of it aimed at empowering young people to act on behalf of Earth. I firmly believed that we could save ourselves and save the planet.

I believe that we are barrelling toward extinction… Not only that, we are complicit in our own extinction.

That headline changed my mind. I now believe that the survival of humans and the survival of the planet are mutually exclusive.

And I believe that we are barrelling toward extinction. The Washington Post concurs:
New Barbie dolls for the end times. We’re living in a Barbie World (that’s barrelling toward extinction).

Not only that, we are complicit in our own extinction.

Every invention we’ve come up with places our comfort, our convenience, and our amusement above all else. Our cruises, our pacemakers, our erectile dysfunction pills, our organically sourced clothing, our wheelchairs, our walkers, our EVs, our PPEs, our water filters, our air purifiers, our phones, our heat pumps, our vegan cheese. Everything we make and use, from resource to manufacture to transportation to lifespan to landfill has not just an impact but a negative impact on the planet.

And as things get worse, instead of giving anything up, we invent new technologies that add just another degree of separation between us and the real world and succeed only in helping us maintain the delusion that we can continue to live the way we do without inconveniencing ourselves too much, if at all.

‘Everything we make and use, from resource to manufacture to transportation to lifespan to landfill has not just an impact but a negative impact on the planet.’

Oil-covered duck? Dishwashing detergent! See what I mean?

And it’s interesting to me that, of all the things we could do to address our reckless destruction of our only home planet – stop driving monster trucks, for example, or stop mining lithium – we choose to focus all of our attention on climate change. The weather. One of the things we have never, in all our imperiousness, been able to do anything about.

In the words of Kurt Vonnegut, I had to laugh like hell.

Climate change is a convenient receptacle for our anxiety. Climate anxiety counsellors are cropping up everywhere. Grief circles, too.

But it isn’t really climate anxiety, is it? It’s extinction anxiety. Because who among us hasn’t, at one time or another, if we’re honest, given a thought, however fleeting, to the existential crisis we are all simultaneously facing and running away from?

‘… of all the things we could do to address our reckless destruction of our only home planet… we choose to focus all of our attention on climate change. The weather. One of the things we have never, in all our imperiousness, been able to do anything about.’

Except, I don’t feel any extinction anxiety at all. What might a climate anxiety counsellor make of that, I wonder (though not that often.)

I do experience moments of anxiety about whether or not Earth will survive us. I worry that we’ve used up all the life energy in the pool. I hope that we haven’t; I hope Earth can recover and give rise to a cornucopia of new life forms, and I hope that those life forms will leave our sorry fossil fuel asses in the ground.

But to get back to U.S. democracy… the way I see it is this: If the Republicans win, our extinction will come much sooner, and it will be more painful; if the Democrats win, the end will be delayed, and our extinction anxiety counselling will be covered by our insurance providers.

Feature image: Pixabay

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Randi HackerRandi Hacker has been a writer and editor since the 20th century, and she’s been writing about the environment for more than thirty years, mostly to empower young people to take agency in their future. Satirical essays written with a partner appeared in the New York Times Book Review, Punch and Spy, among other publications. Her YA novel, Life As I Knew It, (Simon & Schuster) was named one of the Books for the Teen Age by the NY Public Library, and her TV show, Windy Acres, written with Jay Craven, was nominated for a New England Emmy for Writing. She just retired from her position as the resolutions copy editor for the State of Vermont, a job that has forever damaged her relationship with the comma. randihacker.com



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  1. Le Marquand

    Have to concur with the writer; I do not see much sense of urgency amongst people with a few exceptions. So much complacency and a ridiculous notion that somehow we will prevail through technology.

  2. Glo Webel

    Thank you for showing so clearly the absurdity of our human condition… destroying our only home, having the hubris of inventions, thinking somehow we will be immune to extinction. Earth I pray will recover after another million years and rejuvenate itself, hopefully with out any remnants of the human experiment. The only thing that brings me some sense of serenity is believing that we are spiritual beings having a human experience and that when our lives here end what remains in spirit is all the love we experienced and shared. So shake off that anxiety and let our love, kindness and compassion shine bright as we go forth.


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