As you read this, you've had a few days to settle into the unforeseen reality that the Rapture fella got his dates wrong. The end of the world did not happen on Saturday, and we're all stuck with each other for a few more years. Disappointed?
There is something deeply ingrained in the human psyche about going out with a bang, the idea that a wrathful Godhead will set a deadline for planetary destruction, tell us to shape up or ship out and then KAZOOOM!—or whatever the end of the world sounds like—ALL YOU REPENTANT ONES QUICK SMART UPSTAIRS! THE REST OF YOU CAN SOD ABOUT IN THE FIERY FURNACES FOR ALL ETERNITY! STOP MOANING! YOU CAN'T SAY I DIDN'T WARN YOU!
Sadly the doctrine of eschatology, the apocalyptic revelation, the final reckoning, is (so far) basically bunk. Appealing bunk, but bunk nonetheless. It's a religious sales technique equivalent to the signs you see in shops: “Hurry! Sale must end soon!” There's nothing like a deadline to focus the mind.
Among my more world-weary acquaintances, anyone touting the idea of imminent armageddon is likely to provoke nothing more than a smile of relief. Does that mean I don't have to go to Jim's barbecue on Sunday? Allelujah.
The poet T. S. Eliot sussed it 86 years ago. This is the way the world ends, he wrote, not with a bang but a whimper. He put his finger on what most of us have come round to realizing. Humanity ain't going out in a blaze of glory. Not whilst we're inching toward our own exhausted, self-inflicted demise.
Take a look round this website and it's easy to start feeling more than a little alarmed about the state of the world. The destruction of the Amazon rainforest has increased sixfold in the past year, 154 million Americans live in towns and cities where the air is so dirty it is dangerous to breathe, more than a billion people worldwide don't have access to clean water, we're fishing our oceans empty and re-filling them with trash, the oil is running out and the global population is growing by seven million a month. A. Month.
So what to do? Throw your hands up in despair? Buy some worry beads? Develop a nervous twitch? Come on. That's not like you. All you have to do to secure the future for you and your children is follow The Grit's five point plan.
1) Don't give up. You are not a quitter, and it doesn't suit you. You'll just feel bad.
2) Stop feeling guilty. You didn't screw up the planet, everybody else did.
3) Start making small but positive changes in your environmental behavior. You will feel righteous. You'll probably irritate your friends, but, it doesn't matter. You are righteous.
4) Help your friends. Show them how easy it is to make small positive changes to their environmental behavior. Very few people can do this without being immensely annoying, but you can do it. You're special.
5) Attach yourself to a person or organization with clout and make them effect large scale positive changes in society's environmental behavior.
That last point is the most important and, in ways, the most difficult. Thankfully, a strategy is already in place to make it work. Environmentalists are clever like that.
In simple terms, the logic to the strategy is as follows.
Whether we like it or not, most human beings are hard-wired to be venal, selfish and greedy. So when it comes to persuading a municipal authority or corporate big cheese to do something green a) make it quite clear the consequences of not doing so are lost sales or lost votes and b) be prepared to prove it when they ignore you.
So many ways of doing this are just a few clicks away from this web page that it's easy to get overwhelmed. The Grit's advice? Pick the issue closest to your heart. Find the way of highlighting it that seems most effective. Pursue it to the best of your ability.
And you know what? It doesn't matter if it doesn't work out. If prejudice, vested interests, ignorance or sheer institutional inertia beat you down, so be it. At the end of the day, or at the End of the Days, when your own personal Rapture comes round, at least you can say “Well, I tried.” You never know, somewhere along the way, you may have said or done something to change someone's mind.
The hope is that in 50 or 100 years' time, when the human race has turned the corner, and we're all living blissful, sustainable, eco-friendly lives, we'll look back at the early part of this century in horror, and pay tribute to the small but significant band of individuals (that's you we're talking about) who did what they could to make a difference.
As we were all spared on Saturday, it seems like there's still time.
'The Grit' is a TakePart blog that presents global news, pulverized. The author is a British journalist who has been writing about world events for more than a decade, and still thinks there is a future for the human race.
Photo: John Taylor/Creative Commons via Flickr