World Made by Nuts

4 minute read

So yesterday was one of those days when you just know you’re going to waste a bunch of time attending to annoying, but sort-of necessary, stuff.

The car has been giving some trouble, and nobody in town was able to pin it down. Yeh, it is an almost 20 year-old Corolla, so some repair work comes with the territory. It’s still a whole lot cheaper than the repayments on a new or newer car, and I greatly doubt I’d find another car with similar longevity, resale value and overall reliability. But I digress…

To get the car diagnosed and fixed I had to take it to Dr Quincy the Car Wizzard in George, which meant hanging around in his office for a few hours while he sorted things out. While waiting I hobbled down the road to buy a snack – a bag of delicious mixed nuts. On the back of the bag was printed a message that made me feel eerily like Wonko the Sane.

“This product was packed in a factory that uses tree nuts.”

Well, yes. I’d think so. It is, after all, a bag of mixed tree nuts. Macadamias, Pecans, Brazil Nuts, Cashews, Almonds. if I’m lucky a few Hazelnuts…

What sort of insane, fucked up society have we become that somebody felt compelled to print a legalistic cop-out warning that the product Might Contain Traces Of Nuts on an actual bag of nuts? I don’t doubt that there are some unfortunate individuals so violently allergic to nuts that they need such warnings on products that might possibly contain remnant traces of nuts. They have my deepest sympathies. But if such a person should go out and buy and eat an actual bag of actual nuts,… well, that would look suspiciously like a suicide attempt.

A couple of weeks ago the news broke that the ungrounding of ice sheets in Western Antarctica is inevitable and unstoppable. We should expect a rise of about 1.2m in global sea-levels. In the words of the original paper, “this sector of West Antarctica is undergoing a marine ice sheet instability that will significantly contribute to sea level rise in decades to centuries to come.” In NASA’s slightly easier-to-read synopsis, glaciologist and lead author of the paper, Eric Rignot: “The collapse of this sector of West Antarctica appears to be unstoppable”.

So. Flooding in many major cities. Goodbye to swathes of The Netherlands and Belgium, Bangladesh, south-eastern parts of the USA, about one-third of China and many, many more. Huge displacement of people and infrastructure. Loss of farmland. Loss of biodiversity. And that’s probably just the beginning. Unstoppable.

Expect more.

Denialist nut-jobs notwithstanding, we’ve known for decades that this is coming. Yet we’ve done absolutely nothing to stop, or even slow, the process, despite the clear and incontrovertible evidence that it is the industrial-capitalist economy that is the primary driver of current global climate change.

You may note that, when we chose our farm, the altitude of the land above sea-level was an explicit selection criterion. We’re above 200m. I’ve made plans for a jetty1.

We’ve known for decades that this is one inevitable result of unremittingly pouring millions of tonnes of Carbon into the atmosphere year after year. We’ve known and done nothing. We totally ignored the warnings printed on the packet. Well, that looks suspiciously like a suicide attempt.

My personal conclusion is that nothing short of the total, immediate shutdown of industrial activity can save the mass of us humans from a precipitous population decline. Even if we did manage to implement such a shutdown, we’re still in for a solid, unavoidable smack from our mother Earth. Not going to happen, though, is it?

And even as we speak, Eskom, our state-owned electricity monopoly is forging ahead with their plans for three new nuclear power stations, even though the selected sites are likely to be inundated before construction is complete. What sort of insanity is this that ignores incontrovertible evidence before us, yet persists in selecting against survival in favour of this quarter’s profits; in favour of stupendous, largely useless, personal “wealth”?

Remember, too, that nature seldom works in a gradual, incremental manner. She works by catastrophe: One heavy rain and the Goukamma River changed course overnight, taking a section of the Buffalo Bay Road with it; One heavy rainfall and the slope beneath the George-Wilderness railway line slid into the sea taking the rails to Dave Jones’ locker; one smallish earthquake and the town of Ceres was nearly wiped off the map. This is how natural forces normally work. So the statement that we can expect 1.2m of sea-level rise by the end of the century should not give too much comfort. No doubt politicians will read it as “plenty of time”, and “my term of office will be over long before anything has to be done,” but I’ll remind them that the major part of that sea-level rise could just as easily happen over mere days or weeks. It will still be “by the end of the century,” just a lot more abrupt than any wise scientist would be willing to put their name to.

Is there anything we can say or do to wake people up from the collective insanity of sitting on our hands doing nothing? I sadly, dejectedly confess that I can’t think of anything.

Written from Outside The Asylum.

[1] Joking.