The end (of the year) is nigh


I’ve just had a couple of days camping. Time to escape the jingles; the advertising invoking us to spend, spend, spend; the overconsumption and the manic traffic. Time to reflect on the end of the year, the end of the decade, and according to the Doomsday Clock, the end of the world.

I don’t believe in God, or the parallel opiate of the masses, consumerism. Capitalism, especially this time of year shows we know the price of everything but the value of nothing. But we need something to believe in, beyond what science reveals – science can calculate the damage done to our past, our present and our future, but it can lead to depression, paralysis and dismay – a turning away.

I’m not the only one rejecting belief and hope in some other-worldly saviour, but the rejection of science at societal level is damning us too. According to the stewards of the Doomsday Clock, we’re as close to anthropogenic armageddon as we’ve ever come. The Clock sits at two minutes to midnight. We live in the ‘new abnormal’ –a precarious state where the existential threats of nuclear war and climate change, are aggravated by information warfare and disruption so that we’ve never been closer to global catastrophe – if it’s not already too late.

Elected politicians across the world foment misinformation, play on fears of ‘the other’, (refugees, migrants, ethnic groups, gangs, the poor) using the internet to spread insecurity. Donald Trump, Boris Johnston, Scott Morrison, Simon Bridges, Shane Jones – show the success of the politics of agitprop.

The authors of the Doomsday Clock report agree – “Nationalist leaders and their surrogates lie shamelessly. There are intentional attempts to distort reality, to exaggerate social divisions, and to undermine trust in science, to diminish confidence in elections and democratic institutions.” “The Enlightenment pillars of logic, reason and truth are being replaced with fantasy and rage.” The fragile international social contract is frayed. Multinational institutions such as the UN and the IWC are rejected in pursuit of sovereign interests. The global nuclear order is deteriorating, and the nuclear control architecture built up over half a century, continues to decay. The climate change threat is getting worse, and even aspirational countries are failing to do what’s required to keep emissions in check. The extinction crisis unfolds in sentinel species and cryptic creatures alike.

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So in my tent at the beach, I was mindful of the 70 million forcibly displaced persons around the world this year – now the highest level ever. It’s no tent over their heads, sheltering them from a fun break at the beach. 37,000 people a day are forced to flee their homes. Over half of them are under 18. In New Zealand, around 41,000 people are homeless, half of them women, but including whole families, the unemployed, the student, the working poor. Hundreds of thousands of children live in poverty in New Zealand, and Government redistribution, and an increase in the living wage is met with rising housing and living costs, and a system that keeps them poor.

I walked along the beach, dismayed by the plastic, detritus of a disposable economy – lollipop sticks, bottle tops, rifle shells, marine farm rope and fishing nylon, and collected it to dispose of to landfill. But I thought of the total estimated 8 million tonnes of plastic including 640,000 tonnes of lost, abandoned and discarded fishing gear entering the ocean every year. I thought of the failure to control plastic production, and to support appropriate means of reuse or disposal. Burning it in Asia is no solution but it removes our immediate concern. The domestic ‘plastic bag ban’ and other proposed changes are just drops in a plastic ocean. But that might be the best we can do?

We can measure species lost, name the last Sumatran rhinocerous, the last vaquita, predict the last Maui dolphin. In real time; we get live broadcasts of bombs raining fire on Palestine, homes and orchards bulldozed in the cradle of Christianity; children die among abandoned armaments, there’s an online calculator of rainforest loss. We can look to the skies for evidence of fires burning across the ocean. But we provide subsidies to the worst climate polluters, can’t front up to the unsustainability (and cruelty) of industrial fishing, and don’t mention Israel in the Occupied Territories or you’ll be labelled an anti-semite and your political career will be in tatters.

Camping reminded me of when you could look up and see stars at night. Before light and other pollution rendered them mostly invisible. The effects of extractive economics are radical in impetus, (it’s all extractive), but even the most ambitious reform is incremental. Governments can promise to be transformational but Coalition realpolitik and the power of capital show change is slow and hard. Future generations won’t even be able to imagine what they’ve lost. Diminishing baselines accustom us to the new abnormal. And while people will refer to the success in preventing deaths from curable diseases, and raising people from poverty in the developing world, war and suffering abounds on our fragile finite planet.

The Doomsday Clock scientists urged citizens in every country to use the power of the Internet to fight against social media disinformation and improve the long-term prospects of the future. “Citizens can and should insist on facts, and discount nonsense. They can demand action to reduce the existential threat of nuclear war and unchecked climate change.”

In January 2020, the scientists will again review the position of the Doomsday Clock in relation to looming catastrophe. We end this year, and this decade, with many citizens of the world indeed, mobilised against the threats the Doomsday Clock Committee identified. Greta Thurnberg, Extinction Rebellion, Animal Rebellion, NGOs at climate change conferences and individuals in domestic politics, have called on Governments to listen to the tolling of the doomsday bells. But it’s business as usual – and he who pays the piper calls the tune. Here at the end of the world, the end (of the year) is nigh. We will take a break, spend some more time at the beach, reflecting more on our good fortune, and how we squander it. And return in 2020, ready to resume the fight for a better world.


  1. Will all you clueless leftists get it through your skulls, once and for all!
    There is not going to be any “better world”!
    The clock is ticking inexorably to midnight. Nothing, no force of nature, no action by anyone, will prevent the bell from tolling.
    We had our time and we had our chances, and we are too faulted for redemption.
    Now it’s just every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost.
    By all means be kind where you can but I guarantee the last of us will not be the best.

    • I *COULD* say heads-in-the-sand righties, but maybe it has escaped you that there are things that can be done which do not need massive planning and which will help improve New Zealand. We can only do so much about the rest of the world, but that is no excuse for pushing this country to be the best it can be in the time we have left.

      Such as:

      Recycling aluminium. Win for the environment by reducing the amount of bauxite that needs mining, and maybe saving having to build another power station. Win for the average Kiwi if we apply this in N.Z. because Manapouri’s power could be redirected into the grid and give us lower power prices. Win for the economy because at the same time hundreds of people in Southland still keep their jobs.

      And I told Megan Woods, Minister of Energy and Resources, that in an e-mail just before Christmas.

    • This is a self-defeating argumentation, 44south.

      Yes, the scientific indications are pretty clear; Earth is running toward a mode of obliteration of the present global sphere, as we know it, caused or enhanced by us, one of the species having evolved over thousands of years.

      More precisely: caused and driven by only a small part of this human species, not by all of them. And: we are very much able to describe the destructive characteristics of this group. And: we can isolate these characteristics.

      What is not known, is, how these terrestrial processes will exactly develop, when and where, and what will be the concrete, local effects and impacts.

      It may well be that Earth re-configures by finding a new geo-ecological balance through an adapted variation of humankind that has learnt to live differently with nature.

      Certainly, it is worth supporting such option for human adaptation or resilience.

      If we like, we may also call it Evolution.

      Nature – through evolution – will prefer to chose a survival strategy through adaptation. In such process, the final word over the long-term existence of the species of humankind has not been spoken yet.

      Probably, such scenario will not work out like “last man standing” in a wild-west movie.

      If you want to give your DNA a chance, don’t wait in the armchair. Your kids will be grateful for it.

      • It’s not an argument Manfred but an observation. The climate is not a”problem” to be solved but a predicament without solutions.
        Nor do I accept that just a few are responsible for the situation. The Boxing Day madness gives the truth on that .
        Also I am not on the couch, but hard at work in preparation for what is to come.

  2. Accelerating Climate Change probably will lead to civilisation collapse and even HTHE.
    ” Nick calculated humans are burning “5,576 years worth of plant growth per day”. That’s all the solar energy stored up in fossil form we burn. On Patreon he writes:
    “All the carbon released by humanity in the past 25 years is equivalent to over 50 million years of plant growth which was needed to sequester it. This comes to around 250,000 yrs worth of plant growth in 45 days and 5,576 yrs worth of plant growth per day! The lecture, which I linked earlier in the article states that it is estimated humanity has burned nearly 200 million years worth of plant growth in just 160 yrs.” ”

  3. ” We’re under some gross misconception that we’re a good species, going somewhere important, and that at the last minute we’ll correct our errors and God will smile on us. It’s delusion. . ”
    Farley Mowat
    Farley McGill Mowat, OC (May 12, 1921 – May 6, 2014) was a Canadian writer and environmentalist. His works were translated into 52 languages, and he sold more than 17 million books. He achieved fame with the publication of his books on the Canadian north, such as People of the Deer (1952) and Never Cry Wolf (1963). The latter, an account of his experiences with wolves in the Arctic, was made into a film of the same name released in 1983. For his body of work as a writer he won the annual Vicky Metcalf Award for Children’s Literature in 1970.

  4. Another interview with Nick Humphrey hosted by kiwi Kevin Hester:
    Anthony says:
    June 14, 2019 at 12:38 am

    N.H. Like GM believes from the exponential climate disruption he is witnessing that our days as a species on this once beautiful and teeming with life Planet are now very limited. The immense sadness is we’ve destroyed what is possibly the most unique biosphere in this Galaxy, we’ll never know. And all we can do is distract ourselves and waffle on endlessly.As GM says we’re functionally extinct our habitat is disappearing: the vanishing face of Gaia.

  5. Speed of Climate Change. The Facts You Wish Weren’t True
    ” The speed of climate change. Facts you wish weren’t true.
    Deadlines are moving. Climate change is happening generations sooner than expected, bearing in mind an Arctic blue ocean event around 2022-2028, linked to a potential methane bomb.
    A dying planet losing her power to feed humanity is an existential threat.

    Greta Thunberg grows up in a world of indifference, where medieval stakeholders believe in the holy infallible market and reject scientific facts. She’s hoping for a natural lifetime.

    Politics is about twisting people’s perception. Science is about what’s actually happening “

  6. Your {estimated} household carbon footprint for this year; 4.38 tonnes. The Avg NZ Household is 10 tonnes. Middle Class Greta Terrorists, 12-15 tonnes per household!

  7. “Elected politicians across the world foment misinformation, play on fears of ‘the other’ ”

    Not just politicians Christine but they certainly add fuel to the fear of the other

    Contrast Brexit political figures and Donald Trump with our own leader, PM Ardern. She didnt look at fostering hate of “the Other”, she drew in Muslims and thus the phrase “they are us”

    Thats inclusion, the diametric polar opposite to the demonisation of “the other”

    Imagine if we had world leaders of her caliber!

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