As Rebecca Solnit reminds us in Hope in the Dark, this isn't the first time that we've feared the future. The 20th century's two world wars, for example, were pretty dark periods, and the prospect of nuclear annihilation was not the happiest thing one could have looked forward to in one's childhood (though I'm pleased regardless by the fiction that this nuclear fear pushed Douglas Coupland to write). From the 1960s to 2005, though, the world got so much better, in so many ways, in so many places, for so many people. Gay rights; the civil rights movement; feminism's successes; and the mobilization of the masses for environmental causes all signify sea changes in Western culture. (Admittedly she's talking about the US only, but I'm comfortable generalizing, at least partway.)
Sure, most of these successes were and are partial, or the drink-inducing catalogue above wouldn't mean anything, but Solnit's key point is that they were nonetheless successes. Perfection is the enemy of done, I regularly remind my students, and the maxim applies even more consequentially for social justice movements. We need to appreciate every improvement, given the weight of PR, government shilling, and corporate lobbying arrayed against us, even though work remains to be done. And then -- which is the really important thing -- we have to get back to work.
Siberian tigers, for example.
So anyway, in honour of post number 500, and of our entry into 2012, I'm trying to change. I'll still be predictably cranky, I'm sure, but it'll be leavened by a little bit of how Rebecca Solnit felt six years ago. Nobody tell me how she feels now, okay?
(Oh, and the methane thing? Still complicated. Go about your day, but do try to walk rather than drive, please.)