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Is it all over? Worse: Do I want it to be?


Benjamin Sibelman
Living Worlds Productions

Is it all over? Worse: Do I want it to be?

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“If you go to an audition and don’t really try, if you’re not really prepared, if you didn’t work as hard as you could have and you don’t win, you have an excuse. . . . Nothing is harder than saying, ‘I gave it my all and it wasn’t good enough.’”

         - Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, violin prodigy, as quoted in Mindset by Carol S. Dweck

“I could blame the Chamber of Commerce and the fossil-fuel lobby for spending bags of money to subvert this bill. But the truth is, the public, confused and stressed by the last two years, never got mobilized to press for this legislation. We will regret it.

“We’ve basically decided to keep pumping greenhouse gases into Mother Nature’s operating system and take our chances that the results will be benign — even though a vast majority of scientists warn that this will not be so. Fasten your seat belts.”

         - Thomas L. Friedman, “We’re Gonna Be Sorry,” The New York Times July 24, 2010

When I first heard about Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s decision to shelve the climate commitments in the currently pending energy bill, probably until after the elections and the almost-certain loss of a number of Democrats from both houses of Congress, my first reaction was to assume the worst: “By the time America does anything meaningful about the climate crisis, it will be too late to matter.  Just because both Clinton and Dubya got a fair amount done with fewer members of their own party in Congress than we have now, doesn’t seem enough reason for hope when we’ve moved to the default assumption that anything we try in the Senate will get filibustered.  And regulation under the Clean Air Act, which has always been the backup plan, just seems ludicrous when I think about it now: sure, the EPA can save some endangered species and improve air quality in our cities, but how can they possibly play a major role in saving the world?  Plus, Congress has failed once to make it illegal for the EPA to act at all, but with more Republicans on board, they could easily succeed.  And don’t even talk to me about saving the world one state, or even one city, at a time.”

But I have to fight that attitude.  Despair is seductive.  Unless you’re crazy enough to work for a cause you believe to be already lost, despair means you can give up, relax, and enjoy this lovely habitable planet while we’ve got it.  Instead, I need to keep believing that there are many possible paths to success — political, economic/corporate, technological, social/cultural, etc — and then I need to do all I can to help promote them, despite the fact that success is far from guaranteed.  And I have to keep working on ideas for how we can survive and thrive even in the face of climate catastrophe.  Maybe, as Randall Munroe says in the title text to this comic, “All in all, the future will be okay! Except climate; we f***ed that one up.”  This will be particularly challenging since I learned that the source of half of our planet's oxygen appears to be quickly vanishing, but I have to try.

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