Avoiding Misery Can Take Decades

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Thanks to Anthony Doerr for this opinion, which we tend to agree with:

We Were Warned

Boise, Idaho — Twenty-five years ago this month, more than 1,500 prominent scientists, including over half of the living Nobel laureates, issued a manifesto titled “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity” in which they admonished, “A great change in our stewardship of the earth and the life on it is required if vast human misery is to be avoided and our global home on this planet is not to be irretrievably mutilated.”

They cited stresses on the planet’s atmosphere, forests, oceans and soils, and called on everybody to act decisively. “No more than one or a few decades remain,” the scientists wrote, “before the chance to avert the threats we now confront will be lost.”

I was 19 years old when their warning was published and though I understood, in a teenager-y, “Rainforest Rap” sort of way, that humans were messing with the planet, the document freaked me out. It was so urgent, so dire. E. O. Wilson had signed it. Carl Sagan had signed it!

So did I act immediately and decisively? Um, I did not. In the ensuing years I wrote checks to some conservation organizations, replaced some incandescent bulbs and rode my bike to work. I hammered together a composting bin that promptly fell apart. I gave a self-important lecture to a neighbor on the importance of using his recycling can.

I also hurtled through the troposphere on hundreds of airplanes (each round trip from New York to London costs the Arctic another three square meters of ice), bought and sold multiple automobiles and helped my wife put two more Americans onto the planet. Our air-conditioning compressor is at least a decade old, my truck averages 15 miles to the gallon and I routinely walk up to a podium, open a brand new plastic bottle of water, take a sip and promptly forget that it exists.

Sometimes I wake at 2 a.m. worrying that my great-granddaughter will have to march through her distant, broiling future gathering all the plastic I ever disposed of.

“You mean he knew,” she’ll ask her mom, as she pulls the plastic clamshell I ate a Chinese chicken salad out of back in November 2017, “and he still did this?”

“I told you,” her mother will say. “He was the absolute worst.”…

Read the whole editorial here.

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