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As we begin a new year and a new decade, it is worth taking stock of where our civilization current stands with regard to the ongoing climate crisis. Although it is not yet the height of summer in Australia, much of the country is experiencing the worst fire season in its history. Fires there have caused the koala species to go extinct. Millions of years old, the Great Barrier Reef has begun to die due to pollution levels in the ocean and a pattern of rising global sea temperatures. In late autumn, California was still being ravaged by wildfires. One of the most unique cultural heritage sites in the world, much of Venice, Italy is now underwater.

And yet the culture at large has done little to actually come to terms with these deeply troubling signs of an impending catastrophe.

And why would it? The world’s biggest polluters continue to spend billions of dollars per year on anti-climate change propaganda. Laughing all the way to the bank, our politicians put forth inane conspiracy theories about nefarious climate scientists bent on destroying “traditional” free market values. Massive forest fires are attributed to “un-raked forest floors.”

And this kind of disinformation tactics works: Over the last several years, environmental regulations have been ignored or even done away with altogether. Public lands and nature reserves are now sold to the highest bidder.

However you look at it, this decade has been a turning point in the climate change debate. The effects of climate change now stare us in the face on a daily basis. And yet a population deeply affected by such changes continues to vote against its own interests.

Looking forward to this new decade before us, we are left with the question: What will change our cultural understanding of the climate crisis? What exactly has to happen to wake a mass of people up from their intellectual and moral slumber?

There are no two ways about it: This has been a great decade for climate change as a force of nature. For our planet, on the other hand, it has been the dawn of a horrible new era. Indeed, it can only be hoped that the next decade will finally see some degree of action on our part. Anything less may spell the destruction of civilization as we know it.