AFTER THE PLAGUE - I WEAR THE MASK 2.0
Written by Michael Kerr
In 2009 I was in Havana for the 50th anniversary celebration of Castro’s Cuba. One million people gathered on the Malecon and the plaza; dictator Castro appeared, spoke of dreams along with some realities; it was a magnificent speech. I witnessed it from a 7th floor balcony looking out over this colorful human mass of bodies and faces as far as the eye could see. I’ve been to some huge rock concerts but an audience of a million people is a sight to behold. I think of that morning whenever I think of our now 7 billion colorful bodies and faces across the planet of which I am one. We’re presently on a Malecon we’re destroying, surrounded by oceans crashing against our shiny, threatened civilization, with its noise, chaos, ideas, action, facts and denials, and dreams. These oceans, the other 7/8ths of our planet, we’re also destroying. With best final regards also, to the polar ice caps.
Humanity is in free-fall from the top down through everyone; from our world political leaders to the oppressed and starving. Our global plague, COVID-19, is still uncontained, approaching 5 million deaths[edit: how many dead by end of year?].It seems no one is in charge, which may be a good thing; a mega-consciousness shift in how we all live together, as we recover a path forward, which we will do. We The 7 Billion People on Planet Earth are in charge. The same way we’re mitigating Covid-19 with our masks and social distancing we must now also embrace the Global Warming MASK 2.0, the environmental mask most of us haven’t been wearing, and need to NOW.
It started more or less on a New Years Day, as if God called out: “Happy New Year My Naughty Children!”. We awoke to a new globalized day; and the Lord, she continued, “I’m gonna give you a second chance!”. I’m writing of January 1, 1946. At that time we relaxed a year after WW2, there were about 2.5 billion of us on the planet. There was much to reassess and rebuild, and the nuclear age was upon us. Today, speed; technology; advertising; and capital have pushed us to 7 Billion, our population explosion. Luckily, we’ve avoided another nuke explosion, so far. This Summer and Fall 2020; we awake each day focusing on the best things we’re limited to do. Anxious about the future, worried we won’t be able to pay for next week. Yet Covid-19, though ferocious, is just the sub-plague. The global plague of which I now write began in 1872 when George Brayton invented the internal combustion engine, or even 50 years before, as coal became the dark smoke fueling the industrial revolution. The machines have remained in the garden.
There are goods and there are services, but mostly there are goods—- consider the post-modern history of sneakers; cheaply manufactured clothes and accessories; and durable goods whose durability declines in direct correlation to the rise in atmospheric CO2. Manufacturing spewing coal-burnt smoke. That drill-- that mining drill-- must end; HAD to end, ten years ago according to some really smart people who work long hours on GW mitigation modeling and technology. 2030 seems to be the deadline, lest we see uncontrollable massive storms and heat waves in the ‘30’s. Population displacement control could become dystopically shocking, perpetrated by greedy naivete’ three generations ago upon today’s helpless weak and young. Immigration camps built to run like prisons, with armed robotic supervisors. 2 billion climate refugees expected by mid-century if don’t act now with WW2 level mighty force.
On whatever summer day you’re reading this, you’re among those across planet still staying safe at home; watching TV, playing video games, napping with music, maybe reading novels and this article. Others not so fortunate around the globe are just starting to get that there’s something really bad going on; someone in a dusty village marketplace is absent, she’s sick; two weeks earlier her father died, others also sick. That world is far from your laptop, comfortable couch and automatic refrigerator. Yet 2020’s spring, summer and fall has conjoined all of us in risk and death; consolidated on our overheating planet, which still looks blue and green from outerspace. As Joan Didion wrote, “Ugly looks beautiful from far away”. Way back in March, physical civilization seized up; transposed to the phone and computer. The images assault; not a brave new world, a scared new world. 2020, like good eyesight, was perhaps even a good time to believe in whatever your higher power; or to get glasses and clearly see truth and beauty, feel for your fellow man, and recall that we all started from the same primordial slime. And might return to it; a slime now plasticized.
In Santa Monica, CA , where I reside with some cosmic luck, we conduct our minimalist lives wearing masks—- shame on those who don’t. If you have kids over 5 years old, they know what’s happening and that the grown-ups messed up; Covid stay-at-home just a signifier of the GW parents have now condemned them to live through. All you can do is look them straight in their eyes and apologize. Some of them will grow up to fix it, and forgive their parents in their Nobel speech. For now, Covid-19 is like the high school SAT test prior to the Ph.D. exam we’re all about to take: the bigger, doctoral plague we need to get our humanist conscience re-aligned upon. We’ve been epidemic Global Warming for 100 detectable years. Now certifiable, The Big GW is here for at least another 100. If we jump on it, as we haven’t, it might plateau in 20 and decline in 30 more...speed, technology, that’s what we do. Greed, bureaucracy, consumerism, which require little education, are also what too many of us do.
THE DATA: Mass human evolution disruptions have occurred before via ice ages and plagues. But GW is like a slow motion nuke whose fallout gradually infects the planet-- currently by .2C+ degrees per decade (compared to .85C rise since 1880—- do the math) and 407 CO2 PPM(Parts Per Million); Carbon dioxide levels today are higher than at any point in the past 800,000 years during which there were no unnatural CO2 emissions. Global average temperature increase is projected to reach about 3.5° Celsius above pre-industrial levels by 2100, with 670 CO2 PPM. The COMING SOON results, of course, are a political economic hot potato. Homo Sapiens’ current evolutionary stage began 250,000 years ago towards the end of the Paleolithic era when language first occurred beyond grunts and gesture; simple words articulated around the fire. [EDIT verify] Storytelling and myth gradually followed. After the Ice Age, by 15,000BC, the earth’s human population had re-grown to around 6 million, enjoying the birth of agriculture and re-birth of curiosity through the descendents of those storytellers. Consider how lucky we all are to have survived yet another 17 millennia. But we’ve undeniably messed up the last 200 years; with now no natural salvation option besides self-salvation. We find ourselves among the very unlucky in this brief instant of time. Again, Planet Earth is 4.5 billion years old and will spin on another 10 Billion with or without us, with or without her coral reefs, fish, permafrost, forests and birds. She will sustain, albeit as a dessicated rock for our troubles, over another natural multi-billion year era. All fossil fuel sucked out of her, burn-converted to the atmosphere by a bunch of happy-go-lucky, consumption-crazed humans in the late 2nd millennium.
Staring into the mirror with my toothbrush I considered Covid-19 as a final warning; maybe a blessing from fate. That We The 7B people are the best and only higher power to save the planet from the past 200 yrs of our inflicted damage. Yet this unified experience, wearing our Covid masks could now become the big proactive MASK 2.0, the environmental mask most of us haven’t been wearing but must. For our children, and their grand children. For a future that could be lifestyle chill and cool, not horrifyingly hot; and without the consumer-knocked up stress most developed countries promoted for every human household until six months ago. Remember Black Friday? How does that mauling mall insanity mob invasion each day after Xmas seem to you now during this 2020 plague period? Shall we return to that old freak normal?
I’ve worn MASK 2.0 since my idealistic youth volunteering for solar energy and environmental causes; a symbolic behavioral mask, a conscience embossed in my brain. Like the Covid-19 mask, it’s the prophylactic preventing spread-of-disease, not a guard from things we don’t want to see or hear or be infected by. It protects others from bad environmental behavior. And it must be worn. If not by immediate global policy alliances, the big kickstart to MASK 2.0 must happen individually or it's all over by 2035. Other Geo-economists think it’s already over, that we need to start moving mass-millions of people and re-create food chains immediately. Not to mention saving essential wildlife flora and fauna. Read the data metrics, it’s shocking science on a drastically abnormal timeline. The wildfires, the permafrost melt, are real. Regardless of the causality debate you might have with your uncle on Thanksgiving, the pro-action is Mask 2.0; a shift in the way you look at yourself in the mirror. And then take it from there like a New Year’s resolution, but one we must stick to.
In 1992 Al Gore published An Inconvenient Truth, which laid it all out for We The Humans. The film version won an Academy Award and Gore got on stage at that annual greatest bully pulpit Oscar broadcast to 1 billion people and warned us all again. Yet by then the 24 hr news cycle had taken over and our inconvenient truth had been forgotten by breakfast the next day. And then for another 10 years of breakfasts. Perhaps absorbed as an alarmist tract back then, the inconvenient truth is now about the Big Woke, the Wear The Mask 2.0 Woke. Because those who have NOT been wearing the mask during their entire lives, who’s need for “stuff”, as comedian George Carlin brilliantly ranted about, have increased our carbon footprint to the catastrophic particulates of C02 hovering over us. We The Humans need to commit to keeping MASK 2.0 on for this potentially permanent pandemic. As time runs out. To which, you might ask the Nietzchian question: Is Mankind and Civilization worth it? Whatever your answer, take responsibility for your fellowman. And someday, MASK 2.0 won’t be necessary....Upgrading to MASK 2.0 isn’t as severe as it sounds; it’s the symbolic mask you design conforming to your life. It’s a T-shirt & baseball cap logo. We’ve all now been trained with our Covid-19 masks and restrictions.
Consider Earth as the organism and Humanity the virus-- pardon this digression; Earth (etymology: “ground” from English & German) is the only planet not named after a Greek god; though immortal, she’s not a myth. From the epidemiological perspective of sustainable organisms, Earth is a sublime planetary example of immune system evolution. From our anthropomorphic perspective and primal love for her that we may all have, she kills whatever disease. She’s a rock with a flaming inner soul. Throughout her life Earth has been romantically assaulted by climate change of her own biospherical design, a yin-yang of occasionally brief stabilization; hosting rises and falls of various carbon-based life forms (edit: and now some silicon-based ones, to digress again). Dominating dinosaurs come to mind, their 165 million year reign ended 65M years ago by meteor, covering Earth with dust she spin-cycled off in a quick 3 million years. Perhaps this is why we can’t find intelligent life in the universe; as simple viral intelligence it evolves to about where we are, and then unwittingly kills itself/themselves as it/they kill their host. A bit like what cancer does. This perhaps the video game of the Gods. Humanity is the virus infecting Planet Earth; we infect her every day we don’t wear MASK 2.0; and we’ve metastasized fast over 200 years.
More SCI-FI: She will survive, oblivious of us, the Global Warming Refugees moved to robotic controlled “food camps” by 2070, not so much. And all our descendants, so long as they may survive, will be long gone but for footprints on the moon and plastic polymer molecules, perhaps a styrofoam fast-food lid declaring “Have A Nice Day” preserved within her crust. The whole thing from Sun-to-Pluto then swallowed into a black hole a trillion light years from now. Such a dessicated future earth-rock, with giant roaches crawling all over it, is also a subjectively beautiful image to Gods and Aliens. The beautiful blue and green is simply decorative-- it’s reductive Humanity as art critic. Planets like Earth look better as dessicated rocks; any visual stylist/intelligent life in the universe knows that! Despite all the possibly transcendent Art, Architecture, Music, and Literature we’ve created over the past 10,000 years, we viral carbon-based, four-limbed, tail-less, bonehead mutant humans...are blind sculptors! We’re just slaves imprisoned in the Garden of Earth and once we’ve done our job and carved all the blue and green away we’re gone! POOF! But don’t mourn, we’re alive now and can hopefully still think straight.
A maskless solution from many billionaire capitalists and Wall Street entrepreneurs is no doubt in full swing; multi-trillion dollar plans to create profitable heat-resistant hydroponic farming and robotic overseers to manage GW refugees. Not much different from today’s refugee camps but more like Chinese factory dorms and the American prison business. VR goggles full of games and entertainment will be provided. A ten year business plan with ROI. I was privy to a conversation about one such plan recently, aboard an $85 million yacht in Marina Del Rey with some of LA’s most powerful and one very serious South Korean billionaire. Before these prospectuses become a WSJ below-the-fold article, get your MASK 2.0 on and DEMONSTRATE; to yourself, your family, friends, neighborhood. MASK 2.0 is HERE TO STAY. Google and spreadsheet your C02 footprint, a cringingly fun video-game starring you. Covid-19 has eased our consumer lives by deprivation, cut our addiction to stuff, perforce this year. Examine yourself. Don’t worry, the global economy won’t die until the last one of us is gone (Bezos’s great great...etc grandchild), it will better itself though currently not quickly enough. Our immediate individual effort wields immense power, over countries, corporations and venture capitalists, many of which are already shifting. Witness sixteen year old Greta Thunberg’s fierceness shifting millions to wear Mask 2.0. It’s 2020, this early century closely imitating the last with rising autocrats, a global pandemic, and little seemingly learned except now we have nukes and global warming. People are remotely working, or watching videos, with more time to think inwardly, to respond when their 8 year old, slightly frightened son or daughter asks, “Hey dad? Is Global Warming just fake news?” Trapped in our homes we brushed our teeth in the mirror each day, were we lucky to score toothpaste, avoided our helpless eyes or whomever was staring back into our face.
“It takes a higher power within the individual human to do individual good for others” –- Confucius. It’s your own face, face it: that higher power in your mirror. A desperate stranger in Yemen staring back at your morning face. She doesn’t need to wear the Mask 2.0 but you do. The individual good that can be done right now is minimize consumption, ride a bike, track your carbon footprint like you hopefully track your daily weight, diet and exercise. Make MASK 2.0 part of your quotidian teeth-brushing—- like the inconvenient truth of flossing!
We have the science and free market drive to slowly dial back GW, to install a smart algorithm through this current decade of waste and consumption and new shipping lanes carved across the melting Arctic. There is nothing greater than the planet we live on, unless you’ve ever been to the moon or astral-projected, or done Hayahuaska (sp), or know a divine heaven. There’s anxiety, uncertainty, and anger down here on planet Earth, so let’s use it and don MASK2.0. So our world of gradually encroaching monotonous survival might gradually re-blossom into a clean new-normal, late 21st century recovery with zero CO2 emissions and...amazing holographic video games! As we saw last June with clear water flowing through Venice’s canals, Mother Earth heals fast. But only if her daughters and sons wear the MASK 2.0 of change, and thwart this EMERGENCY of Global Warming NOW. Let’s not be remembered as the prime demographic Blamed Generations.
Can we change? And by how much? Humanity is adaptable, by threat or vision. How deep are you willing to go, to be part of the positive adaptation? Our lives stripped down by Covid-19 fast adapted; a lucky fate. We’ve had a glimpse of how bad life can suck and be stripped to a core, though still barely resembling a Yemeni’s life now under threat. It’s the shape of things to come for your kids & grandkids, and great grandkids; unless WE ALL WEAR THE MASK 2.0 and had started from the 1960’s on! But I’ll settle for starting from last WEEK!
And finally, on a hopeful note, I think the world, Earth and its human virus will change; the 21st century will be a history of human transcendence. That we’re not like cancer afterall. I’m glad I’m here, just one cosmic nano-spec who sat down and wrote an article with a toothbrush out the side of my mouth and...wore... THE MASK 2.0!!! Unlike Planet Earth, I don’t think I’m spinning this.