Almost everyone who looks at the history of North America through the lens of current times is appalled at the brutal decimation of native populations, at slavery, and at the complete absence of any concept of human rights.
It occurs to me that 50 to 100 years on, survivors of the environmental apocalypse will look at us in a similar way. Sadly, we’ll be even more culpable. We’ve known the planet was destined to become overpopulated with humanity for at least 30 years, and our response has been indistinguishable from nothing.
Polar ice caps are disappearing more quickly than even the most alarmist had expected. Climate change wreaks trillions of dollars of damage on our economies. Critical ecosystems collapse and even species we deem to find attractive border on extinction. Meanwhile, we worry about bailing out car manufacturers.
It looks to me like we’ll just keep on trying to get by and maintain our “standard of living” until there’s a real environmental crisis, until we pass the “tipping point”. Then we get to try to put our lives back together in the face of huge population migrations, limited food resources, war, disease, and eventually feudalism. Then we’ll “buy locally” — there won’t be any other choice!
Our legacy will be that we’re the ones who ushered in the Second Dark Ages. Our barbarism will make the early history of the continent look like innocence. The worst, the saddest, part is that it might be too late to change a thing.