We live in what some would call a “nihilistic epoch”, an age where life has no inherent meaning or purpose. This would fit with the view that the world is spiralling into destruction; if life has no meaning, why bother to save a planet that seems doomed? Is the planet doomed? Is life pointless? I would argue no. I am an existential nihilist, but I think that even without intrinsic or universal value, life has meaning when we create meaning for ourselves. I believe that humans are both good and evil, and so the world is both good and evil. Above all, I believe that the world is not doomed until every person has completely abandoned hope.
Throughout history, humans have studied the patterns of the world. From patterns in society to patterns in climate, the world progresses through cycles. We see civilizations rise and fall, changing like the seasons. Today’s world seems to be in or entering a long winter, perhaps even on the brink of collapse. The documentary television series Years of Living Dangerously explores the impact of climate change; the world is out of sync with the usual cycle due to human activity and is on a path to destruction. Books like Techno-Fix: Why Technology Won’t Save Us Or The Environment illustrate the unintended consequences that stem from technology, and warns us against putting our faith solely in technological advancements. There is much evidence to suggest that the world is on the decline, headed for a catastrophic collapse unless something drastically changes. The state of the world appears hopeless. Yet, despite this apparent evidence, I believe the world is too vast to ever gain perspective on its state. It is obvious that we are on a path to destruction, but I refuse to believe it is hopeless. Throughout history, humans rise to the challenges we are faced with. At some point, when it is a serious, immediate, life-or-death matter, we will either unify and rise to the challenge—or we won’t. I believe we will.
It’s not only a matter of environmental decline, but moral debasement as well. As Lloyd Dobler in Say Anything remarks, “Maybe the world is full of food and sex and spectacle and we're all just hurling towards an apocalypse”. Here in North America, our justice system is flawed, our media revolves around sex, and restaurants are dying out in favour of fast food. In the face of this, however, we still study poetry. We still dare to fall in love. We still fight for justice. We believe that these things are worth fighting for, worth doing, and the world’s morality is not completely lost until we stop doing them. This is the age of the internet, and social change moves at lightning speed. The world is constantly evolving, and we have no way of evaluating culture and morality on a global scale. All I can be sure of is that individuals are still living according to their own sense of morality, and I will have to live this way too. The world is broken as any individual is broken, and I believe broken things and people have the capacity to mend.
In the end, I can make no definitive statements about the state of the world. Perhaps we are “just hurling towards an apocalypse.” It is inevitable – the world is going to end, sooner or later, one way or another. The only question is the state it will be in when it goes. For my part, I think that as long as there is hope, as long as there are still good and moral people, the world is not lost.