Powerless in the Face of the Future


Sometimes it feels like the things that are greater than us are so overwhelmingly large that it is impossible to not feel powerless. This is especially the case with the wellbeing of the planet, with climate change a sure and steady rollercoaster towards oblivion.

It is very hard not to have a negative mindset towards the future. Every day we can see the effect that we have on the planet, and it’s not good. Outside my window is essentially a one-way street, with cars littering both curb sides. Even this one street can house over 100 cars, and if you use that to estimate the amount of vehicles that are on British roads, we’re in dangerous territory. It was found in April 2020 that the number of cars in the UK has surpassed 40 million. Most of these vehicles run on fossil fuels which pollute the planet, from their extraction to the use itself. And we’re only one small island country.

It would be implausible to say that everyone should give up their motorised vehicles to protect the planet. Even if one person stopped driving and took the bus, it wouldn’t really make that much of a difference. The amount that we need to cut our pollution by is on a scale far beyond what one person can even imagine. And this is just cars! It is so difficult to not feel powerless when the things that are destructive are so integrated into society.

The recycling initiative in Southampton isn’t all that effective either. The household bin accepts paper waste, tin cans and drink bottles, but has a long and often unknown list of items that can’t be recycled. What makes matters worse is that when an unrecyclable object is amongst recyclable materials, they end up not being able to reuse the good stuff. Since what we as individuals seem to be able to do for the environment from home is limited anyway, the reality of how useful our contributions are is quite unsettling.

Local and global governments need to do better than what they are currently offering. It is not the responsibility of the everyday person to lobby and protest so that everyone’s livelihoods can be secured for the future.

However, it’s also not the effect of ‘normal’ people’s lives that are the most hazardous. Sure, having an incredibly large global population will naturally increase the demand and stretch of resources, but most global pollution is caused by a very small minority who willingly sacrifice the planet for the sake of profit. Profit which in turn will eventually become meaningless.

This feeling is shared by lots of people. It is often something that comes up in conversation, followed by an inward and tense silence, only to be swept away with a change in topic. That’s an acceptable response for a student conversation in the kitchen at 3am, but it’s not okay for those who are actually in positions where they can do something about the issue to continually sweep it under the carpet.

Just asking three people their opinions shows the unanimity to this feeling:

I think the world is screwed anyways, it’s too late in the game. Not enough will happen in the time we have to make a difference because there’s too much backtracking, disbelief and failures. We should still try and make a difference, but at this point the difference is delaying the inevitable.

‘I feel like I’m trapped under an iceberg’.

I won’t see the outcome of climate change, but you may, and your children will. You get companies like Amazon proudly going on about being carbon neutral by 2040, but it shows that business isn’t taking this seriously. That’s not a challenge and the CEO will have retired to his island long before then. The ego and the power over other people that comes with wealth.

These feelings are prevalent regardless of age, gender, or sexual orientation. The basic philosophical worry about the end of everything is not specific to one group, and only becomes further highlighted when compared to the state of the planet. Perhaps these feelings would not be as bleakly expressed were I to ask someone worth billions of detrimental dollars. But I would suppose that after that interview, when the night gets dark and they’re alone, they may cry out, for ultimately they too feel powerless.

It is important that we strive to do everything that we can to combat the climate issue, but it is very demoralising that we are essentially powerless against what may come. It’s a scary thing to have to imagine in your head that the comfortableness of our lives is contributing, essentially, to the end. It’s hard not to feel bleak about it. Does anything we do really make a difference? Honestly? Probably not. We’re living on borrowed time, and we’ve all been removing sand from the hourglass no matter how hard we try.


A philosophy student with a penchant for uncertain puns. Pause Editor 20/21, i.e. a funny sausage

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