I heard last night on Bill Maher’s show that Jacques Cousteau predicted that the oceans would be dead in the lifetimes of some people then alive. A UN committee tells us that we’d better get moving or we won’t survive. I’m beginning to take global warming seriously.
The pathos of it grips me from time to time, but, like all of us, I carry on.
While watching a basketball game the other night, I reflected that even when you’re down 30, injured, and the umpires are ruling against you, you’ve still got to persevere. You win that way …. sometimes. We have no other choice, and human nature is such that we make up reasons why defeat will not occur just to keep ourselves going.
Reading Collapse by Jared Diamond showed me that even with full foreknowledge of isolation and destruction, humans still have failed again and again to prevent their own demise — Easter Island is one such place. In the end, they had cut down all their trees for fuel and so couldn’t build any more boats to get off the island. Who was the last Easter Islander? An elderly grandmother talking to herself, devoured by memories of her beautiful grandchildren?
It’s odd that the religionists whose predictions have long included the End of the World are obstructionists to we who would like to save it. With the exception of my own church (Unitarian-Universalism), and some other progressive liberal religions, there’s little discipline flowing from religious hierarchies. No request for sacrifice, no dire predictions, no anti-pollution or anti ocean-poaching religious-based movements, at least not that I know of. The Pope and the reigning Imam probably will not visit the Antarctic or Greenland to show us the sliding, melting ice caps. In fact, the Catholic Church is busy trying to defeat contraception and abortion, though it would be a good idea to control our burgeoning population so that when countries in the mid-Pacific, New York City, and Bangla Desh disappear beneath the rising waves, we will have a better chance of thriving on what remains. (My own town, Hoboken, already went through Hurricane Sandy, and would mostly disappear if the ocean rose 20 feet, which is what would happen if the Greenland ice cap slid into the sea.)
The freshman students in my university writing classes are isolated in technological bubbles so circumscribed that they haven’t heard of Jacques Cousteau or Paul Newman. They have virtually no knowledge of either history or current events (“Oh really? A plane disappeared near Malaysia?” “Oh really? There’s an election?”), and no familiarity with the fabulous beauties of our world, whether the Mona Lisa or the Serengeti Plain. Their education has consisted of appeasing them and shepherding them through grade after grade. I tell them that they’ve inherited a mess, and it will be up to them to resolve it, and they look at me with dead eyes. It’s too much for them to bear.
My nephew believes technology will come to the rescue, and I cling with reverence and awe onto the research which will provide us with energy from little fake leaves or cow farts, or scour the ocean of its 700 million tons of plastic detritus and recycle it to make our clothes, maybe our houses (I just thought that last one up myself.). I remember the time before television, and most of us remember the time before cell phones. Things can change quickly, and I hope for potent transformation created by a few geniuses and some enlightened governments.
I’m pretty sure I won’t be around when the sea rises twenty feet. Maybe the ice cap in Greenland will just take off one day like an out-of-control person on an icey sidewalk, and careen into the sea, but I don’t worry too much about surviving personally. I look at my tender, fiery, strong grandchildren and wonder what’s coming for them. Will an antibiotic resistant disease ravage their world? Will they find themselves fighting off people from Arizona who no longer have any water and want to take over northern California? As people are poorer and hungrier, what kind of civil unrest will ensue?
I hope because I have to, but then there’s the pathos — that if the earth is left on its casual swing around the sun, and around again, and again, and again, littered with detritus and bones that will be puzzles to the navigators who come across traces of them when they arrive a mere light year from now, it will turn out that my worst nightmare will have come true.
There will have been nobody to tell about it all.