Here’s a catchy phrase that’s become prolific in our media – “too big to fail.” It has been, of course, used in conjunction with the banking ‘crisis’ and the idea that some of the major banks that ‘underpin’ our global civilisation were ‘too big to fail’. They had to be helped out, to avoid some unimaginable situation.
Funnily enough though, I find this phrase running around my head when I read about environmental issues (and when I bandy about with the word ‘issues’ I do, in this instance, really mean ‘impending catastrophe’). Having your eyes glued on the environmental predicament that has been gradually unfurling itself for decades now, with increasingly evident gravitas and severity, makes for a strange mix of emotions. Yet one that dominates all my other feelings continues to be that of bewilderment. How is it that we still do not seem to have grasped the desperate need for immediate action? Why do we continue (at all levels – interstate, governmental, and individual) to continue with ‘business as usual’? Why is it that, for a race that seems so interested in catastrophes and disasters and predicting the end of the world (think Rapture watch, or Armageddon), we live in a world of denial when it comes to a real and imminent threat that could wipe us from the world’s surface?
Never mind the banks being ‘too big to fail’ (and the fact that they play a root cause in most of our global problems anyway – from backing fossil fuels to profiting from food speculation) – what about the planet? Now there’s a question. Is the planet ‘too big to fail’? Well, when the major banks were on the brink of faltering (because they were not literally, ‘too big to fail’) they were bailed out with other funds. The banking crisis was eased by our ability to control our ‘liquid assets’ – to funnel funds, adjust inflation – and to invent money. The banks were saved by an injection of fiscal resources – but we have no such option when it comes to the planet. Ecology does not magically readjust itself at the whim of man when he suddenly realises he has made a catastrophic error.
Too Big to Fail. I wonder what really is ‘too big to fail’? It may turn out that planet Earth is ‘too big to fail’ (for the meantime anyway – not to go against the laws of physics) because, even if the ecological disaster we are heading for brings the end of the human race, or even if it brings the end of all mammalian species (a predicted consequence of global warming reaching 10C or above), it is likely that some life, even if it is only bacteria, will survive. Life may continue, the Earth may readjust to its altered, hostile atmosphere. But humankind might not. So here’s an honest statement about things that are not ‘too big to fail’ – banks are not too big to fail, democracy is not too big to fail, civilisation is not too big to fail, and humanity is not too big to fail.