My Kingdom For a Horse
Matthew Phongam #environment #climate #world economics
Author’s note: Matt is a Sag sun with a cap moon and rising in cancer.
By most reputable accounts, 2022 was the hottest year in human history, on pattern with climate trends since the turn of the century. The uncomfortable truth is that we have moved past the point of preventing a climate disaster, just preventing a more catastrophic climate disaster than the one unfolding before us. Property is no longer billed as ‘climate-friendly’ and now billed as ‘climate-resilient.’ World governments bicker over budgets and who has the best ideas, a contest of egos and not a synthesis of solutions that is meant to save the people they have been (not always fairly) elected to preside over. It’s a large-scale issue that not a lot of us want to acknowledge, we all swipe away the headlines and breaking news hoping somebody else will do something about it. We — on an atomic, individual scale — are powerless to stop the Earth’s death. No amount of electric bikes, going vegan, or recycling our plastics is going to matter to politicians and capitalists who are banking on the rest of us dying while they are in possession of resources. In the game of climate disaster, there exists winners and losers. Westerners almost never want to acknowledge their consumption habits have consequences, or that their cute pet cat who loves treats and cuddles could decimate a bird population if it wanted to, something that happens often.
The negativity doesn’t stop, climate is just one global issue on a declining planet. Scaled up to the largest metric possible, it doesn’t account for every nation’s specific problems. This includes the energy crisis of Europe, the opiate epidemic of North America, and the lack of refrigeration in African countries that ruins an unthinkable amount of food. Look at us, putting figures and statistics on something everyone needs to live. These numbers are almost never good news and just tell us how fucked the situation is. We’ve traded humanity for capital gains and profitable properties, it is not how it was meant to be; it was how the global economy was designed to work, with more winners and more losers. Economics can be described as ‘the study of scarcity’, but ‘scarcity’ can be a relative term, and that makes us have different working definitions of a lot of things. We have a scarcity of coffee in North America because it is not grown here, however the US is the number one importer of coffee in the world. The average North American doesn’t have a sense of that scarcity or of the coffee harvesters’ life. I win because I’m a citizen of NA and just have to swipe a card to get my coffee, and they lose because the ethics and labor rights situation of global scale trade are morally bankrupt and just fucked in general. This statement co-exists with the statement ‘we are both victims.’ Like ‘scarcity, the victimhood is relative.
So, what is left for us? We get to watch the Great American Experiment fail right before us with no backup plan. When the last precinct is burned, the last oil field bled dry, and the last billionaire has flown off into the cosmos, all we can do is turn to each other and acknowledge that we have to cooperate if we are to survive. It will be difficult, we will argue with each other, we’ll spend time reading theory and doing the practice to see what works and what doesn’t, we’ll live with contrarians and haters for better or worse. It is not really something anybody wants to see happen, we want a static lifestyle where our ideas aren’t challenged too hard, but we still get to feel good about our diversity, inclusion, and intersectionality.
‘Despair’ is our everyday; every news story is too depressing to acknowledge, every overdose on the street a failure. Most of us would rather live in ignorance than see the country our ancestors worked, looted, lied, committed genocide, and enslaved others to build is failing just about everyone. Maybe America falling can be accredited to karma, maybe the country is just evil and was something that needed to be destroyed. Still, we live on in this land that has blood stains in the soil and chemicals in the water, with each other, so hopefully we choose each other and don’t die bitter with remorse that we didn’t choose each other.
Americans really cling to this idea of ‘scarcity’ and that ‘you have that so I/We/They can’t have that’ mentality that we invented along with money and resources. But hope and good faith are not something there is a finite, worldly supply of– we can make as much of it in our heads as we please and give it out until we get exhausted from it. It sounds trite and maybe even superficial and unrealistic, something you’d feel from finishing a Final Fantasy game before moving on to the next video game, but it’s true. It sounds trite because we were imparted with mentalities and attitude to keep late-stage capitalism alive, and sometimes we just cannot conceive another way of being or operating the world.
I honestly hope reading this made you depressed. I got depressed thinking of what to say. I love my convenience and first world products like you do. I enjoy waking up every morning knowing I have food to eat and a machine to wash my clothes and keep my food fresh, we all do. As we should. We should live by sustainable standards that keep us alive and happy, de facto or (begrudgingly) de jure. Is the goal not to uplift everyone? I hope you sunk into this ‘despair’ The Insurgent was going for, but now I want you to take that energy and put it towards agency and praxis towards hope. The media often reports what’s wrong with the world, and good news is something one must seek out, but all you have to do is ask. But the fact there is any good news at all is worth knowing. We pay money to have a cycle of breaking news that gives the impression that all our problems are worse than they really are, and that we have no agency over the actions of others. Someone once told me ‘read the news enough and you’ll think the world is ending’. So know when to close the NPR or NYT app. The barrier to entry is minimal. Listen to people who don’t look or think like you, take what they have to say into consideration, and let yourself learn and grow from it. All you have to do is listen and think about anything substantial that they had to say. I hope it sticks with you and you remember it when life seems like it’s good. You don’t have to solve every issue all in one go, you just have to be able to say you chose hope when most of what was there was a feeling of despair. Yes, the long term climate situation looks bleak. No, we don’t have to passively watch it happen. Learn who is in your community, take into account what they have to say, have constructive discourse and dialogue, and wonder if maybe the circumstances of your existence are something the world does or does not need. Even if others don’t live by your example or attitude, you’ll live knowing you lived your truth. It is a process of inward reflection and outward projection that we’ll never stop doing.