Four #lifehacks to prevent the apocalypse

Tom Whyman gives us totally normal, practical ways we can undo the climate meltdown

Well, it’s official: according to that horrifying UN report you'll have definitely read about by now, we’ve got just 12 years to avoid the worst effects of climate change. So, naturally, you'll be thinking: How can I help humanity avoid the disaster?

Here’s the good news: there is plenty of advice floating around the internet about what you as an individual can do. But here’s the bad news: most of it sucks.

Almost every piece of consumerist, individualized advice you will receive about preventing climate change is far too discrete to have anything remotely resembling an observable effect. For instance: a lot of recent advice has focused around eating less meat. Now: on the one hand, absolutely you should eat less meat. A mostly-vegetarian diet will be cheaper, tastier, and healthier than any habitually-carnivorous alternative. Plus there have been incredible advances in vegan junk food in recent years.

But you not eating meat is hardly going to have much of an effect – rainforests will still be cleared to make space for cattle ranching to accommodate global demand, regardless of whether or not you personally opt for the steak. Other people need to stop eating meat as well – but it’s hard to see how we as individuals might be able to persuade them. Individuals are simply not responsible for climate change as individuals: as a much-quoted study suggests, just 100 companies are responsible for 71 per cent of global emissions.

In part for this reason, there is a growing, nihilistic school of thought that there is basically nothing we can do as individuals to prevent climate change; that perhaps we are just completely, inevitably doomed. But this doesn’t quite follow. In fact, it should be perfectly possible to #lifehack our way out of the apocalypse. We just need to make the hacks more radical.

1. Eat the rich

You might not be able to do much good by quitting meat. So maybe it’s time to switch to a different sort of flesh.

Throughout history there have been all sorts of ‘moral’ objections to eating human flesh. But just consider the good you – you personally – could do humanity by consuming even one billionaire. The global super-rich are de facto murdering hundreds of millions of people by continuing, despite everything, to pump carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. A carbon tax has been suggested as a way of curbing their worst excesses. But we all know how much rich people like to dodge taxes! They simply can't be trusted. It's time to put them to good nutritional use.

2. Hack into the world’s air traffic control systems

‘Fly less,’ people tell you. ‘Take a train instead if you can.’ But this advice is subject to exactly the same problems as the meat thing: the problem is that the supply exists, not the demand. Even if you as an individual choose to take the train to Manchester from London instead of flying, flights still (for some deranged reason) exist.

So it’s time to take more direct action. You, as an individual, can’t stop other people flying. But you might, possibly, be able to get good enough at computer hacking to compromise and possibly even destroy the world’s air traffic control systems, thus forcing all the world’s planes to be grounded and maybe – if you’re able to repeat the trick enough times – undermining public confidence in air travel forever.

3. Stop being economically responsible

Right now, you’re probably working (I mean literally right now: in all likelihood you’re reading this while you should be doing something at work). But why? Well, in part because under capitalism you need to sell your labour in order to get the things you need to survive. But there are lots of ways we can get the things we need to survive: at least a good percentage of people do the work they do, in order to secure a better future, either for themselves or for their loved ones.

But now imagine there is no future. What’s to stop you from taking out the biggest loan from the bank you can, quitting your job, and living a totally indolent life on credit, with no intention of paying any of your debts back? If you sincerely believed that climate change was going to kill us all/end life as we know it... why wouldn’t you do this?

And this individual action might even have positive consequences globally. If enough people dropped out of the economy, productivity would grind to a halt, investment in industry would have to be cut back – perhaps even to the extent that we remain below 1.5 degrees.

4. Invest in real estate in places that are currently really cold

The super-rich are already making plans for the climate apocalypse: if we don't eat them in time, they're all going to migrate to New Zealand/Aotearoa, which will still technically be inhabitable even after a four-degree rise in global temperatures – a possibility by the end of this century. So will a bunch of other places with low population densities: northern Canada, Siberia and Antarctica.

Now, it’s certainly not possible to buy land in all of these places: apparently the Antarctic Treaty prevents the sale of land in Antarctica, for example. But there is some evidence that places in northern Canada are giving away land for free. My advice is: take this land. The future will belong to whoever can claim the rights to the remaining liveable parts of the earth. And unless we want the post-climate change world to be built on the same destructive capitalist dogmas that have got us into this mess to begin with, we must hope that as few of those people as possible are billionaires.

A serious point: The situation we currently face as a species is really dire. It is tempting to consider it in apocalyptic terms, and despair. But we ought not to. Climate change is class warfare – the reason our ‘leaders’ are failing to do anything about it is because it’s in their material interests to keep the destructive cycle going as long as possible before they cash out. They have good reason to think they will, in the end, be fine. The only real way to get anything done, is to work together to ensure this changes. Possibly by eating them.