The Apocalypse in the Room

I don’t think about global warming nearly as often as I should.  It’s sort of like death — a giant black hole constantly nipping at my heels.  I know it’s out there, but my daily grind passes much more cheerfully when I try not to think about it too much.
Most Americans are this way, I think, which may help to explain why global warming, almost certainly the gravest threat humanity has ever faced (with the possible exception of nuclear war), has had such a hard time gaining more than a tiny slice of the public’s political attention.  It’s just so freaking big, so unimaginably catastrophic; it’s hard to get your mind around it.

Terrorism, which truthfully is a fairly minor concern by comparison, is another matter.  Some fanatical asshole straps explosives onto his back and blows up the bus you’re riding on.  There’s no trouble in understanding that at the gut level! 

But a human generated catastrophic increase in the planet’s temperature, leading to coastal flooding, migration of tropical diseases, extinctions of animal and plant species on a massive scale, widespread planetary famine and on and on . . .  No, that’s a little bit much to try to take in; it sounds so, well, science fictiony.

But it keeps getting more and more real, doesn’t it?  This from today’s Washington Post,

Greenland’s glaciers are melting into the sea twice as fast as previously believed, the result of a warming trend that renders obsolete predictions of how quickly Earth’s oceans will rise over the next century, scientists said yesterday.

The new data come from satellite imagery and give fresh urgency to worries about the role of human activity in global warming. The Greenland data are mirrored by findings from Bolivia to the Himalayas, scientists said, noting that rising sea levels threaten widespread flooding and severe storm damage in low-lying areas worldwide.

So, what can be done to increase public awareness on this topic to, let’s say, a healthy level of panic?

A little presidential leadership would be nice, of course.  But, instead, we get this: Here’s George W. Bush explaining his rejection of the Kyoto Protocol,

I will explain as clearly as I can, today and every other chance I get, that we will not do anything that harms our economy . . . That’s my priority. I’m worried about the economy.

One has to wonder whether, in the entire history of planet earth, there has ever been a more selfish statement made.  Our children and grandchildren face an environmental apocalypse due, in large measure, to our own remediable conduct, and the leader of our country can’t be bothered.  “Be damned,” he tells them.  “All I care about is our economic comfort today.” 

What makes this nonsense worse, of course, is the fact it’s far from clear that cleaning up our act on global warming would actually harm the economy.  It might, as Al Gore has often pointed out, actually create millions of new jobs.  But such arguments seem almost too trivial to entertain.  You don’t stay at home debating the cost of the motel when your house is on fire.      

Of course, eventually people will have no choice but to focus on the apocalypse in the room.  But with mounting evidence that the planet may be approaching a tipping point — a point of no return, after which there will be nothing humanity can do to prevent a catastrophic cooking of our world, this change of attitude had better come soon.

6 Responses to “The Apocalypse in the Room”

  1. Again Says:

    But with mounting evidence that the planet may be approaching a tipping point — a point of no return,

    hmmm - the Pentagon is is alarmed enough to collect money to arm against the expected emigration of nations

    and Prof Lovelock says: ‘We Are Past the Point of No Return’

    there’s no time to waste - even billions of dollars may not save the Have Mores when Gaia really “is wreaking revenge”

  2. RJHall Says:

    There are SO many possible ends to human civilization all coming up soon - climate change, the hole in the ozone layer that surprisingly won’t close, the Hubbert’s Peak in worldwide oil production that supposedly took place on December 16, 2005 (by pure coincidence, the exact same date the New York Times finally got around to breaking the story of Prexy’s warrantless surveillance of Americans), nuclear holocaust (the Soviet Union is no more, but most of the nuclear missiles are still around), pollution of air, water, and land, etc., etc. - that the uncertainty comes in which one will bring down humanity first. Good thing we can depend on Prexy to save us, though! (Prexy as in the president in John Brunner’s The Sheep Look Up.)

  3. Chuck Says:

    1st, let me say that not thinking about global warming is not something to apologize for. We can only pay attention to a limited number of the many potential problems, as RJ points out, so we have to pick & choose which one’s it will be at a given time. 2d, one of the reasons we haven’t payed attention is that it is such an insidious problem that it kinda sneaks up on us. 3d, as Steve mentioned, we have to get on with our daily lives, so the most immediate needs take priority. 4th, & I’ll stop with this one, since the world is grossly over-populated with humans, & since so much is required to keep that population alive, the cutting down of the last tree, or the catching of the last fish, to keep the family alive for the short term precludes actually caring much about long term consequences.

    P.S. I think the tipping point has already passed.

  4. alwayshope Says:

    I came across the CBN last week and they were showing footage of the snow storm on the east coast. Pat Robertson was chuckling all the way through the segment and at the end he laughingly said” There’s your global warming!”
    He couldn’t stop laughing. Disgusted, I turned off the Tv, grabbed a six-pack and went quail hunting.

  5. Again Says:


    Pat Robertson was chuckling all the way through the segment and at the end he laughingly said” There’s your global warming!”

    that happens when you don’t teach pupils to use their brains - many uneducated people don’t understand, what “more energy in atmosphere” (aka global warming) means

    as Prof. Lovelock says: “Control theory looks at it in a very different way. You look at whole systems and how do they work. Gaia is very much about control theory.”

    Pat Robertson doesn’t prove global warming wrong, he proves the old saying right, that stupidity doesn’t need help to commit suicide

  6. alwayshope Says:

    I googled Gaia and very much enjoyed the opportunity to learn. I have always thought that the balance of nature was a wondrous thing. The chains that connect us and the cycle and circle of life is fascinating. We are truely our brothers keepers, aren’t we? Thanks for your post.

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