Panic. Then vote. by Lindy West.

Did you hear the bugs are disappearing? Amateur entomologists tracking insect populations in Western Europe discovered that, at a number of survey sites, the biomass of flying insects caught in their traps fell by almost 80 percent between 1989 and 2014. For whatever reason, in a media landscape thick with catastrophe, this was the story that cut through for me in this moment. Flying insects pollinate our plants, including crops. They are food for birds and bats and frogs and things. If the almost-80 percent decline proves true, and bears out globally, and continues unabated, we may all starve to death long before Donald Trump has the chance to vaporize us in a nuclear holocaust.

Other stories that flashed in and out (always out! Bye!) of my news feed this week: Orca whales may be extinct within the next 100 years, on a beach in Wales dozens of octopuses walked out of the sea and died, greenhouse gases are spiking to an unprecedented record, an endangered lemur in Madagascar is hanging on by a thread because of climate change, and something about the Great Barrier Reef that I couldn't bear to click on. In non-environmental doom, Facebook is apparently helping to enable horrific violence in Myanmar, the president's supposedly moderating minder John Kelly said in an interview that "the lack of an ability to compromise led to the Civil War," and Mother Jones reports that artificial intelligence will render all human workers obsolete in the relatively near future and the desperate, idle populace will devolve into mass chaos while a few quintillionaire industrialists gaze chortling across their automaton armies. But at least Paul Manafort had a bad day, right? Yeah. Actually, that is something.

The part that knocked the wind out of me about the bug thing wasn't really the story itself, it was the crystallization of how desperately, comically far we are from taking it, or anything, seriously as a planet.

Instead of leaping into global collective action to mitigate the collapse of the biosphere and potential human extinction, America's ruling party is currently squabbling about whether they should punitively investigate Hillary Clinton over a routine committee decision from 2010 or for somehow rigging the election she lost. Why do we tolerate this from our elected employees? How is our basic animal survival instinct not sending us into open revolt?

Even if we'd elected that bat from "FernGully" last year instead of a gaseous, smoke-belching coal baron who seems to feel personally wronged by fresh air, pulling the planet back from disaster would still be a nail-biting scramble at this point. I speak as a seasoned, professional procrastinator: It would still be the second-to-last day of the semester, and we have not remotely started the reading. Instead, we're out in the woods burning our textbooks for warmth while we argue about whose job it is to chop down a tree to build a desk so we can start our kindergarten homework, and we don't even know how to build a desk.This week's indictments are satisfying, of course, and I feel faintly hopeful in a concrete way that I thought I'd lost. But I'm struggling to truly relish them. The efficacy of the Mueller investigation depends on so many unknowns, most pressingly whether the rule of law will hold after a year of President Trump's assaults on it — and whether Americans across the political spectrum can find our way back to some common truth.

But even in the best-case scenario, even if every last corrupt cog in the Trump administration goes down, Trump's successor, our glorious deliverer, will just be some establishment Republican pushing the same old tax cuts for billionaires and E.B.T. cuts for the impoverished. We need to be surging ahead, aggressively, for survival; instead, we'll be dog-paddling around Mitt Romney's drain.

Enough. Why are we doing this? Why are we allowing billionaires to trick us into letting them grind up and devour our country so they can briefly become trillionaires before we all either explode or burn or die slowly of famine? We have to stop. Fire these snakes and elect human beings who will at least try to take care of us. Our procrastination window is up, and it's time to close Facebook (that part works both inside and outside of the metaphor) and get serious about this all-nighter.

For years I've had a recurring dream about falling off a cliff. I never see what caused me to stumble, and I never reach the impact — in the dream I am trapped in the moment just after I go over, when I am still intact and conscious, still myself, but aware that I have made an irreversible mistake. I am alive and dead at the same time. The moment isn't scary; it's indescribably, breathtakingly sad.

I have to believe that we, as a nation, have not quite reached that point of no return. We can regain our balance. It's easy to forget that the government does not just happen to us; we make it. But next week, all over the country, we have local elections, and local elections are where the next generation of national candidates come from — the people who may, eventually, fill the vacuum if the Mueller probe doesn't go well for the Republican Party.

One of the most frightening questions about the Trump administration, and the Republican machine that laid the groundwork for it, is just how extensively they've managed to savage voting rights, especially in our most vulnerable and marginalized communities. Maybe it's already worse than we think. Next week is one way to begin to find out. As of right now, we do know that Americans who didn't vote for President Trump vastly outnumber Americans who did. Use that power.

Lindy West wrote this for The New York Times, November 1, 2017


November 2, 2017

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