Apocalypse Later

Witness two writers from opposite ends of the stylistic spectrum striking a similar chord:

Alex Steffan:

The single biggest delusion in North America today is that the interconnected planetary problems bearing down on us can be faced with slight alterations to the current order; that a model of delivery prosperity based on suburbs and big cars and consumerism and profligate energy use and the careless spewing of pollution in all directions can be fixed through the swapping out of some of its constituent parts for slightly greener parts — that green-built McMansions and hybrid cars and compact fluorescent light bulbs will prop the model up indefinitely. They won’t, because we are in a situation where incremental reform has already been made meaningless by a revolution in context…

We’re moving more and more quickly into a period of rapid transformation. We could be embracing that change and setting out to build the next smart, bright green economy. Instead, we allow ourselves to be deceived into thinking that the current models are “too big to fail.” They’re not, and the longer we listen, the more epic the failure will be.

Mark Morford:

But that leads to the larger theory at play here, a deeper — and perhaps slightly more frightening and intriguing — possibility. It is this: the old kingdom must fully crumble and die before the new can arise. The American empire, like every gleaming, overreaching empire of note before it, is near its end.

This is the long view, now coming into abrupt focus: Only from the death of all those once-definitive American mainstays: cars, newspapers, Wall Street, banking, home ownership, God — can something truly innovative and revolutionary be born.


And I just went to thesaurus.com and was served up ads for McDonalds, the Chevy Suburban, a diet plan, and the Seattle Mariners all on the same page.


Humans have a penchant for believing they are living in revolutionary times, on the brink of massive change.  Just ask anyone who spent time in San Francisco during the late 1960s (not me — I was here).  It’s a tendency lodged deep in our psyches, no doubt rooted in the same reptilian muck that fuels religious obsession with imminent Armageddon.

But oh yes indeed, there would appear to be some rather serious shit going down these days.  So then, are we truly on the verge of revolutionary change?  Or are we once again succumbing to the propensity to overestimate the importance of our own era?

Subjected to the ceaseless onslaught of reality, the normally implacable skeptical voice inside my head almost always loses the debate these days, as it has become impossible to deny that the array of apocalyptic forces now converging upon us is genuinely unprecedented.  But still, I haven’t completely closed my intellectual door on the possibility of apocalypse later.  Should I?

12 Responses to “Apocalypse Later”

  1. Matt the Engineer

    Don’t make me link to the fact that 61% of petroleum geologists predict peak oil within the next 10 years again. We’re really close to the first of many unsustainable practices coming to an end. Can we deal with this in stride? Maybe, but then we just had a major recession because we sold too many houses. Just wait until we hit real problems.

  2. Patrick

    Apocalypse nothing. I’m not even convinced that this recession is all that bad.

  3. Jeff

    If the economy collapses in the US, the coastal cities disappear due to rising sea levels, and we all have to live inland and live in squalor, my question to our species is will we still be popping out babies like crazy like the rest of the 3rd World?

    Will you be writing articles on how we should live in our tents in a green manner while we’re popping out 5 babies a family?

  4. Joe G

    The American empire will fall due to the one thing in human nature that we can not change, we will deal with crisis when it comes along, not work towards preventing it. There are those among us who wave the flag and try to warn us of impending doom, but the majority is comfortable where they are and would rather not think of things, scenarios, crisis that are or may be on the horizon. Many of my own friends say that we are way to big and powerful to fall as many empires before us, but history has a funny way of repeating itself.

  5. Matt the Engineer

    [Joe]’s attitude is common, but I think it’s misguided. We’ve certainly preemptively attacked issues before, often with large financial impacts. Look at CFC’s. The hole in the ozone was growing, so we phased out CFC’s. Now the ozone hole is stable.

  6. dave

    To be an “apocalypse” does it have to come in the form of a monumental singular event or can it be spread over time?

    What about a steady and irreversible decline over the next 100, 1000, 10,000 years?

  7. spencer

    Matt @5,

    I think what you are saying is exactly what Joe is saying. We didn’t think, “CFC’s, these will put a hole in the ozone we shouldn’t use them,” we reacted to the fact that hole in the ozone was growing and put a stop to using CFCs.

    Is that correct Joe @ 4?

  8. Jacob Patel

    i already upgraded my family car to Hybrid to help the environment.~-‘

  9. Carter Ward

    hybrid cars are energy efficient compared to diesel or gas powered cars.”;`

  10. Gabriel Walker

    i like hybrid cars because they are more energy efficient compared to petrol engines’-`

  11. Metallic Sandals :

    toyota and other car manfucaturers should step up the production of Hybrid Cars-*`

  12. Christopher Mills

    hybrid cars would be the best thing because they are less polluting to the environment :’`

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