A few months ago, I kicked around the idea of starting up a weekly limited feature focused on topics that some people might consider controversial, unpopular, or otherwise not appropriate for polite company. Nothing much came of the idea then, but it has stewed in my head ever since. This is the first of what I like to think will be a recurring series of Friday evening contemplations. If you’re easily offended, or for some reason have gotten the impression that your friends or family members have to agree with you on every conceivable topic, this might be a good time to look away. While it’s not my intention to be blatantly offensive, I only control the words I use, not how they’re received or interpreted.
In my own way, I’m an environmentalist. I’m not the kind of wackadoodle hippy that ties himself to the high branches of a tree to stop logging or only eats soy because cows fart too much. Still, I believe one of the greatest dangers facing the world today is the almost eight billion of us extracting resources from the planet at an unprecedented rate.
I enjoy nature so much that one of the key points in picking the house I currently live in wasn’t just the structure, but its location adjacent to protected state owned and conservation easement land as well as that the neighborhood covenants and restrictions placing strict limits on the amount of the “natural woodland” on each lot that can be removed for development. I lived in one of those clear cut subdivisions with nothing by lawn and pavement as far as the eye could see once and never will again.
None of the above is probably controversial, but here’s where I’m going to lose my Republican friends: In addition to generally enjoying the outdoors, I believe global climate change is an existential threat to civilization.
Like any other large problem we’ve ever faced, the fact is, we can fix this. The catch is, of course, it means that many things have to change – not the least of which is transitioning away from using fossil fuels. Those systems were built up over two centuries and (to agitate my environmentalist friends) I don’t expect we can reasonably expect to simply turn them off over two years or even twenty. The sooner we start implementing real solutions to mitigate climate change the better off we’re going to be – if only because the longer we wait to take it seriously, the larger will be the cost and greater the drag on the economy.
Getting a grip on climate change isn’t just for the benefit of people. If it were, I’d probably shrug it away, because people are the cause I’m least inclined to get behind. I mean have you met people? We’re collectively awful. If I’m inappropriately honest, I’m far more troubled by the impact of our continued behavior on the whales and the fishes and the turtles and the apes and the polar bears and the big cats and the birds and the whole host of small mammals whose habitat we’re systematically destroying, cutting up, and constricting. I’ll take my chances with a mass die off of people, but the animals never did anything to us.
I’m not optimistic that there’s the political or social will to get our arms around the sheer volume of things that need fixing. The more likely course of events in my mind is that the climate will continue to shift and at least some of us will find ourselves living in a world that’s much more violent, far less productive, and considerably less populated by creatures great and small.