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Time Travel – The Economist Imagines Past and Future

Time Travel – The Economist Imagines Past and Future

The Economist, a voice of free market capitalism, has a fascinating blog discussion about the possible, but always uncertain, human impacts on climate and other natural systems.  The Economist correspondent, “R.A.”, accurately states  that it is impossible to predict with confidence how people in the future may react to the world around them.  Changes  in natural systems that are scary to us now may be simple reality to our descendants, say a world where Venice is underwater, the Earth is everywhere hotter and there is no  arctic ice cap.  He asks us to take our imagination back to 1840 and even to 1500 and realize how a person at either of those times would not have been able to predict much accurately about our present world.   A person from either year  would see both changes he likes, and changes he didn’t like, from his world to ours.

I suspect that  R.A.’s musings represent mainstream thinking of many intelligent conservatives.  They accept that human activity, such as burning the hydrocarbons that have accumulated under the Earth’s surface over hundreds of millions of years in a few centuries, has changed and will continue to change  climate, and that changes in Earth’s natural systems will likely accelerate in the coming decades.  They believe that the die is cast, and that there is probably no  way we can act to prevent many consequences that will be difficult for our  civilization to handle.   A Harvard College classmate, who I love, wisely asked me, “Grier, why do you worry about these things?  Just be happy.”

My hypothetical thinker may be right, but we call it the “future” because it hasn’t happened yet – it may be still be possible to prevent some really bad things from happening.  There is massive uncertainty.  And for me, if the disaster scenarios many scientists fear do happen in my  lifetime, I want to be able to tell my grandchildren that I did what I could to protect them and their world.


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