NASA gives us 15 years. I – like the rest of my generation – have no idea what to do.
It's become commonplace to say that we, as "young people", have no future. We blame the shocking unemployment levels, we blame the Lib Dems' collaboration in the benign Vichy coalition we live under, we blame the baby boomers who are refusing to bequeath their wealth to the generation beneath them, we blame Thatcher for creating a society of bored and broken service industry workers whose jobs are constantly under threat. And we're right to.
I fully agree that these problems have sent everyone a bit mad, forcing us into a fruitless, childless existence that we can only escape with drinking games, Tesco Finest meals, cheap flights, gut-rotting drugs and shit games on our phones. But what is our generation going to do when the shit really hits the fan? Not when Carphone Warehouse pull out of the UK and universities cost 30 grand a year, but when Armageddon starts WhatsApping us?
Everyone’s been predicting the end of time since time began, obviously. God was going to kill us. Then the devil was going to kill us. Then the nuclear bomb was going to kill us. And now asteroids, or the sea, or our own shitty behaviour is going to kill us. Whatever happens, we know that one day it's all going to end in fire and for the media, this paranoia is a golden ticket. The ultimate paper-selling, SEO-friendly scare story – because most people are going to have at least some passing interest in hearing how and when their species is going to end. It's grade-A clickbait with a highbrow twist: the holy grail of the modern media.
Unfortunately, when you pick up the Guardian or whatever, it’s not mad men waving "THE END IS NIGH" placards, it’s really serious-sounding scientists. This gives weight not only to individual scare stories about bird flu or acid rain, but more significantly to the patchwork of terror, which suggests that – through a combination of gluttony, stupidity and cruelty – we’ve pretty much fucked the planet and the future is looking very much like a disaster film directed by Hieronymus Bosch.
The latest study I read comes from the pretty solid source of NASA, who've worked out that just because our society has managed to produce Citalopram, Itsu and Spotify, we aren't immune from the same kind of collapse that has eventually befallen every other human society in history. And that our resource-plundering modern habits aren't exactly helping our case for survival, either.
It's interesting, and somewhat sobering reading. Much like Mr B The Gentleman Rhymer's retort to Michael Gove, it's a piece that will make you wonder if it's worth just shuffling off this mortal coil with as little fuss as possible.
And that’s the real question: What we are we supposed to do with this information? Is there anything we can do? Or should we just get the patio chairs out of the garage, put some Stella on ice and wait for our neighbours to start barbequing Alsatians? I mean, it’s one thing for old people to hear that their legacy is fucked, but it’s another for young people to hear that they have no future.
If you’re 20 now, what’s the point? What’s the point in babies, in careers, in not smoking, in building a family, in education, in anything that takes any effort whatsoever? If all the luxuries our lives are reliant upon are going to begin crumbling in 15 years, then seriously, why bother doing anything other than NekNominations and casual sex? Are we just living through Bowie’s “Five Years” but with shitter music?
It wouldn’t surprise me. I’m not sure we’re a generation who are used to confronting reality and now, it looks to me as though we’re the generation dealt the shittiest hand imaginable. The whole thing is so horrifyingly hard to grasp, that the danger is we'll just be scared into a state of slightly worried stasis, and basically continue doing everything we were doing before – i.e. ignoring anything beyond our weekend.
The fact is that none of us have a clue what to do when faced with these kind of miserable predictions. Nobody really has any clue of how to reverse the effects of a millennium spent abusing the ground that we walk on, or how to redistribute wealth in a manner that might end poverty or extinguish the Molotovs being lobbed across the planet. Let alone do we know how to deal with actual consequences: how to tourniquet catastrophic bleeds, or make fires, or hunt fish.
The hardest bit is that we probably can't even slow our demise; we're just too set in our ways. The solutions either seem impossible, or like too-little-too-late hippie tokenism. We curse our ancestors for fucking it up for us, but then remember that we were the generation who demanded to be driven to school, to have all our Tesco Expresses conveniently lit up to guide us home on those dark nights, to have cheap jeans and nice holidays, quick food and warm kitchens. We didn't start the fire, but we didn't exactly try to put it out, either.
Thus we live in a world where we are all to blame, and there's nothing we can do about it. News of the imminent apocalypse becomes just another thing you can't really stop from happening, another thing to be indifferent and apathetic about. What's the point in even acknowledging it? We know the polar ice caps have been melting for years now, but how many of us have stopped leaving the landing light on at night because of that? Let's just keep going as we are, hopefully we won't care about dying when it finally hits us.
Of course, there have been a whole lot of false starts and scares when it comes to the end of the world, a lot of shaky science fiction and very little fact, but the sheer weight of problems we're facing makes you feel like we must be on the home straight towards destruction.
The problem is that ignorance is bliss when the truth means knowing that you and all of your friends are staring down the barrel of fate. If nothing can be done, then it seems better to just live our lives as we always have: networking, hobnobbing, chitchatting until the sun goes black and the birds start to fall out of the sky.
Apathy is surely the defining emotion of our times. Politically, culturally, everything-ly. So much so, that we can't even seem to get worked up about NASA suggesting we're merely decades from total social collapse, and just about every other scientific agency suggesting it's our own geography that will get us first.
It's fine, though. Chill out. We've got Flappy Bird. We've got Drake and Rihanna. David Moyes's decline is a lot easier to watch than the entire world's. There's a Five Guys opening near us soon. We all die. There's nothing we can do about it, right?
Collages by Marta Parszeniew.
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