The Death Of A Civilization

And dealing with it


A cemetery in Jaffna, Sri Lanka. Photo by me

Infinite growth on a finite planet is cancer, and this cancer is terminal now. Has been for a while. I hate to be the one to tell ‘ya. Climate change is just a symptom of the all consuming rot. All the ‘renewable’ cures just move the cancerous growth to different organs. The time to cut this thing out was 10,000, 500, maybe 50 years ago, but it’s too late now. The cancer has simply grown too much (GDP doubling every 30 years now) and spread too far (globalization). As you can see, we still measure growth as a positive and not as what it is, planetary cancer. It’s not even that the treatment isn’t going well. We’re smoking more than ever.

People say that this news is ‘doomerism’, that it’s ‘demotivating’. As if fate gives a fuck about our feelings. Sometimes you just get bad news in your life and you have to take it. You must know this from your own experience. All of us know loss, and in the end we lose it all. It’s a bit unusual for death to be coming to millions of species at once, but we should get the general concept. It happens to every single person on a personal level. We all get old, we all get sick, and we all die. This truth motivated the Buddha well enough. Life is dukkha.

Dukkha doesn’t translate well, but you could (literally) say it’s like a bad wheel that doesn’t fit the axle and eventually falls off. This happens to every vehicle on its own, but sometimes there’s a disaster that sweeps everyone off the road. Pretending you can keep going in an electric vehicle is just sedating yourself with lithium. Every creature must die and, every now and then, they all die at once. As the Buddha said, “‘We do here perish’: this the others do not understand. But if they do understand, the quarrels are thereby appeased.”

I have no quarrel with people saying we need to do something about this. The important question is do what? Right action is very different from mindless action. Dealing with death is very different from pretending it’s not happening. Mindless action in the wrong direction is actually harmful, and a lot of what passes for climate action is mere marketing. Like the cigarette ads that claimed ‘less tar’. OK, what about the other stuff? This is like the myopic focus on carbon, ignoring the million other ways we’re destroying the Earth. An electric…



Indrajit (Indi) Samarajiva is a Sri Lankan writer. Follow me at, or just email me at