I don’t want a Metaverse, I want a planet Earth

I was surely not alone in feeling nausea and dread watching Mark Zuckerberg’s promo video for Facebook’s new incarnation (not to mention disgust at Nick Clegg trotting out insultingly complacent platitudes about regulation and data security). But disgust at the absolute sellout by someone who once seemed half decent is as nothing to the emotions generated by Zuckerberg – the man whose creation has done so much to undermine democracy and make the world a more corrupt, dangerous and profoundly selfish place and who has reduced us by degrees from humans to consumers and now to the point where we are the product.

What really frightened me, though, was that this dystopian vision of a life lived almost entirely virtually supports a theory that has been gaining credibility (for me, anyway) the more I reflect on it: and that is that these billionaires, so anxious to buy up remote hideaways in New Zealand or colonise Mars, absolutely know and understand what climate crisis means for the planet and are doing everything in their power to make themselves safe and secure and out of reach of the masses when the full horror is unleashed within the next 20 years. And Zuckerberg seems to me to be the kind of guy who cares very little about the climate crisis, other than for the opportunities it presents for monetising the impact on society. At the very least, will anyone quantify the carbon cost of the levels of data storage his crazy metaverse will require? It will be huge.

Does Zuckerberg know that the air quality, the heat and rising danger on our streets will drive people to want to escape even more to a fantasy life to be lived on our screens in the fastness of our homes?

Is he confident that Facebook-enabled campaigns to poison minds and shape opinions will ensure the world gets more Johnsons, Bolsanaros, Dutertes and Orbans? Will Facebook help to ensure that the fossil fuel companies will be able to carry on raping the planet to ensure that the richest can continue to travel, control the climate in their strongolds, fire themselves into space? Will it make it continue to make it possible for climate deniers to continue to harrass and menace climate crusaders?

Do Zuckerberg and the growing cadre of despots know full well that destroying habitats, global warming and continued pollution will almost guarantee the emergence of new pathogens, new pandemic diseases? Are they already conditioning us to embrace Boris Johnson’s mantra of ‘letting the dead bodies pile up’ as a price worth paying to ensure that the illusion of norml life carries on, unfettered by measures that we are told to believe curb our freedoms? Are we being set up not to care? At all? To be inured to tragedy, inured to death tolls from fires, from floods, from droughts, from disease?

Why is our government hell-bent on preventing peaceful demonstrations? Why is it so scared of the courts and of our recourse to justice through judicial review? Why does it shun scrutiny and look to people the regulatory bodies with its cronies and acolytes? Why is it introducing measures to suppress voting? To reduce food and animal welfare standards?

Why does the mass media slavishly endorse Patel’s inhumanity and continue to vilify and de-humanise immigrants to the extent that the notion of drowning them in the channel without any legal or moral consequence is pretty much met with a shrug?

Do they know something that they think most of us don’t?

Johnson has made it as clear as he can that he knows COP26 will be just more blah, blah, blah. He and the climate-denying media are trying to make sure that this ‘disappointing’ outcome is embedded in the public consciousness so that we are mollified by any scant crumbs of progress dropped from the top table. They want us to settle for the greenwashing, the net zero trap, the diversionary tactics of the fossil fuel companies. Johnson has somehow managed to pull of the stunt of making us not give two hoots for corruption and, even more shockingly, not to care a jot for the Covid death toll and the fact that it carries on rising in the absence of any government intervention on masks etc. Getting us to accept the inevitability of climate catastrophe must look like a piece of cake.

He, and Zuckerberg and all those driven by power and money want us to identify with people like this:

Climate action has to wait? Yes! Because they are confident that there is absolutely no likelihood that the world will do away with coal by 2030 to curb emssions and save the planet. No hope that there will be the necessary radical, radical change and massive shift in political will. They are banking on there being no chance that we will end our love affair with the car or with flying or generating rubbish or saving squillions of photos or consuming, consuming, consuming.

Instead, we can stay off the flooded streets and away from the empty, looted high streets; we can close our eyes and ears to any news which may percolate through the alternative press to tell us about mass starvation as plant and animal life are cremated beneath a burning sun, poisoned by chemicals or drowned by rising sea levels, the perma-fires raging across continents, the gunning down of starving people and of migrant caravans, the tanks wheeled in to crush rebellion, the wars ignited over vanishing water…and, whilst we have a bit of electricity each day, we can escape with Mark and his mates to another life in the Metaverse and pretend it’s all OK.

Or not.

What do you think? Am I being melodramatic? Crazy? Does it matter? Do we really want to wait around to see if any of this comes to pass?

I’ve a son and I want him to have a future. It may be a future without some of the material trappings my generation has enjoyed but, as we now know, many of those are things that threaten everyone’s chance of being happy, healthy and safe. They have to go. Things have to change.

I don’t want to retreat to a metaverse. I want climate justice and a planet Earth for my son and all the young life – human, animal and plant – of this world to thrive on, in peace and kindness. Don’t let’s settle for Zuckerberg’s sick vision. We are better than this.