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Time Lost

Humphrey Bogart’s line in one of his movies was “Do I look like a guy who cares what happens after he dies?” The expected answer was “No.” Yesterday’s New York Times Magazine has a black cover and only the words “Thirty years ago, we could have saved the planet.” The entire magazine has a single 60-page article titled “Losing Earth: The decade we almost stopped climate change. A tragedy in two acts.” Author Nathaniel Rich chronicles the decade 1979-1989 and the many failures of elected government officials to look beyond coming elections, and of business leaders to look beyond short-term profits, when those leaders were confronted with data showing that greenhouse gases and burning fossil fuels were threatening humankind. The Times Magazine has two black pages with this summary of humankind’s inaction: “All the facts were known and nothing stood in our way. Nothing, that is except ourselves.”

More to come from Crested Butte, Internet service permitting, including my opinion that we shouldn’t beat ourselves up about lost opportunities because there was no way the world’s billions could be persuaded, then or now, voluntarily to act differently from countless other species which have multiplied and consumed until they no longer fit their ienvironment, and then died back.

Also, it is my judgment that the train has left in terms of keeping air, water and land within the extremes that humans have experienced since our civilizations began 10,000 years ago. Big doses of heat,scarcities of fresh water and of productive oceans, and of good food-producing land are already in the pipeline that will create a world beyond civilizations’collective experience. Our best course is strong actions to ADAPT to now-inevitable conditions. Those actions include junking, now, the political and popular mantra that economic growth is good and then gradually reducing world population, halving world emissions of CO2 within a few years, developing better food crops to withstand heat and drought, moving urban populations away from ocean coasts, accustoming people to diets of less meat and fish, and doing all that with a collective sense of real urgency.

For the reasons the “Losing Earth” article explained for world inaction in 1979-89 and as noted in several earlier posts on this blog, coordinated American or world political actions to adapt to new, less-friendly, conditions in natural systems is extremely unlikely. That leaves individuals to do what they can to protect themselves and meet the challenges of quickly-changing natural systems. I am working on a blog that will give estimates of climate conditions in various geographic locations at different points in the future, with the intent of helping people make decisions of where to live and work.


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