No matter what else we achieve, if the generations alive now fail to prevent catastrophic climate change we will be seen as failures by the generations that will suffer after us. We will be remembered as the people who had all the knowledge and technology required to preserve a habitable Earth, but who were too ignorant or distracted or greedy to actually do it. We will be the generation that breaks the chain of inheritance – which has links extending back through all of human history – and that passes on a degraded and dangerous world after having received a promising and prosperous one.
It’s remarkable to read Bill McKibben’s The End of Nature, published in 1989 when I was six years old. In it, he describes everything that is happening now: the growing scientific certainty accompanying increasingly perceptible changes in the outside world, the body of scientific research and understanding being assembled over decades and centuries. And yet, despite how the message has been clear and compelling for decades, the world hasn’t even started moving in the right direction yet, much less started moving that way quickly enough to avoid disaster.
The stupidity of what we are doing is startling.