Nearly two years ago I bought the book Eaarth by Bill McKibben. The book compiles detailed, factual, science-based projections about the impact climate change will have on our planet within our lifetime. One of the early points McKibben raises is that our leaders and the media misguide and lull us by consistently speaking of climate change in terms of leaving a better world for our grandchildren, or being able to look our children in the eye. Yes, we care about the world we leave for our progeny; but this framing makes the problem seem distant, almost sentimental, and definitely less urgent than warranted. Eaarth explores the tangible, dramatic, and costly effects of a climate that has already shifted, and provides an in-depth discussion of what lies immediately ahead.
The media and our leaders also confuse us into complacency when they present the reality of human impact on our climate as some sort of debate, rather than the consensus among scientists that it is. When exponential growth of population, food production, manufacturing, pollution, and carbon emissions occur within a finite world, the debate isn’t whether or not we will exhaust Earth’s ability to sustain our current trajectory; it is how soon we will see catastrophic, irreversible effects on our planet–and what we can do to change course. Even the most conservative estimates among scientists are alarming enough to warrant swift, profound, widespread response.
Though McKibben’s book is smartly written and his assertions well-founded, nearly two years ago I had to put this book down after 62 pages. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe him or want to know the truth, it’s just that the truth made me so angry at everyone. And being so angry rendered me pretty useless. No one wants to listen to a raving environmentalist, or anyone raving about anything, really.
I started the Wednesday Post with the specific intention of keeping it environmentally themed and anger-free. The solutions here are modest, but they are things lots of people can do. I try to use this space to inspire you and me; to remind you and me that our daily choices make a difference.
Having quelled much of my own environmental fury, I recognize the need to draw the determination to take action from a more wholesome, constructive, and curious place. There’s no use crying over spilled milk, but it’s worth knowing what factors lead to the glass tipping. On Sunday I decided it was time to finish Eaarth, finally. Join me! I’m up to page 139, and am a very slow reader, so you could easily catch up. I’m sure I’ll be mentioning it on Wednesdays to come.
McKibben views climate change through a wide lens, constructing an historical perspective that allows us to step outside the assumptions of our times regarding the way we think life should be. Such an approach helps open our minds to working robustly within our new, somewhat abridged range of possibilities.
“But first we really do need to come to terms with where we are. We need to dampen our intuitive sense that the future will resemble the past, and our standard-issue optimisim that the future will be ever easier. We do not live any longer on the flat earth that Tom Friedman postulated. Eaarth is an uphill planet now, where gravity exerts a stronger pull than we’re used to. You have to work harder to get where you’re going.” –Bill McKibben, Eaarth
“What I have to say about this book is very simple: Read it, please. Straight through to the end. Whatever else you were planning to do next, nothing could be more important.” –Barbara Kingsolver
I concur. Don’t take two years to read it like I have. Thanks for reading the Wednesday Post!