The End is Near

Cover explosion for Adam Krause's "The End is Near"

New Compass author Adam Krause recently published a pamphlet on his new imprint Red Earth Press ( It discusses the fact that just because people have been predicting the end of humanity for centuries doesn't mean we shouldn't take the environmental apocalypse we now face seriously.


The book is hand-stitched, letterpress printed, with a three-color block print by the author on each cover. Every copy is unique. A large portion of the text is below, but the actual book is worth hunting down.

For the release event, Adam created another one of his strange, experimental readings. He made a live loop of his heartbeat, played amplified cactus needles over it, while Daniel Spack, Marielle Allschwang, and Kellen Abston read segments and snippets of the text.Here they are, about to begin:


Audible Electricity: Adam Krause / LFTY -- WED FEB 3rd 6 PM from Sean Williamson on Vimeo.

The audio from the performance is available for streaming or download here:

It is also embedded right here to save you a click:


And here’s how the pamphlet begins:


Time for the End of Time Again

“And as things fell apart, nobody paid much attention.”
          — Talking Heads (1)

The end of the world has seemingly been upon us for as long as there has been a world, which makes it easy to dismiss and deride prophets of doom. A few thousand years ago, Jesus told his disciples that soon “the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken.” (2) And when would this occur? “Verily I say unto you, that this generation shall not pass, till all these things be done.” (3) Standing before him was the last generation. The end of time was near.

And his followers believed it. The Epistle to the Hebrews, written around 63 or 64 CE, begins, “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in times past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his son.” (4) The First Epistle of John, written about thirty years later, states, “Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now there are many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.” (5) Yet the world did not end.

Maybe Christ had been delayed. In 1806, in a village near Leeds, England, a hen laid an egg inscribed with the words “Christ Is Coming.” Prayers were said. Skies were watched. There was repentance and panic. But the egg was either a forgery or the hen had been misinformed. Once again, the world did not end. (6)

In 1996, Sheldan Nidle, who claims to have been receiving extraterrestrial communications since he was a child, announced that 16 million spaceships, which is quite a few if you think about it, would arrive on December 17, heralding humanity’s end. But the aliens did not arrive, and humanity carried on. (7)

More recently, a set of cycles in the Mayan’s now-rarely-used calendar were set to cease in 2012, which some people decided meant the world would also end. But temporal units are human inventions, not facts of nature, so why one culture’s means of marking time would impact the physical world is unclear. But a lot of people took this seriously. Once again, the world did not end.

These are just a few examples. An even remotely exhaustive list of apocalyptic predictions would fill volumes. There are always people who hope or fear they will be the last. Mostly hope. After all, it can be hard to pass the Earth on to the next generation and accept death and irrelevance. How much better it would be to stand at the end of history as the final generation—with gods, angels, or extraterrestrials on their way to let us know that there shall (of course) be none after us. But these portents of doom never show, and the world moves on. We are buried and forgotten.

The end of humanity is being predicted again. But this time, we probably shouldn’t scoff. The reasons are more scientific, less supernatural, and for once, pretty convincing. We are destroying—or perhaps have already destroyed—the environment that sustains us. We are not near the end of humanity because gods or aliens have deemed us special, but because we’re the idiots who couldn’t figure out how to maintain our own habitat. And that shouldn’t fuel anyone’s hubris.

Here is a tiny sample of the current crop of prophets of doom. Linguist and political theorist Noam Chomsky writes that due to our terrifying combination of environmental destruction and rampant militarism, human civilization “may now be approaching its inglorious end.” (8) The film director Werner Herzog stated in an interview, “I’m convinced that our presence on this planet is not sustainable, so we will be extinct fairly soon.” (9) Journalist and environmentalist Bill McKibben writes, “We remain in denial about the peril that human civilization is in.” (10) In his encyclical on the environment, Pope Francis writes, “Doomsday predictions can no longer be met with irony or disdain. We may well be leaving to coming generations debris, desolation, and filth.” (11)

We Can’t Go On, We Must Go On

“Seems there’s always more duty. Maybe that’s the beauty.”
          —Mike Watt (12)

Rather than emanating from Pat Robertson or castrated cult members committing mass suicide in matching shoes, these recent apocalyptic predictions are different. Arctic ice is melting at increasing rates, giving us easier access to once-inaccessible fossil fuels. The irony of this would be hilarious if it weren’t terrifying. Ice shelves in the Antarctic that were not expected to collapse for decades are already collapsing. Heatwaves, droughts, and wildfires are occurring with alarming frequency. And there are already more fossil fuels ready for use—claimed and accounted for by oil companies—than we can safely burn without experiencing total cataclysm. This is not narcissism. Humanity is approaching its end.

In an article about despair among climate scientists—people whose job it is to discover and explain all the bad news about our planet—Camille Parmesan of the University of Texas states:

To be honest, I panicked fifteen years ago—that was when the first studies came out showing that Arctic tundras were shifting from being a net sink to being a net source of CO2. That along with the fact this butterfly I was studying shifted its entire range across half a continent—I said this is big, this is big. Everything since then has just confirmed it. (13)

She continues, “Do I think it likely that the nations of the world will take sufficient action to stabilize climate in the next fifty years? No, I don't think it likely.” (14) Which would of course be a rather problematic bit of inaction. As John H. Richardson states earlier in the article:

Arctic air temperatures are increasing at twice the rate of the rest of the world—a study by the U. S. Navy says that the Arctic could lose its summer sea ice by next year, eighty-four years ahead of the models—and evidence little more than a year old suggests the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is doomed, which will add between twenty and twenty-five feet to ocean levels. The one hundred million people in Bangladesh will need another place to live and coastal cities globally will be forced to relocate, a task complicated by economic crisis and famine—with continental interiors drying out, the chief scientist at the U. S. State Department in 2009 predicted a billion people will suffer famine within twenty or thirty years. (15)

And we have prepared ourselves in the worst possible way to handle our coming catastrophes humanely. We just lived through the bloodiest and most genocidal century in history. As a point of comparison, somewhere between 3000 and 5000 people died in the Spanish Inquisition. That was pretty bad, but in the twentieth century, Stalin alone was responsible for ordering tens of millions of deaths. And that was just one bit of genocide in a century of genocide after genocide. Something has gone horribly wrong with humanity. We are not ready to handle our impending ecological disasters in ways that won’t involve massive bloodshed, suffering, and despair.

What can we do to stop the destruction? The fossil fuel industry has an immense amount of power and money, and would love nothing more than to continue wielding power and amassing money. Politicians are bought. Disinformation campaigns are funded. What can we, with so much less power and money, do to stop them? After all, global capitalism is designed to generate the most profit for the fewest people in the shortest time. The Earth and most of its inhabitants are merely means to these ends. Resources are plundered indiscriminately, and the people living on top of those resources usually have too little power to stop the plunder. Landscapes become moonscapes. The rich get richer and the poor suffer. The rest of us remain largely indifferent for no reason whatsoever. And if that’s really where we’ve gotten ourselves, our situation seems hopeless. So what can we do?

The interview with Werner Herzog quoted above ends with the following exchange:

Q: Does our impending extinction worry you? A: It doesn’t make me nervous that we’ll become extinct, it doesn’t frighten me at all. There is a wonderful thing that Martin Luther the reformer said when he was asked, “What would you do if the world would disappear tomorrow in the apocalypse?” And Luther said, “Today, I would plant an apple tree.” Q: Do you believe in a superior being? A: Oh, don’t ask that—but if I knew that tomorrow a meteorite would destroy our planet, I would start shooting a new film today. (16)

Like Luther planting a tree whose fruit he knows he will never see, we ought to start that film, stop the fossil fuel industry from existing, end factory farming, ban nuclear weapons and nuclear power—so we don’t kill ourselves by other means before we get the chance to save ourselves—and destroy militarism, nationalism, and borders. In spite of our apparently hopeless situation, we should not lose hope or stop trying.

Intense action now is our only hope. As individuals and as a species, we ought to follow the advice Miguel de Unamuno draws from Don Quixote: “Redress whatever wrong comes your way. Do now what must be done now and do here what must be done here.” (17) As Naomi Klein writes, “Mass uprisings of people—along the lines of the abolition movement and the Civil Rights Movement—represent the likeliest source of ‘friction’ to slow down an economic machine that is careening out of control.” (18)

1. Talking Heads, “(Nothing But) Flowers,” Naked. Warner Bros., LP. Released March 1988.
2. Mark 13:24-25 (King James).
3. Mark 13:30.
4. Heb. 1:1-2.
5. 1 John 2:18.
6. Charles Mackay, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds (1841: New York: Three Rivers Press, 1980), 269-70.
7. See
8. Noam Chomsky, “The End of History?” In These Times, September 4, 2014.
9. “Werner Herzog: Trust in My Wild Fantasies,” The Talks, January 30, 2013.
10. Bill McKibben, “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math,” Rolling Stone, July 19, 2012.
11. Francis. Laudato Si: Praise Be To You; On Care for Our Common Home (Vatican City, Italy: Libreria Editrice Vatanica, 2015), [161].
12. Mike Watt, “Shore Duty,” Contemplating the Engine Room. Columbia, LP. Released 1997.
13. John H Richardson, “When the End of Human Civilization is Your Day Job,” Esquire, July 7, 2015.
14. Ibid.
15. Ibid.
16. “Werner Herzog: Trust In My Wild Fantasies.”
17. Miguel de Unamuno, Our Lord Don Quixote, (1905: Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1967), 16.
18. Naomi Klein, “Can Climate Change Unite the Left?” In These Times, October 13, 2014.