Maybe the scientists overlooked the gigantic black hole that will gobble up the entire galaxy on December 21.
Or maybe not.
Perhaps the world won’t come to a dramatic end on the day. Still, the Mayans are on to something. Perhaps they foresaw how the inverse relationship between the state of the planet and the state of the stock markets will reach a turning point on that day, beyond which there will be no hope of avoiding a collapse.
Isn’t it funny? Back in 2009 all the talk was Copenhagen and a new climate change agreement. Three years later, the new Rio summit came and went, followed by another round of climate change talks, this time in Doha, and nobody noticed. Quietly, the negotiators agreed to disagree and meekly extended the Kyoto Protocol for another eight years.
China has hundreds of new coal-fired power plants planned and is not about to ditch them, whatever WWF says in its latest China Ecological Footprint Report, which shows that most of the country’s in an ecological deficit. Not to be outdone, the UK has just approved fracking, which releases huge amounts of methane – a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide – directly into the atmosphere.
All in the name of energy security.
And if we look at the inverse relationship I talked about earlier, you’ll see why a collapse is inevitable. The market cheers when stock prices go up, so when the stock price of a petroleum company goes up, analysts flag the stock as a “buy” and investors look forward to a nice return. Never mind that the rise in its stock price is due to a rise in fuel prices that has made ordinary folks suffer. There was dismay when the Deepwater Horizon tragedy occurred in the Gulf of Mexico, but not because of the loss of lives or environmental damage; rather, it was because the stock price of BP sank in anticipation of the compensation for which it became liable, directly impacting on the billions of pension funds invested in it.
Think about it: retirement funds are invested in businesses that hurt the environment or the community, be it a coal mining firm or a real estate trust that gets its return on hiking rent and driving out small retailers. Someone’s secure retirement is predicated on someone else’s suffering.
To really address global warming would mean stopping the growth model in its tracks and shutting down huge numbers of corporations whose very existence threaten the planet’s survival. It just won’t be done. Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring was published way back in 1962; 50 years later, Hong Kong still approves the use of the deadly herbicide paraquat, which has accounted for several canine deaths.
There’s a magazine with a regular interview with thoughtful people in the Q&A format. One standard question is “Are we all doomed?” and nearly 90% of interviewees say “no”, which just shows you what capacity for denial we have.
Maybe the Mayans wasn’t predicting the end of the world; maybe their calendar simply ended because their own civilisation collapsed. “Their attention was evidently focused on their short-term concerns of enriching themselves, waging wars, erecting monuments, competing with each other, and extracting enough food from the peasants to support all those activities. Like most leaders throughout human history, the Maya kings and nobles did not heed long-term problems,” Jared Diamond wrote in his book Collapse. Now it’s our turn.