What will future generations condemn us for?

Once, pretty much everywhere, beating your wife and children was regarded as a father’s duty, homosexuality was a hanging offense, and waterboarding was approved — in fact, invented — by the Catholic Church. Through the middle of the 19th century, the United States and other nations in the Americas condoned plantation slavery. Many of our grandparents were born in states where women were forbidden to vote. And well into the 20th century, lynch mobs in this country stripped, tortured, hanged and burned human beings at picnics.

Looking back at such horrors, it is easy to ask: What were people thinking?

Yet, the chances are that our own descendants will ask the same question, with the same incomprehension, about some of our practices today.

Is there a way to guess which ones?

I thought this was going to be another just-doesn’t-get-it opinion piece in the Washington Post.  After all, the answer to its headline question, “What will future generations condemn us for?” is painfully obvious to anybody who follows climate science (as I discussed here).

But the author, Kwame Anthony Appiah, has in fact written a very thoughtful piece on the “three signs that a particular practice is destined for future condemnation.”  And the Post is running an online poll where “Our treatment of the environment” is already easily winning.  Here are the three signs:

First, people have already heard the arguments against the practice. The case against slavery didn’t emerge in a blinding moment of moral clarity, for instance; it had been around for centuries.

The case against unrestricted greenhouse gas emissions has been around a long, long time.  Remember, the National Research Council’s 1979 review of the science (“Killing the myth of the 1970s global cooling scientific consensus“:

“In this case, the panel concluded that the potential damage from greenhouse gases was real and should not be ignored….  Warming from doubled CO2 of 1.5°-4.5°C was possible, the panel reported. While there were huge uncertainties, Verner Suomi, chairman of the National Research Council’s Climate Research Board, wrote in the report’s foreword that he believed there was enough evidence to support action: “A wait-and-see policy may mean waiting until it is too late” (Charney et al. 1979).

Here’s another familiar sign:

Second, defenders of the custom tend not to offer moral counterarguments but instead invoke tradition, human nature or necessity. (As in, “We’ve always had slaves, and how could we grow cotton without them?”)

Indeed, the standard argument against strong action today from people who almost understand the science (and those who don’t understand it at all) is that humans are simply incapable of doing what is necessary — or that unrestricted burning of fossil fuels is necessary for continued economic growth.  In fact, unrestricted burning of fossil fuels is the one guaranteed path to collapse (see “Is the global economy a Ponzi scheme?“)  And it is not beyond the capability — or desire — of most Americans to act, it is mainly a failure of leadership, along with a shameful disinformation campaign, which brings us to:

And third, supporters engage in what one might call strategic ignorance, avoiding truths that might force them to face the evils in which they’re complicit. Those who ate the sugar or wore the cotton that the slaves grew simply didn’t think about what made those goods possible. That’s why abolitionists sought to direct attention toward the conditions of the Middle Passage, through detailed illustrations of slave ships and horrifying stories of the suffering below decks.

That would seem to hit human-caused climate change right in the bull’s-eye (see “Attack of the climate zombies!“)

And so Appiah ends his list of “four contenders for future moral condemnation,” which includes, “our prison system” and “Industrial meat production” and “The institutionalized and isolated elderly” with:

The environment

Of course, most transgenerational obligations run the other way — from parents to children — and of these the most obvious candidate for opprobrium is our wasteful attitude toward the planet’s natural resources and ecology. Look at a satellite picture of Russia, and you’ll see a vast expanse of parched wasteland where decades earlier was a lush and verdant landscape. That’s the Republic of Kalmykia, home to what was recognized in the 1990s as Europe’s first man-made desert. Desertification, which is primarily the result of destructive land-management practices, threatens a third of the Earth’s surface; tens of thousands of Chinese villages have been overrun by sand drifts in the past few decades.

It’s not as though we’re unaware of what we’re doing to the planet: We know the harm done by deforestation, wetland destruction, pollution, overfishing, greenhouse gas emissions — the whole litany. Our descendants, who will inherit this devastated Earth, are unlikely to have the luxury of such recklessness. Chances are, they won’t be able to avert their eyes, even if they want to.


Indeed, the multiple catastrophes we face on our current path of unrestricted greenhouse gas emissions are not merely grim individually — large and continuous sea level rise, Dust-Bowlification, 9F+ warming, record-smashing extreme weather, and mass extinction, especially of marine life (see “Real adaptation is as politically tough as real mitigation, but much more expensive and not as effective in reducing future miseryThey are all but unimaginable when you consider that they are going to hit our children and grandchildren and countless future generations for decades and decades on end simultaneously.

Also, unlike most other condemnable immoral activities in history, by the time this is obvious to all, there will be no undoing it by passing a law or establishing new social norms (see NOAA stunner: Climate change “largely irreversible for 1000 years,” with permanent Dust Bowls in Southwest and around the globe).

And that’s why we all have a moral obligation to condemn what’s happening now in the strongest possible terms.

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82 Responses to What will future generations condemn us for?

  1. I’m frankly surprised that WaPo would run Appiah’s piece. That it is extremely thoughtful, well and logically presented is not at all surprising. Appiah is one of the leading philosophical thinkers in the country today. (Dr. Appiah is currently the chair of the American Philosophical Association, and a long time advocate of philosophers being public persons, directly engaged in the issues of the day.)

  2. Jeff Huggins says:

    Agreed. And thanks to Kwame Anthony Appiah!

    (By the way, a great book of his is Experiments in Ethics.)

    Be Well,


  3. Jeff Huggins says:

    And More . . . (Bertrand Russell, Mario Savio, Joni Mitchell)

    While we are talking about great philosophers, and the moral need to address climate change, and action, here are three youtube clips that might interest people. The first is of Bertrand Russell — a super clip in which he discusses his activism and lessons from his life. Watch it all the way through. (It’s only about ten minutes. And note, this is the third segment from this particular interview with the BBC, so it starts in a place that’s hard to understand at first, but you’ll pick up the thread after the first ten seconds or so, and it gets good.)

    Bertrand Russell Interview Clip

    This next one is brief — a great clip of one of the early events in the Free Speech Movement, Mario Savio’s famous speech at Berkeley.

    Some Bay Area History, and Gears

    And this final one is of one of the wonderful and heart-felt performances of one of the greatest (perhaps THE greatest) voices-for-the-environment of my generation, Joni Mitchell singing Woodstock at California’s Big Sur. It’s not to be missed.

    Big Sur and The Garden

    Please, really, if you think we ought to get more active and actually “do something” in order to avoid committing great crimes against future generations, watch all three of these. Something for everyone.

    Be Well,


  4. _Flin_ says:

    Wanted to point to an Op Ed by Thomas L. Friedman, about how electric cars should be a “moon shot” in the US.

  5. paulm says:

    Hear Hear.

    We highlight the impressive effects of the current GW, but the insidious little incidences are and are going to be just as debilitating from which even rich and powerful states like Canada/US won’t recover due to the rising cost of energy.

    How often can crops, roads, power line and infrastructure of local communities be replaced as the devastation happens every few years. This is now starting to happen.

  6. paulm says:

    They are going to hate the Russians….

    The struggle for Arctic riches

    In a grimy shipyard in St Petersburg, an ugly hulk of red-painted metal sits floating in the dock.

    On deck, workmen scurry back and forth, hammering, drilling and welding.

    In 2007, Artur Chilingarov planted a Russian flag on the Arctic seabed
    This strange construction, part ship, part platform, is unique and lies at the heart of Russia’s grand ambitions for the Arctic.

    When it is completed in 2012, it will be the first of eight floating nuclear power stations which the government wants to place along Russia’s north coast, well within the Arctic Circle.

    The idea is the nuclear reactors will provide the power for Russia’s planned push to the North Pole.

  7. rjs says:

    oil…someday a future generation will shake their heads in amazement that we actually BURNED the stuff…

  8. K. Nockels says:

    Good piece, but we continue to place the consequnces of these actions into the grandchild era. Even if the flooding we see today world wide from large rain events doesn’t get worse in the next five years (fat chance) but just stays the same the impacts on food production, people migration, dollars to repair,lost economic revenue will soon overwhelm us. And thats just rain events! In the very near future we not our just our grandchildren or great grandchildren will be having to deal with these chances.

  9. Bob Wright says:

    Unfortunately we don’t have the one century or longer it took from German Quaker colonists shaming slave owning English Quakers to the Emancipation Proclamation. We are going straight from societal denial to too late.

  10. Colorado Bob says:

    Brad Pitt’s Make It Right houses are challenging the way New Orleans homeowners think about solar energy

  11. NeilT says:

    What I wonder is whether the survivors will have time for recriminations or if they will be too busy trying to survive.

    That depends on the next decade and what we do. If we haven’t eradicated all fossil fuelled power stations, moved half the cars to clean fuel and most of the shipping from dirty oil burners to something cleaner; then by 2050 there will be precious little time for recrimintation.

    In an evirnoment where the very best emissions estimates give us an impact which is literally lethal to hundreds of millions of people, anything worse is more akin to an ELE than something our descendants will be berating us for.

    Always assuming that the technology and structure of society remains in enough quality for them to even know what happened to them…

    An extreme view, I know, but it has to be faced.

  12. Ominous Clouds Overhead says:

    K. Nockels is right on with the comment about it may not be future generations who see the consequences, but us, we ourselves, you and me.

    Here in the high desert, it’s predicted to be in the mid-90s this week. I go out and there’s more smoke in the air from the nearby fire that’s currently at 40,000 acres and climbing.

    This is the kind of thing we would normally see in August, not the end of September. Driving down a dirt road leaves clouds of dust, everything is so dry. And yet, we got an inch of rain the other day, but it all came within 20 minutes and most of it washed off as flash floods.

    I’ve been watching this desertification and climate change for the past ten years, slow but sure. I’ve seen the lizards and Hopi ground squirrels come out earlier and earlier each spring. I’ve watched plants bloom way earlier than normal. I’ve seen heat waves in March that left everything upside down. I’ve watched the snowpack on the nearby mountains melt away a good month earlier than normal. I’ve seen birds migrating early. It leaves a feeling of ominousness, like dark clouds hanging overhead, all is quiet, and you know all hell is going to soon break loose.

  13. mike roddy says:

    The slaveholder analogy is a good one, especially for what it tells us about human nature. An excellent book on the subject is The State of Jones, which describes the lives of Mississippi planters in some detail. Evil actions led to evil inhabiting the very marrow of the perpetrators. Remorse among plantation slaveholders and oil and coal company barons was and is extremely rare, and the culture is passed on through generations. They will fight change to the end, regardless of the cost to anyone else. Considering the resulting horrors, words like “diabolical” don’t even begin to describe them.

    One motivation is the enormous material rewards, of course. Another common thread is that both cotton plantations and the oil industry require little talent or ingenuity, and reward ruthlessness and bribery of politicians. They also endlessly repeat lying justifications: Slaves were happy and contented, and we need oil and coal for our economic health. It’s worth noting that both groups are personal cowards. In late 1862, the Confederacy passed a law exempting owners of 20 or more slaves from military service. Oil and coal company leaders hire think tanks and private security forces to do their dirty work, while they relax with prostitutes on their yachts.

    We learned from Abraham Lincoln that there is no negotiating with those who engage in evil practices. The same lesson should be applied now, and we must confront the evil ownership of our media and halls of government. We need to regain clear thinking, but, even more important, Americans have to reclaim our souls. There should be no excuse for ceding power to those whose personal wealth means more to them than the crushing consequences to life on earth.

    Jeff- thanks for those YouTubes, they were thoughtful and inspiring.

  14. Ominous Clouds Overhead says:

    A bit OT, but more global warming related events? My friends in Bella Coola, British Columbia are currently experiencing big floods.

    “Sorry my posting is a bit late…we’ve been out of power and it just came back on. This will be short for tonight. Bella Coola is experience a major flood – in excess of the 1968 flood which is the whopper in most residents memories here. There is much much damage both to roads and bridges and peoples homes. It is unclear the full extent. Most of us are pinned down by washed out highways or driveways (our case). More info as it unfolds. Check the Central Coast Regional District web site – Emergency Notice section.”

  15. mike roddy says:

    Ominous Clouds Overhead:

    Thanks for the note about Bella Coola. Say hello to Chief Quatsinas, who is one of my inspirations.

  16. Ominous Clouds Overhead says:

    Mike, I’ll have to Google that one, unless you have a link. Always looking for something inspirational, given my current mindset.

    They’ve had almost 8 inches so far with more forecast.

  17. William P says:

    Future generations? What future generations?

    The most likely outcome is man will be extinct, so don’t worry about what they will say about you. It will be nothing.

    Anyone who thinks we will curb CO2 emissions is dreaming. It will be business as usual right up to the end. Check out the history of Easter Island – its a model for planet earth.

    This is a nice thought, but another example of misplaced thinking about global warming – worry what people will say – ! Amazing.

  18. Barry says:

    “There is no greater sorrow than to recall in misery times of happiness” — Dante, in The Divine Comedy

    No question our unrelenting fossil fuel burning will top the all time list of human condemnable actions.

    We have alternatives at both the personal level and social level but are *NOT* choosing them simply because we are lazy and greedy. We know it is wrong…but we do it anyway.

    Countless generations, including many people already living, face an irreparably impoverished biosphere. A biosphere that is shifting from “provider” to “attacker” for ever growing numbers of people. Fossil fuel burning refugees now outnumber war refugees…and this with just 1 degree of temperature rise.

    The “greatest sorrow” is already unfolding for many of us.

  19. Colorado Bob says:

    “The Plowboy Interview: Steve and Holly Baer”, in The Mother Earth News, issue # 22 – July/August 1973

  20. Ominous Clouds Overhead says:

    Well put, Barry. I would like to see a list of things we can do on the personal level – recycle, don’t drive, don’t buy stuff, eat local when possible, turn out the lights, be frugal – any thoughts to add to this anyone? I struggle daily with what I can personally do.

  21. fj2 says:

    “Plenitude,” Juliet B. Schor, Best most optimistic book on critical paths for changing times. “After all, IBM did adopt Linux.”

  22. Windsong says:

    “…the strongest possible terms”? You all should read, “What We Leave Behind” by Derrick Jensen. I loved this book because he condemned what’s happening in the strongest possible terms I know of! (Extremely blunt!!)

  23. Barry says:

    When the floods destroyed the livelihoods of millions, I kept adding to the flooding because the waters were not at my doorstep yet.

    When the expanding deserts destroyed the livelihoods of millions, I kept expanding the deserts because the sand wasn’t at my doorstep yet.

    When the fires burned away the livelihoods of millions, I kept fueling bigger wildfires because the flames weren’t at my doorstep yet.

    When the rising seas created millions of refugees, I kept melting half a tonne of ice everyday because the waves weren’t at my doorstep yet.

    When the ocean food chain collapsed for millions, I kept heating the waters and pouring acid into the seas because I could still out purchase others for the remaining food.

    When the weirding weather finally impoverished my life, it was too late to do the simple things I could have done to avoid my sorrow and misery.


    The average American unleashes climate heat, 24/7, equal to the heat coming from an 8,000 barrel a day oil fire.

    Hundreds of millions of these heat infernos fry the biosphere round the clock in America. All this damage is simply because we choose to burn fossil fuels instead of cleaner alternatives.

    The miserable and desperate will have little patience for whatever excuses we currently use. Soon the miserable and desperate will be people we know and love.

  24. fj2 says:

    Google’s Project 10 to the 100 Winners

    Make educational content available online for free

    Enhance science and engineering education

    Make government more transparent

    Drive innovation in public transport

    Provide quality education for African students

  25. Windsong says:

    A new book is scheduled to be release at the end of this month called, “The Impending World Energy Mess…” by Bob Hirsch. I thought it would be an interesting book; it’s on Peak Oil. However, after reading his interview, I realized he weaves B.S. concerning Global Warming along with information on Peak Oil. So I won’t order it afterall. This is a quote from his interview:

    ‘In the book you state that you dig into “realities that others are reluctant to discuss.” How so?’

    Hirsch: We were referring to the impending decline of world oil productiion and what it means; the climate change issue, both the uncertainties and the deplorable games being played by many in the environmental community; the realities of other energy sources, including renewables– we use the term “people are intoxicated on renewables”…

  26. Ominous Clouds Overhead says:

    Mike, excellent post. “We learned from Abraham Lincoln that there is no negotiating with those who engage in evil practices.”

    We need to stop our “negotiations” with such by not drinking their energy elixers, e.g., coal and oil.

  27. Barry says:

    Ominous Clouds Overhead (#22), when my wife and I decided we really wanted to seriously reduce our climate frying we quickly realized we need to learn how much carbon our different choices were emitting. Then we went after the biggies.

    For us, by far the biggest climate hammer in our lives was flying. It just dwarfed everything else. A single plane flight to Asia equaled 10 years of driving our car. So we gave up flying except in real emergencies. Flying for pleasure causes so much climate damage that it is just plain immoral.

    Two other huge carbon sources were our ground transport and our home energy choices.

    It is easy today in most places to switch all home energy use to electricity and to buy clean electricity from your utility to power it. That is what we did. Remember that even a gas cook stove will heat the biosphere 100,000 times more than the heat coming off the cooking flame. Turning on a gas range unleashes climate heat equal to that coming off a 5,000 barrel a day oil fire. Way too much compared to electric heat purchased from clean sources. All-electric homes have been common for decades. There is nothing new or fancy about them. You can however go the extra step and get the latest in efficiency like air-source heat pumps for heating and hot water to dramatically cut your electricity use.

    The climate impact differences from different vehicle choices is staggering. We use public transit or bikes wherever we can. We switched to the Prius and drive it as little as possible. We will switch to electric option when it arrives.

    Along the way we compiled and published many charts and stories about our efforts to turn off the climate inferno in our lives. You can see these at . Check out the chart on transportation options to get a feel for how vehicle choice and occupancy efforts can yield huge climate benefits.

    We all have to stop using fossil fuels in all aspects of our lives and soon. I strongly recommend focusing on the biggies first as that will give you time to transition gracefully on them.

    The cheapest and biggest impact for most people is to stop all non-emergency flying. If you can’t do that you will never get your climate damage down to a future-sustainable level. It is simple GHG reality.

    Good luck in whatever you choose as your path to a livable future.

  28. MrCannuckistan says:

    I think the survey is a little skewed. I think there are a number of other issues that would score considerably higher had they been on the list.

    1) Corporate greed?

    2) Political corruption?

    3) The Second Amendment?

    4) Treatment, oppression and exploitation of the poor?

    5) America’s attitude towards Socialism?

    Pick any three to replace the less contentious issues currently pitted against the environment and I think you’d see very different results.


  29. Michael Y says:

    Dear Friends,

    There is A LOT of doom and gloom on this site. The ugly positive feedback loops look to be kicking in and the destruction of habitats and ecosystems is underway. Agreed? Then, don’t we (the folks who are most terrified by climate change) have a moral obligation to start pushing for geo-engineering? It is too late to keep that off the table for fear of moral hazard. If not now, then when?

  30. Ominous Clouds Overhead says:

    Michael, please explain what you mean by geo-engineering. Did you maybe mean geothermal? Geo-engineering is a generic term and I really have missed the meaning in this context (BTW, I’m a geologist).

  31. Wit'sEnd says:

    Mike Roddy, #14, well said.

    I am really going to miss the intertubes when they go down because then I will be surrounded by people who will be completely frantic to deny their own culpability in the collapse of our ecosystem and society. It will be all I can muster to refrain from saying, “I told you so!” and no solace whatsoever that I could.

  32. NeilT says:

    @31 Michael,

    I’m sure you mean climate engineering.

    OK so let’s look at that. It has taken us the better part of 200 years to overwhelm the climate of the planet. The biggest change has been createed in the last 80 years. Over the last 30 years almost 25% of the world population has actively been adding to this problem directly.

    To fix this problem you would need to stop any more emissions. Like NONE.

    Once you have stopped all emissions and moved all your technologies to carbon neutral, then you could consider having a viable way of attacking the problem. OK you could do it in parallel but…. see below.

    Then, how long do you think it would take to create an infrastructure of technologies to try and mitigate the massive problem we’ve created?

    One step at a time. There is no point in building technologies to reduce the CO2 in the atmosphere until we have the technology to run them without putting more CO2 into the atmosphere.

    Doom and Gloom? Or reality? We believe that we’re not going to be able to stop CO2 emissions until everyone can see, beyond an unreasonable doubt, that things are going to hell. At which time it will be approximately 50 years too late to ensure we don’t suffer the consequences of that stupidity.

  33. ralbin says:

    Appiah is wrong about defenders of immoral actions not offering moral counterarguments, at least in the case of slavery. “Positive” defenses of slavery were aired frequently in antebellum America, usually that African inferiority legitimized European ownership of African slaves and that slavery (in the USA) was beneficial for those of African descent. This was often combined with a religious defense based on the existence, clearly tolerated and encouraged by God, of slavery in the Old Testament. Indeed, given that American religious practice of the time was dominated by “commonsense” literal interpretations of Scripture, the defenders of slavery had a better theological case than the critics of slavery. The historian Mark Noll, who has a particularly good analysis of this phenomenon in his book America’s God, terms this a “theological tragedy.”
    This truly unfortunate fact has a contemporary analogy. Quite a few evangelicals regard the natural world as a divine gift for humans to exploit. Given the impending Second Coming, concerns like global warming are irrelevant. Some readers of this blog may recall Reagan’s first Interior Secretary, James Watt, who testified to these beliefs at his confirmation hearings in 1981.

  34. Ominous Clouds Overhead says:

    I remember Watt well and the uproar he created with those statements. And I also remember the utter ridiculousness of his reign at Interior, he was as clueless as they come. Ah, that things could be so simple now as railing at James Watt. Never thought I’d wish for that as being the good old days.

    The attitude of just pray and God’s will will be done has created many problems for Humankind. One being passivity (watching the ship sink with nary a whimper), another being a que sera attitude (the sinking ship will be righted when God’s ready, who am I to question God?), and yet another being gullibility (I’m on God’s team and privy to the reasons for the ship sinking, send me money and I’ll ensure you get on the raft).

    According to Michael Shermer, 92% of Americans believe in God. If this is true and they also believe in what the Bible says about the End Times, we’re doomed, who are we to go against the Bible? A self-fulfilling prophecy of Armageddon (the world will end in fire…).

  35. Future generations will condemn us for our inaction.

    If they exist, our offspring will have to act with ruthless certainty, adhering to science and making the most powerful life and death ethical decisions. We do not, we cannot even know what it will take to survive. All the worst wars and catastrophes in our history were transient. This is a thousand year struggle ahead. Oceanic and climate destabilization does not end in the year 2100.

    Will they – our DNA progeny – decide to survive? Or merely accept fate and seek a good death? Either way, they will see clearly that we were either stupid or crazy or evil for our disregard for the future. For not trying harder, we will be reviled as weak and indecisive and unscientific. We are carbon junkies that are pathetically unable to even know our situation. All the art, earbuds and cupcakes cannot make up for our failure to prevent a climate cataclysm.

    Those who decide to survive will be dismissive of such ancestors.

  36. Chris Winter says:

    Windsong, thanks for that heads-up.

    “…we use the term ‘people are intoxicated on renewables’…”

    It’s pretty clear which side he’s going to come down on.

  37. J.A. Turner says:

    But slavery was ended when President Lincoln saw a political opportunity open up and used the Emancipation Proclamation as part rallying cry, part wedge to promote the Unionist cause. What’s the modern application? How do we get the public behind real action on global warming?

  38. Leif says:

    J.A. Turner, @39: “How do we get the public behind real action on global warming?”

    Like President Lincoln, President Obama need to use the hand that is dealt to him and play to win. He has the science, the military, lots of corporations, public retirement accounts, the insurance industry, the Pope, many in the religious sector, a large sector of the population, a Democratic congress, (at least for a bit,) and many sympathetic coastal States. All he seams to be lacking is stones. Good grief, it may not be a royal flush but surely a playable hand in my book.

  39. Jeffrey Davis says:

    The future will hate us for embracing unreason.

    The confluence of AGW, Peak Oil, and the rise of fundamentalist Islam ought to be a perfect opportunity to embrace renewables, but the country’s political leadership is worse than inert: it’s antipathetic to the issue. We’re insane and proud of it.

    That’s what the future will hate us for.

  40. James Newberry says:

    We will be condemned in the US for transforming the founding of enlightened democracy into a corporate state plutocracy which economically defines mined material resources (matter) as “energy” resources, thereby contaminating the entire ecosphere to a prehistoric state when oceans submerge all world coastlines (where most of humanity resides) and temperature kills most forms of life. In other words technological, economic and political fraud.

    There is no such concept as clean energy to the planet. There is matter and energy. Petroleum is not an energy resource. Cry oh sphere.

  41. Colorado Bob says:

    After a summer of despair, the Simpsons gave me hope. Lisa went to “Art Camp” in Holland .
    The only line I caught :

    Krusty trying to bribe a court in the Netherlands –

    ” Oh. I get it …….. every windmill needs a new blade every now and then. ”
    “No, we have the best windmills in the world.”

  42. Asking this question forces one to choose between the present and the future.

    Choosing for the present may acknowledge the problem, and may require mindful living, but might not require the greatest of sacrifices… But it most certainly requires heroic acceptance of pain in the future.

    And it is increasingly obvious that choosing for the future requires tremendous restructuring, sacrifice and privation. And acting sooner than anyone would want.

    Neither choice is palatable. This is really the perfect storm for our civilization. Exciting times. Not fun. But interesting.

  43. Lewis C says:

    MichaelY at 31 –

    I applaud your plain speaking:
    “don’t we (the folks who are most terrified by climate change) have a moral obligation to start pushing for geo-engineering? It is too late to keep that off the table for fear of moral hazard. If not now, then when?”

    It is increasingly obvious that ending our emissions, even at a radical rate, will not resolve the problem of global warming by airborne stocks of GHGs. Yet geo-engineering is still commonly considered a greenwash scam of the enemy to maintain shareholder profits. I’d be the first to assert that it could be, and probably will be, damaging and/or ineffective if the environment movement clings to its prejudice rather than pressing bluntly and determinedly for it to be done well, and done in concert with rapid emissions termination, and done as soon as prudently possible.

    Ominous Clouds asked what you meant by the term geo-engineering, and I’d point out that there are essentially two significant forms, Carbon Recovery (to cleanse the atmosphere over many decades) and Albido Restoration (to lower planetary temperature in the interim and so decelerate the feedbacks and end the intake of additional heat by the oceans).

    You are absolutely correct to ask “If not now, then when ?” since we cannot be certain of resolving global warming even with the twin geo-engineering options in addition to ending emissions. It may be that the oceans already hold enough heat to trigger massive methane releases in future from the seabed methyl clathrates. But, while we may well still have time, we can be certain that every month that passes without action on the ‘tripod’ strategy reduces our chances. If not now, then when ? – is thus very apt.

    You mention the large amount of doom and gloom on this site, which troubles me too. Nothing is more offputting to new readers, and the examples of absurd outright defeatism I find indistinguishable from the work of fossil lobby shills, for it is quite the most discouraging and disempowering message that could be broadcast. Defeatism is a speculative emotional indulgence that no serious campainer will indulge in publicly, as it is at best deeply irresponsible – we have no right at all of free speech that raises the endangerment of others – and, yes, this is an issue of life and death.

    Alongside avoiding discouragement, as a matter of productive communications I try not to discuss the diverse compound threats without directly alluding to the means of their resolution, as I observe that people tend to be unwilling to acknowledge a fundamental problem for which no solution is in sight.

    Activists’ prevailing unwillingness to acknowledge that Obama is constrained from any significant action by his inherited policy of a ‘brinkmanship of inaction’ with China et al, is surely the most ironic case in point. Once people realize that the inherited policy is utterly indefensible by the Whitehouse and will thus have to be reviewed once efforts for its exposure gain momentum, then, maybe, we’ll finally see some campaigning on that seminal keystone issue.



  44. The poker analogy WRT Obama is an interesting and possibly apt one. Prior to the election, there was a story about Obama the State Rep in the Chicago Sun Times. Obama wanted to cultivate the connections with other politicians to get things done, and so despite knowing nothing of the game, he joined a poker group that met once a week or so.

    Quoting from memory, the Sun Times expressed it something like this:
    “Week after week, as he left with everyone’s money, his fellow law makers came to view Obama as a ‘nice guy, but a little naive’.” (My emphasis.)

    The trick with poker is not winning the hand, but winning the game. And a big part of that latter is timing.

    So we’ll see.

  45. Edward says:

    What future generations? You are assuming that at least one breeding pair will survive. That is a bad assumption.

  46. Richard Brenne says:

    Lewis C (#45) writes: “You mention the large amount of doom and gloom on this site, which troubles me too. Nothing is more offputting to new readers, and the examples of absurd outright defeatism I find indistinguishable from the work of fossil lobby shills, for it is quite the most discouraging and disempowering message that could be broadcast.”

    You generally make excellent points, Lewis, but this is not one of them.

    In working with psychologists on the American Psychological Association Climate Change Task Force one of the things they speak most about is grieving, which is what I feel these folks are doing.

    It is important to grieve. I attended a talk where a psychologist spoke of two people, A and B, who each suffer crippling injuries that leave them in a wheelchair. A is determined to stay positive at all costs and take positive steps. B gets angry, despairs, grieves and takes all the other necessary psychological steps.

    After two years B is much farther along having traversed this ground than A, and generally living a more positive life.

    The tendency to want to discuss solutions without discussing the magnitude of the problem is the most common misstep of all I see, and it is not an honest or psychologically healthy way to proceed.

    Folks that want to discuss solutions without understanding what we’re up against remind me of a gung-ho military recruit who hears about Pearl Harbor and wants to strap a rifle to his back and swim into the Pacific to engage the enemy. Thank goodness Roosevelt, Churchill, Nimitz and the rest carefully considered what they were up against and planned how best to proceed.

    “Doom and gloom” is the most idiotic (and short) poem of the psychologically impaired. I imagine a New Yorker cartoon set on a beach where someone who sees the ocean recede to gather itself into a tsunami and yells “Tsunami!” is greeted by people disparagingly and dismissively saying “Doom and gloom.”

    One could place the same cartoon on the Titanic, with those giving warning of the iceberg or ship sinking being labeled “Doomers and Gloomers.” Experts and their followers (and I consider most veteran CP commenters experts themselves) warning of very real dangers are showing deep caring to me, even if they’re momentarily despairing or cynical. Those who are sincere about getting their minds around how big this is can handle any conversation that is sincere and in good faith, and I find all such comments as valuable as the solution-only comments, and often addressing the magnitude of the problem much more clearly.

    When trolls, pro-polluters and science deniers come to this web site in bad faith and make erroneous statements, lying or misrepresenting facts, then yes, they can appropriately be met with zingers, hopefully humorous.

    But to disparage those who are appropriately grieving is a mistake. This is the site more than any other where deeply caring people writing in good faith are grieving as one of the necessary steps to action, not inaction. Please don’t try to censor that.

  47. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Future generations will hate us for tolerating a society ruled by the worst amongst us, a kakistocracy as the Greeks called it.They will despise us for allowing creatures like Rupert Murdoch,in my opinion one of the most evil and morally destructive beings in history, to distort and pollute the minds of those within the reach of his media brainwashing apparatus with lies and false representations of reality, all in order to sate his apparently limitless egotism and desire to dominate.They will revile us for doing nothing as society across the planet was brought under the heel of fiends who,knowing the truth, but being morally insane and driven by psychopathy to put greed and power above everything else, ruthlessly sought to pervert the minds of millions and foster stupidity,ignorance and personal viciousness in defense of an order that not only will destroy their own descendants, but that is totally inimical to those millions’ economic and social interests even now.
    Of course future generations may be generous enough, as they live through the existential nightmare of human destruction,to divide the current human population into different categories with differing degrees of culpability. At the top, those destined,if there be a just and vengeful God (and I am coming to regret my agnosticism on this delicious possibility)to burn in Hell forever, are the knowing destroyers. The plutocrats and kleptocrats who,in pursuit of money, as carelessly and callously destroy forests, biospheres, entire countries, even their own species, simply because they do not care what happens after they are dead.
    In the same, or an adjacent circle, will dwell their propagandists,the false scientists who present any fraudulent case so long as the cheques keep coming in, and the crazed psychopaths of the Rightwing media, who’ll demonise, vilify and lie on orders, no matter what the subject, knowing their Masters’ ideological preferences like a revealed religious tract.
    Perhaps our descendants will be merciful, in their condemnation of the last and largest group responsible-the imbecile,ignorant, arrogant rabble of denialists, so easily duped because stupid and brainwashed relentlessly into knee-jerk ideological viciousness. After all, we mitigate sentence when the culprit is mentally deficient (well, most countries do). Moral deficiency is a harder problem, no doubt, but the principle of moral relativism and respect for the ‘religious’ sentiments of the bigot and the zealot can hardly be extended to those whose religion envisages,longs for and will facilitate,if possible, an Apocalypse for humanity,in which they cheerfully expect most of us to be destroyed.
    In fact,there lies the rub. I think that it is now plain that the only way to avert human extinction,through ecological collapse, allied to resource depletion and economic implosion under mountains of debt,is by replacing the economic system of market capitalism, and replace it with a steady-state economy based on redistribution and vastly greater equality. That project would be resisted with total violence, even to the extent of mass murder, even genocide, because the rulers of this planet do not acknowledge the humanity of the ‘little people’.If you want to see one of the stages through which we must pass if we are to save ourselves,just contemplate the fate of the thousands of environmental activists, murdered or ‘disappeared’ over recent decades, across the poor world, from Colombia to India and anywhere in between where capitalist greed and arrogance meet resistance.

  48. Kenneth Larsen says:

    Zen and the protecting of the planet
    There is a moral imperative and yet a spiritual paradox here.
    If we each of us do not act to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for the sake of the next fifty generations, posterity (at best)will call this the Age of Stupidity. If we do not change our current path of unmindful consumption and unmindful production, our way of life, our style of living, we cause a global collapse. Civilizations have been destroyed many times and this global civilization is no different.
    “The next ten years will be the most decisive in the next ten thousand years.” –oceanographer Sylvia Earle.
    “Let us work together for unity and love,” as Gandhi urged. We have enough to live sustainably on this planet, if we are not greedy.
    If we accept , as Thich Nhat Hanh suggests, that civilization could crash and “life will later on begin later on after a few thousand [or tens of thousands of] years because that is something that has happened in the history of the planet,” then we will have peace in ourselves and be calm enough to do something. If we come to accept that we will die and prepare to live each day peacefully and sustainably, “The situation my change and the illness may go away…. we will demonstrate to the people and bring about an awakening so that people will abandon their course of comforts.:”
    “If we can produce a collective awakening we can solve the problem of global warming. Together we have to provoke that type of awakening.”
    May it be so.

  49. Whatshisname says:

    The children know who to trust. They are steadily pouring into the world and are in this with us. They know all of you will fight for them to your last breath.

  50. pete best says:

    The problem with these articles, videoes, books etc is that they aliente certain politicians and the public who cannot see what might come. ACC does not doom us to extinction or an armageddon but it does threaten us economically as food production would lessen, extreme weather events woukld increase such as droughts, rain events such as monssons and the like. Living neat rivers might prove to be an increased risk to your home and possibly your life when more extreme flooding occurs, being near the sea is an issue as sea levels rise etc.

    Lets not go for the extreme left wing we are all going to die type wording but neither for the it is not hapenning at all type mantra. Middle ground is the only way to get this message over and potenitally change our cultural energy habits and energy sources.

    However even if we do manage to lessen our energy consumption and change our energy infrastructure it wont come about at the scale required for around 50 years. Take the car for example – presently its diesel and petrol and hybrids and electrics make up around <1% of total sales. To get then to 80% of total sales you first need to make these cars once you have researched the technology to make tem viable. Hybrids still require a petrol/diesel engine regardless so hybrids have limited impact. Electric cars wont see until the battery problem has been solved which is years off and before you do all that you have to change your electricity production to renewables as you have to manufacture cars and they emit 6-40 tons of CO2 per car made.

  51. Robert says:

    Unfortunately it is no coincidence that slavery in the US was phased out as the industrial revolution started to take off, with its attendant transformation of agricultural practices. Otherwise I imagine it would have continued just as it did in the Roman empire. Perhaps an example of swapping a problem for a bigger one.

  52. Mark says:

    Mike Roddy:

    “we must confront the evil ownership of our media and halls of government. We need to regain clear thinking,”

    Are there a set of two or three simple, straightforward question ,

    that can be asked, at political candidates public events?

  53. NeilT says:

    It’s a funny thing about the doom and gloom and the philosophy of the way humans deal with problems. I think that the Kübler-Ross model
    fits climate change pretty well.

    Given that the GOP wins and nothing really happens on Climate Change then:

    Right now most people are in denial. Yes it might be a good thing but someone else has to foot the bill and someone else has to fix it. That’s what we pay taxes for isn’t it? I don’t need to vote for it, I don’t need to change my life, I’ll just “let” someone else fix it when it really is a problem.

    In about 20-30 years time there will be real anger. Initially pointed at the scientists for “not telling them”, followed swiftly by anger at the press and their elected “rulers”.

    Shortly this will be followed by bargaining. OK so how do we fix it. What do you mean we can’t fix it? What do you mean we should have listened and mitigated it or stopped it before it got out of hand? Probably there will be multiple swings between anger and bargaining as they realise that they can’t bargain their way out of this

    Shortly after that Depression will hit. At this point people will have realised that they should have listened, done things and made sure that they elected people who would carry out actions in their best interests instead of lining their own pockets.

    Here is where I think that reality will diverge from the model. I don’t think people will come to acceptance. I think that anger will resurge, agitators will look for advantage and the mobs will begin to break down social order as they realise that they are not going to be one of the survivors.

    I expect this to happen about 2060 or so.

    After that? Who knows. But very shortly after social order breaks down these same people will realise exactly where their food came from and why it isn’t coming any more.

    Climate Change is as big a threat (or bigger), than the nuclear war threat of the cold war days. The difference? It will be another generation’s Armageddon; so arguments about impending disaster (nuclear winter), won’t hold. It was the publication of nuclear winter and the ramifications of so many nuclear weapons, i.e. nuclear war was not survivable for the majority of the population, which drove the move to remove the weapons and stabilise our future.

    Climate change is not personal enough. The world is not going to collapse around us tomorrow. WE are not sitting on a knife edge and our Children/Grandchildren (depending on how old you are), don’t realise that their old age is as threatened as our lives were in the cold war.

    Until we find a way to convey the immediacy of the problem, we’re doomed to failure.

    And for that we will be judged in the long run.

    Human nature we cannot change. Our message we can.

    We should take a leaf out of the campaign to eradicate HIV. They sat young people down and said “Look at the person next to you, if you don’t take care of your health then one of you will be dead in the next 20 years”. I can tell you it had an impact. A huge impact. We need to do the same thing with the youth of today. Get them together, tell them “Look at the person either side of you, if you don’t act on Climate Change now then two of the three of you won’t see 60”. Televise it. Push the message out.

  54. Mark says:

    Mike Roddy, thanks I am getting

    “the state of Jones”

  55. Wit'sEnd says:

    Richard #48, thanks as always for sharing your cogent and compassionate thoughts. I agree with everything you said and would like to add this analogy:

    Suppose you have been puffing merrily away on cigarettes all your life and one day your doctor discovers you have lung cancer. Your doctor tells you – it’s quite likely you are going to die from the cancer, although not 100% certain. But very very likely.

    What should you do? I think most if not all of us “doomers” think the only think to do is quit smoking! Yes, we are frightened about the prospect of dying, and we wish we hadn’t smoked all those cigarettes, and we feel terrible that we subjected others to our second hand smoke. But I have heard of only one person – although there must be others – who, upon realizing that our planet is likely going to die from our habit of burning fossil fuels – has decided to flame out in an orgy of smoking, traveling, wining, dining, and sexual promiscuity.

    All of the other gloomy doomers I know of have dedicated themselves to averting what is likely inevitable. Your can’t solve a problem if you don’t identify it explicitly, and pandering to the middle of the road in order to soften the blow would be like the doctor telling his patient: You really should stop smoking because you’ll feel so much better if you do.

    When I traded my blogger pajamas for a favorite shirt this morning, I really thought for the first time about the motto printed on the back. In the context of mulling over the topic of this CP post, I had to laugh:

    “Live With No Regrets”

  56. Robert says:

    Incandescents are far less than 20% efficient as quoted in the piece. More like 2% to 5%:

  57. Richard L says:

    Richard Brenne, thanks for your comment. I think it was very insightful and helpful to me personally.

    I read the book ‘Dirt: the erosion of Civilization’ by David R. Montgomery (Professor of Earth and Space Sciences at Univ. of Wash). It chronicles the rise and fall of human empires/civilizations over the millenia from the perspective of a soil scientist. In a nutshell, it acknowledged the inability of a civilization to recognize it was in decline, or even to recognize the reasons for the decline. I feel the parallels to AGW today are striking. Also, I have a new understanding of how vulnerable our agricultural systems currently are, regardless of AGW, and how unaware we are of that vulnerability.

    The book repeats multiple philosopher/opinions from history. Many say that the way to save the civilization is to return the land to the farmer/owner rather than the abseentee owner, tenant farmer, slave worker that existed and in many forms exists today. The point is made that the farmer/owner is the one that has the knowledge to notice the soil is degrading, is the one who cares about the health of the soil, will take the effort to restore/build it, and has the labor to do it. Of course this means cutting off the food stocks from sources that are ruinous to the land. Parallels to energy….?

  58. Bob Doublin says:

    What survivors?

  59. Lorien says:

    Thanks to Appiah for this article! I must add that I’m glad he included the meat industry in his list for a couple of reasons. First from a practical global warming and environmental perspective, the meat industry’s a big contributor to greenhouse gases, water pollution and deforestation. Second, the mindset that fuels the industry (pun intended), is one of complete and utter disregard for the sentient creatures used and abused in mind-numbing quantities – a mindset that is very similar (and arguably even more indefensible because it involves feeling beings) to the one that fuels the abuse of the earth’s resources by the oil and coal industries. I’m not sure there’s a way to “save the earth” (assuming it can be done) without, in some way, addressing this mindset.

  60. If a person blocked the exits of a burning building where people died they’d be tried for murder.
    Since the supreme court has granted corporations ‘person hood’ wouldn’t they be criminally liable for their disinformation campaign that is, in effect, blocking the exits?

  61. Adam R. says:

    “…tens of thousands of Chinese villages have been overrun by sand drifts in the past few decades.”

    That’s an awfully large number; an order of magnitude too large, I think. Does anyone have a link to a reliable source?

  62. free transit says:

    Re: electric cars: better cars => more sprawl. Eliminate the private auto.

  63. Mark says:

    Some two million people in northern Nigeria have been displaced after river authorities opened floodgates at two dams, officials said on Saturday.

    Water from the Challawa and Tiga dams has affected about 5,000 nearby villages, covering swathes of farmland and sending residents seeking shelter on higher ground.

    Heavy rains prompted authorities in Kano state to open the dams to prevent overflowing.

    The local Red Cross estimates that at least 350,000 houses have been destroyed by the floods, a situation it describes as “catastrophic”.

  64. Bob Doublin says:

    “comforts and elegancies” Derrick Jensen in his book The Culture of Make Believe extensively quotes a philosopher who was an apologist for slavery and wrote this phrase around 1837. These were the benefits of slavery given to the superior members of the human species who deserve these merely by being such superior members. They really fit to a tee the attitude we’re up against now. The whole anthropocentric attitude It’s merely the case that the identity of those enslaved have changed.And maybe the group of beneficiaries has expanded a tad bit for the moment.
    “Ipods and plasma TVs” anyone?
    How about the fact that most water use is by industries,with golf courses a significant factor? What about the mere existence of Las Vegas? Not being wasteful in our personal at home water consumption is important but when you do the math about ACTUAL use, guilt tripping people over it isn’t going to put much of a dent in the total.

  65. ihatedeniers says:

    For not listening to witsendnj’s warning about toxic ozone killing trees.

  66. Sailesh Rao says:

    In the Washington Post online poll conducted alongside Prof. Appiah’s excellent article, our treatment of the environment and our treatment of animals are running first and second.

    These two choices are really two sides of the same coin.

    In a must-see interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now, the Chilean and Berkeley economist, Prof. Manfred Max-Neef, said that the fundamental value that can sustain a renewed future for humanity should be that

    No economic interest, under no circumstance, can be above the reverence for Life.

    You can view his interview at

    In a society based on the reverence for Life, both our current treatment of the environment and our current treatment of animals would be viewed as barbaric.

    And the best part about getting to such a society is that each one of us can begin to live in it today.

    By simply substituting organic, plant-based products for all the animal products that we currently consume.

    Welcome to the new society!

  67. Doug Bostrom says:

    Ominous Clouds Overhead September 26, 2010 at 1:45 pm

    My friends in Bella Coola, British Columbia are currently experiencing big floods.

    For those who’ve not visited, Bella Coola is a beautiful but not economically robust community. When too many events like the one Ominous Clouds points out happen too frequently, the valley will be relinquished to nature. That’s “adaptation.”

    The fad du jour among advanced skeptics is to say that convection will save us from temperature increase. Would increased convection be an invisible process? No, of course not. We’re definitely going to see increased convection, in fact we already are according to people who know about these things.

  68. Bob Doublin says:

    #50 The problem with the “life will go on” attitude is that it won’t be a mere few thousand years before life returns to normal. The End Permian Extinction took 20 million years before the population of individual creatures rebounded to pre-event levels. It took 100 million years (almost the beginning of the Cretaceous) before bio-diversity-the number of actual species thriving- returned to pre-event levels. And lets not forget that nature doesn’t put on hold other possible catastrophes while all this recovery is going on. There was a major extinction event at the end of the Triassic (possibly volcanic in origin) that shaped the larger recovery and there were several asteroid impacts during this time. The viability of life on this planet could be so stressed that seemingly small events could spell the end.Not to mention the Venus Effect which is way too frighteningly real no matter how small the probability.

  69. Michael Y says:

    Dear Friends,

    Thanks for the thoughtful responses. I still sit with the “if not now, then when?” question. The comment on doom and gloom was a passing one, not intended to suggest either way whether this sort of rhetoric was appropriate or not. I was really just trying to point out that if things are as bad as we say (and I think they are), then it is time to move on options such as pumping sulfer in the upper atmosphere, etc. even if it makes me cringe to think of such options given all the failed and back-firing results we have seen with other heavy-handed “solutions” to environmental problems.

    On a different, procedural note, one of the things I see on this blog is that conversations diverge a great deal. In a single stream, we find emails on a wide range of topics….from climate science questions, to climate engineering, to best communication strategies, to blowing steam about the actions of the climate-change deniers. I wonder if we (Joe?) might be able to set up ongoing discussion fora on various topics, so that folks dedicated to a particular topic could go further in an on-going conversation?

    Thanks for your consideration.

    Michael Yaziji

  70. mike roddy says:

    Nice to hear from so many people who are speaking from their hearts.

    Beam Me Up Scotty, in the movie Chinatown, when Jack Nicholson asks about getting the police after the wealthy villain, Faye Dunaway looks at him and says “They are the police”. The oil and coal companies will never be held legally accountable. Hell, we couldn’t even get Exxon to pay damages to victims of the Valdez spill.

    Mark, thanks for taking me up on my book recommendation. The State of Jones is inspiring, too, telling stories of whites who risked their lives to do the right thing. This resonated with me, since my family roots in Mississippi include a grandmother who rebelled against racism by quitting a Southern college finishing school and joining a mixed race jazz band in the 20’s, and ended up playing duets with Fats Waller later on.

    As for three questions to your local politicians:

    1. Are you willing to cast votes that will substantially reduce the profits of oil and coal companies? It would be fun to listen to a politician trying to contort his way out of that one.

    2. What are you proposing to accelerate retirement of coal fired power plants?

    3. Are you willing to price carbon, and collect that tax without a big basket of loopholes?

    Bob, #71, and Witsend, yup. You’ve probably read the Weitzman paper about the 5% probability of runaway warming leading to extinction of all mammalian life. And that was written before the accelerating ice and glacier melt of the last two years.

    Despair is a real reaction, as Richard Brenne said, and it has to motivate action, not surrender.

  71. David Smith says:

    Pushing engineered solutions in advance of elimination of GHG emmisions as ill advised, will probably create more bad effects, and is a continuation of the thinking and systems that have created the problem in the first place. I fear the result will be a new group of billionaires and a totally non-functioning environment.

  72. Sasparilla says:

    Great comment Barry (#29), very inspirational.

  73. Brittany says:

    Interesting….haha not sure what they were thinking?

  74. Adrian says:

    As a Quaker, it’s interesting to see the Religious Society of Friends referenced in these comments.

    I’d just like to add that our religious testimonies have long upheld the imperative of living a moral life, which manifestly includes care for other humans and for the earth–even when all the powers that be defend the “worldly” status quo, and despite the logical/rational arguments against success and in favor of simply giving up. This takes courage and inner conviction, and can be a long, hard, often risky slog. Best to do it in the company of others, as Friends have always known.

    Laying waste to the earth by burning fossil fuels, depleting resources and decimating biodiversity being clearly immoral, we each might ask, “what am I doing in my own life to help change our ways, and who are the (real-life, non-cyberspace) companions that might help in this living out of moral beliefs and convincing others to do the same?”

    It’s amazing what can happen. William Penn, John Woolman and Lucretia Mott would testify to this.

  75. Windsong says:

    #36, Ominouscloud, I don’t believe in God, I KNOW there’s a God. However, I agree with what you said about old timey- End Time believers. I talked to an “ex-friend” awhile back and naturally talked about GW. (It’s always on my mind!) He said, “well, I believe in the End Times”. Case closed. As if that ends the conversation! I talked to him further about GW and he finally admitted we do need to think of future generations, etc. However, I fully agree this is probably the reason a lot of deniers keep their heads in the sand. Very sad!

  76. dorveK says:

    Ovepopulation, whether we like it or not, is the root of all evils, IMHO:

  77. Adrian says:

    #36 Ominous Cloud and “77 Windsong,

    In support of your comments, and to get all Christian Bible-y for a moment, believing in the “End Times” does not exempt one from the responsibility to–as a flawed human being–try to live a moral life,
    continuing to “walk humbly with your God” and “caring for creation.”

    IMHO that’s kind of the point being made in Matthew. To say “I believe in the end times, so I’m just going to keep on living the way I always have; who cares about good stewardship?” kind of puts one in the camp of “continuing to marry and give in marriage,” and Jesus is clear about what happens to those folks.

    God’s covenant is with all of creation, not just humans. Too many Christians forget that part of Genesis.

    #78 dorveK, well, at least the root of our planet-threatening, living-within-the earth’s-carrying-capacity problem. The article used a great analogy to help the reader visualize.

  78. Lewis C says:

    Richard at 48 –

    “The tendency to want to discuss solutions without discussing the magnitude of the problem is the most common misstep of all I see, and it is not an honest or psychologically healthy way to proceed.”

    I’m sorry that you should have so misread my post. At no point have I (or will I) propose that we should discuss solutions without discussing the magnitude of the problem. For a start the solutions make no sense without a clear grasp of the problem’s magnitude.

    What I objected to was not the mourning for the ongoing losses of people and nature, it was the speculative indulgent defeatism that is repeatedly claiming that there is nothing we can do – its too late – we’re buggered –

    That defeatism not only disempowers others, it also discourages don’t knows from facing the climate issue – “If it’s right what they’re saying that we’re finished, what’s the point of worrying about it ? Lets just hope they’re wrong.”

    Just to be clear, at no point was I disparaging others for appropriately grieving, let alone seeking to censor grief.



  79. Craig says:

    I submit that future generations will condemn us most strongly for our unrestrained reproduction, which will have produced a future generation much too large to be sustained on the planet. It is overpopulation that is the greatest source of strain on the biosphere. This is something that has been known for a very long time, going back to the publications of Malthus, starting around 1798. If only the clear warnings had been headed back then.

    From that perspective, I find it a little ironic that today’s environmentalists lay a guilt trip upon the present generation for screwing up the world for their children and grandchildren. Yet how many of them asked the rest of us for permission to reproduce? Climate activists think nothing of restricting my right to drive a gas guzzler, or use certain kinds of power to heat and run my home. They argue they have this right because my use of those things impacts the world we share. Yet how many consulted with me before they chose to pass on their precious genes? I can think of nothing that has a greater impact on the world we share than producing another citizen of the first world!

  80. Richard Brenne says:

    Lewis C (#80) – Nicely put. Lewis, sometimes I jump on the gas a little hard to make a series of points and probably did misread your original post and thus overreacted to you (although maybe appropriately to the phenomenon I was addressing) and your post.

    Basically I think the best commenters at CP, which certainly includes you, are in about 99 per cent agreement about the most important issues, when we’d be in about 99 per cent disagreement with some comparably high percentage of the population, I’m afraid (we all need to travel outside the circles where everyone agrees with us as much as possible).

    And then this all relates to the brilliant, central point made by Adrian at #76, that we should bind together as friends, if not Friends. I’ve done this with Gail Zawacki (Wit’s End), Leif Knutson, Mike Roddy and Richard Pauli in person, and hope to again.

    Let’s go down fighting, befriending and loving. . .