The Day After My 38th Birthday

It’s the day after my 38th birthday. It was a good one this year – a quiet day at home while the kids were at school. I got a massage and splurged on a fancy dinner of modern takes on bush foods like finger lime cocktails and pickled Kakadu plums.

And I reflected. A lot. Like, really, a fucking lot.

I have had some big changes in the last year – personally and professionally. But the TL;DR version is that I’m reflecting a lot on the way forward for myself and my family.

Because I’ve been consumed by young children and various projects over the last several years, it’s only recently that I’ve started making the time for reading. And what I’ve been reading has been giving me a lot of pause.

Though I’ve long been highly politically engaged, and involved in the environmental movement in various forms, I guess I’ve always had this naive idea in the back of my mind that scientists would work this shit out. Human ingenuity would come up with enough technology to solve climate change – or at the very least, that we’d still be ok for a few generations to come.

And I think much of the world thinks that way. Even amongst my circle of greenie friends and family who would deride climate change “denialists” there’s still a fair bit of denial happening – whether intentionally or not. But a lot of disturbing news is coming out. And I think some people don’t want to face it, or aren’t ready to, and I’m not here to criticise. But for someone who’s not at all religious or even particularly spiritual, I feel like this is as close as I’ve come to “seeing the light”.

Now, I’m not a scientist, but I like to think I’m a critical thinker so I’ve been trying to read up as much as I can on this subject, from all kinds of sources. The consensus I’ve personally come to is that we are past the point of being able to continue the way we have been which leaves two options: society as a whole and our political leaders make some HUGE changes over the next decade or there is going to be a collapse.

Recent elections in both my birth country (USA) and adopted country (Australia) have not left me with a lot of hope in the former happening. Political change is unbearably slow. It’s daunting, but I’m facing the facts: it is time we start thinking about collapse – most likely in our own lifetimes, almost definitely within our children’s lifetimes.

There are differing theories on what that collapse might look like – how and when it will start. I mean, look, it’s starting to happen already. Micronesia is sinking. Hurricanes have been ravaging areas where poor brown people live. Call me cynical, but it won’t be till western nations and upper middle class white folks start seeing the effects firsthand that many people will begin to see this as “real”.

But it may be sooner than we want to acknowledge. Some people think some big shit is going to go down with North American food production THIS WEEK. I’ve heard anecdotally of people bracing themselves for the “endtimes” within the next year. I suspect (I hope not foolishly), that this may be a bit over-dramatic.

A school of thought that’s gaining a lot of attention is based on the “Deep Adaptation” paper by Jem Bendell, with news outlets somewhat hyperbolically reporting that reading it will send you to therapy.

The paper is available to read on Dr Bendell’s website. It’s not long and worth the read, but the main takeaway from it is: societal collapse within the next decade is inevitable. Human extinction is possible – maybe even probable – beyond that.

Other experts are saying, don’t worry, we’ve got till 2050 before food runs out. So I guess that’s better, right?

Look, it’s natural to want a clear answer: how long have we got left? And while many credible researchers can make educated stabs at predictions, the fact is that the future is uncertain.

That said… all of this reading and research I’ve been doing has brought me to my personal tipping point. I might have till 2050, I might have a decade, I might walk out my door this weekend and get hit by an Uber Eats driver (probably my biggest risk to be honest).

The point of the the “Deep Adaptation” paper and the movement that’s growing around it is not to answer “when” but to question “how” – as in how do we adapt.

I think the answer is something that’s going to be personal to everyone. Some will go down the path of despair. Some will continue in denial and false hope. Some will try to make peace with what’s to come. Some will continue to fight. As a mother, I suspect I’ll find myself down all of these paths at some point. But I know that the hopes and dreams I had for my children when they were first born have now shifted.

In 2050 my eldest child will be… you guessed it, 38. She won’t be celebrating with a tasting menu at an upscale Sydney restaurant. I could speculate on where she might be. Living as a farmer in Antarctica, one of the few remaining inhabitable regions? Buried under the rubble of a collapsed civilisation?

Speculation can easily send one spiralling. Instead I’m focusing on what changes I can make on this new path ahead. My family and I are embarking on a move that I’ll be blogging about here. I’m going to focus on building community, sharing resources, knowledge and support.

I can’t give my kids any guarantees about their future, but I can give them a childhood. I’m going to plan my daughter’s 7th birthday party at Luna Park and buy sparkly unicorn lollipops.

And I’m going to adapt. We all are.





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