From The War of the Ring

2013-07-03

in Books and literature, Geek stuff, Politics, The environment, Writing

I have long found Tolkien to be an effective antidote to leaden academic prose. His sentences demonstrate such craft, and his epic language – evocative of Beowulf and Norse legend – contrasts pleasingly with the sesquipedalianism of the academy.

Reading The War of the Ring yesterday, I found a passage that is ironic in hindsight. Gandalf is explaining why vanquishing Sauron is a sufficient task, even though it may leave other perils to be faced by those in the future:

Other evils there are that may come; for Sauron is himself but a servant or emissary. Yet it is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succour of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till. What weather they shall have is not ours to rule.

This is strange to read, in light of climate change realities. The weather future generations shall have is now largely ours to rule, and we must decide how much suffering we are willing to impose on them for our convenience and for the pleasure of extravagant energy use.

I have heard it argued that there is no point in dealing with climate change, because some other problem will inevitably arise to confront those in the future. Alternatively, some argue that climate change should be ignored until other ills which they consider more pressing have been addressed. To me this seems a cowardly bit of rationalization. We have the knowledge know to foresee the consequences of our energy choices, and we have several varied courses of action open to us. In choosing how to rule the weather of the future, we ought to acknowledge that and confront the implications.

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