This article originally appeared on VICE UK.
Here's some fun news: At Monday's UN panel on climate change, scientists warned that if global warming continues at its current pace, in 12 years there will be a catastrophic increase in poverty, droughts, floods, and extreme heat. In short, we’ve got 12 years until it’s so hot that barbecuing marshmallows will mean merely pointing them out the window and watching them fizzle and crack within the burning hellscape we call Earth. Twelve years until we stop dreaming of adopting micro pigs, and instead hunt them down with sharpened sticks. Of course, it’s not exactly shocking news that the environment is fucked, but it’s hard to actually do anything about it unless you're a giant corporation.
You try to do good by drinking almond milk, but you still buy those Pretty Little Thing mesh camo cycling shorts that will only be worn once and then immediately thrown away. You turn off lights when you leave the room but still shop at supermarkets and sometimes buy a beef burger when you're hungover and also did you know how much water it takes to produce one carton of almond milk?? If the world really were to turn to dust in 2030, what difference would it make to the way you already live? We asked a bunch of people how their lives would change—if at all—if they knew they only had a dozen years left.
“Why be embarrassed when acid rain is going to melt your skin off?”
I often tone down my silly side to be professional, but if I knew everything was going to melt into some lifeless rock in 12 years, then what would be the point in being sensible? I wouldn’t grow up. I’d walk around naked. I’d start a DIY punk girl band and it would be absolutely terrible: We'd always be out of tune and never keeping to a beat. Who cares when we’ll soon be choking on the pollution guzzling out of the cars we spent our whole lives saving up for? What’s the point in feeling embarrassed when acid rain is going to melt your skin off your bones? Whatever I would end up doing when the end comes, I would want to be surrounded by my friends and multiple karaoke machines. I would spend time watching those satisfying videos of people playing with slime—wait, slime is bad for the environment, isn’t it? Sorry, but I’m not giving that up. –Rachelle, 21
“Mr. Musk, please can you and Grimes take me to Mars?”
I would spend my last years on Earth eating lots of amazing food. On Mars, we will all be eating packaged ice cream and dried up potatoes. Some people eat like that now anyway—you know those health weirdos who eat Huel. They’ll be OK on Mars. Maybe there will be artificial birds in the future, like how in Blade Runner there are artificial animals. I would feel bad though if we made it to Mars and then we just fucked up another planet—eventually we would destroy entire galaxies. Surely Elon Musk is going to save us. Mr. Musk, please can you and Grimes take me to Mars? I can’t take this, there actually must be a way out? But I guess you would have to be super rich to make it to the new planet. Kylie Jenner would be there for sure, but I don’t know about me. -Christina, 21
“Imagine thinking, I don’t want to waste time buying milk?”
I would travel the world using up all my student loan, do the whole cringe Eat Pray Love thing. But then also I think it would be important to go home and stay with those that love you. I think that would make the end bearable. In a way, I think it would be better to not know it is going to end because if you live your life knowing it’s over, the pressure to have fun might be too much. It is like that film In Time where humans have timers on their hand and they have to buy time on Earth. Imagine thinking oh, I need to buy milk—wow a minute wasted not enjoying myself.” How stressful would that be? I like my life now, I’m happy. Ignorance might be better. –Yasmin, 20
“Why bother eating vegan burgers while Trump pumps oil into the oceans?”
If the world was going to be over in 12 years, I would just stay in watching The Real Housewives of Cheshire. I don’t really know where I’m going to be in 12 years anyway—I study fashion so I’ll either be rich and successful and never get a day off, or I will be a jobless wayward spirit. There’s definitely a generational divide in terms of plans for the future, our parents probably were set on having a black Labrador Retriever and a semi-detached house in suburbia when they were 34—the age I’ll be in 12 years—but I can’t say as much.
To save the world, I should probably quit smoking. I don’t eat meat but cheese is something I cannot say goodbye to even though the dairy industry is awful; I would have to be scared for my life before I sorted that habit out. It’s difficult to make changes: What’s the point in eating vegan burgers while Trump just sits there pumping oil into the oceans and denying there is even an issue? The thing is, this stuff—dying coral, acid rain, unbearable heat—is already happening. We in the West just aren’t feeling it yet. –Jus, 21
“Hopefully we can still get WiFi?”
It sucks to be living in a time where our only hope of survival is Elon Musk’s self-obsessed, glory-motivated, last-ditch attempt to get us to Mars. I won’t be complaining if he manages to achieve this, though. Sign me up for the first flying Tesla to the new world, which we can hopefully develop over the next 1000 years in Mars, which we will inevitably begin destroying on arrival.
My plan for the next 12 years was to make tons of dope video games. I’m sure I’ll still have time for this. You can’t burn code. Hopefully, we can still get WiFi? I’m just embracing being truly apathetic. I hardly do anything of importance at the moment anyway. I guess if the world is dying I might as well start taking loads of drugs, but then I think that would make me even more aware of impending doom. I’ve just quit but maybe I’ll pick up smoking again and watch the fire eat up London. I bet environmental apocalypses make for beautiful sunsets. –Molly, 24
"I would miss fruit so much on a dead planet"
I don’t even know where to start with being upset about the environment—we are all so unwilling to compromise on anything. To save it, our lives would have to change so much: no throwing things away, no cars, no hot baths or buying clothes. It’s not enough to have reusable straws. I feel suffocated even thinking about the changes we would have to make. Other problems always seem more immediate, like police violence or austerity, even though we will all feel the impact soon, at the moment it just feels like a long hot summer. I would miss fruit so much on a dead planet: strawberries and bananas. We are so used to Deliveroo, but nature makes you feel amazing. I am not looking forward to foraging through dried out cans. –Radjiv, 20, graphic designer