Why do optimists make me sick

DSC02430As I was stood outside a shop on one of Melbourne’s busiest streets, a young man looking a bit like a mini version of 50 Cent asked me if I could sell him a cigarette for a coin that he held in his hand. I told him I had no cigarettes, so I couldn’t sell him any. I don’t think he believed me, because even though he went away, he came back after a moment and asked me for a cigarette again. This time he didn’t want to pay. I repeated that I had no cigarettes and that I had only the one that I was smoking. He didn’t believe me. I tried to explain that I left the tobacco in the hotel, because I went out only for a smoke. Still he didn’t seem very convinced. This time he didn’t ask, he demanded.

-Do you wanna get hurt? – he repeated a few times, as if it was a question requiring further consideration.

I think it finally sunk in that I had no tobacco, because he suggested that I gave him the cigarette that I was smoking. I didn’t want to. I didn’t just leave the hotel so I could give my cigarette to some aggressive kid. But I also didn’t want to fight. Although I used to learn Krav Maga and I knew that I could handle it. However, the second rule of Krav Maga is: “If you find yourself in a dangerous place or situation, leave as soon as possible”. I decided to employ this rule. I entered the shop and I mused on what to buy long enough for the guy to go away.

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I’ve been attacked on the street many times, but nobody has ever tried to beat me up for half a cigarette. Addiction is a terrible thing. And cigarettes in Australia are extremely expensive. I’m not surprised that immigrant children can’t afford them. But it didn’t seem like a good moment for me to tell him that he should quit smoking. He probably doesn’t have too much pleasure in life so breathing in carbon monoxide, tar, polonium 210, prussic acid and five thousands of other poisonous substances may be for him one of the rare occasions to unwind. He was probably brought up in a violent environment, since he reacted aggressively to saying no to his plea. I felt a bit sorry for him and I would have given him a cigarette. If only I had had one. But I really didn’t have them with me. Maybe I should have said that I would got to back the hotel and bring him one? Yet his aggressive behavior discouraged me from being sympathetic.

If people who don’t get a cigarette when they want one behave this way, let’s to try imagine how they would act if they were banned from using fossil fuels. It’s likely that many of them have also been brought up in violent environments and have problems with anger management. The brave and benevolent legislators would probably get their asses seriously kicked. It doesn’t help that the alternative for this massacre is making millions on mining for carbon, gas and oil. Which, we of course all know, harms our planet, but let’s be optimistic. I’m sure we’ll come up with something. For example artificial volcanos exhaling sulphates into the higher parts of the atmosphere, which will disperse solar radiation and lower the temperature on Earth. Actually we’ve already invented them. Just they’re difficult to create, extremely expensive, and nobody knows what the consequences of pumping tones of sulphates into the atmosphere will be. But there are serious suspicions that it would lead to an ecological catastrophe. Fighting the excessive emission of greenhouse gases with the use of other gases doesn’t sound like a brilliant idea. Yet it was seriously discussed, particularly because of the fact that lowering the level of CO2 in the air is not going very well. Or rather it’s going terribly. Even though we’re becoming increasingly aware of the dangers this leads to, the level of emissions rises each year. There is nothing indicating this will stop soon. Even if we managed to lower them somehow (haha, I don’t think so), the changes that have already taken place are irreversible. We’re left with reducing the damage. That’s why optimists make me sick.

And Australia is full of them. It’s probably the reason none of the experts or activists invited to the debate on climate change answered my question: “Assuming that we can’t avoid global warming and an eco-catastrophe, what should we do? Where should we move? What should we buy?”. Even though nobody answered, I’m not worrying too much. I’ll find out the answer soon enough. We all will.

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Despite this, many scientists that we met, after showing us various data on how bad the condition of the environment is, suggested that we shouldn’t give into pessimism, because there are also many optimistic ideas. For example, the previously mentioned artificial volcanos. Most of the activists were also optimistic. The conservative right wing which claims the greenhouse effects are bullshit may be ruling, but we shouldn’t give up. We have to explain it to them. Maybe they’ll understand some day.

Ok, the woman from Greenpeace wasn’t an optimist. She said she sometimes considers herself a climate denier, for having all the knowledge that she has and not dropping bombs on mines. Yet she still acts as if change could be made by using regular methods, even though her daily experiences show it’s not gonna happen. Chaining people to machinery can keep a mine from functioning for several hours, but it won’t lead to the closing of that mine, nor will it stop the harm done to the environment. The only positive effect is arresting the participants of the protests. But how many times can you get yourself arrested? A lot, I suppose, but the fact that all the malicious trends that we fight against actually just keep growing may be discouraging. Nothing threatens progress. Or at least there is no visible force that could stop it. Apart from the global ecological catastrophe, of course. The planet will defend itself and stomp out the pest. I’m only sad that I belong to the race of pests and predators. But what can I do? Maybe some more intelligent species will come after us. Professor Jan Zalasewicz is betting on that rats.

PS: Meanwhile in Australia, apparently because of global warming, sheep are en mass committing suicide.