The Decline of Hope

Never mind the damn oil spill. We broke the Gulf of Mexico, we know - it happened, BP is to blame, the B-man is on the case (doing nothing quickly). It's true, greatest environmental disaster (and largest governmental response to an environmental diaster) requires some publicity. But no more. We're done. Tell us when something important happens.

Because the more we focus on the active threat of oil killing birds, the less we remember to fear the subtle. The oil spill, hurricanes, tornadoes, heat waves, and wettest-months-on-record (yay for the Pacific Northwest) are all fascinating stories, full of God/Nature's wrath, but that's not the only thing going on.

There's this terrible impulse that goes around to try and link the disasters occurring right now (wildfires, snow storms, hurricanes) to climate change. At best, you end up with "Someday, this could happen more often! Spooky!" and let's be honest, that's just not enough. It's not enough because, at the end of the day, people don't assume that natural disasters will ever happen again. At best, we buy insurance, even though we're sure we won't need it.

In reality, climate change is boring, even in the destruction that it will cause. We already know that it won't be like The Day After Tomorrow, which may or may not be a good thing (depending on your proximity to Emmy Rossum), but the truth is that climate change is way more boring than anyone else thinks. Think about it this way - we've already been going through it for at least twenty years, and no one's even noticed.

Here's the problem. Assemble a list of catastrophic events climate change will bring. To each item, amend the amount of time it will take for this to happen. You end up with stuff like THE OCEANS WILL RISE... TWO FEET OVER THE COURSE OF THE NEXT HUNDRED YEARS. Scary.

And it is scary, because it will change the lives of billions of people around the world, possibly make a couple (small, island) nations homeless, and force us to redraw our maps. (That's a little crazy to think about - we might have to change our maps.) But it's not Hollywood-Scary.

This is important, because this whole oil spill thing shows how powerful a Hollywood-level story can be, even when zee Media goes above and beyond all reasonable expectations in terms of reporting a story. According to this incredibly smart guy, zee Media has been trying to set the B-Man up as Harrison Ford-esque action hero/President, despite the fact that Obama can't do anything more to help this situation.

This is all very revealing of the psychology of climate change, which is the subject to study if you're a huge fan of depressing the hell out of yourself. Basically, climate change is a very large scale, very distant threat that probably won't affect you. You cannot be shown pictures of climate change approaching and/or encroaching on your backyard. And even the pictures you can be shown, of wildfires and floods and ice storms that kinda-sorta-might've been caused by climate change are weak sauce because, really? We had ice storms before, we'll keep having them, and isn't it supposed to be global warming?

And yet, this is the one time in history that we can actually prevent climate change. It's like someone, years ago, had said "Hey, maybe we should grab an acoustic trigger to prevent a catastrophic failure a mile under the surface of the Gulf of Mexico". Which they did. And no one did it.

But with climate change we're looking at an extremely not-simple fix, executed across all nations, for the foreseeable future... to prevent a disaster that will take hundreds of years to subtly arrive.

The pessimistic reality of this is why I've titled this post the Decline of Hope. This thing, climate change, is so huge that it dwarfs anyone and everyone. The most common reaction, it seems to me, is to ignore it. A less common but still frequent reaction is to deny it, because it's just not possible that the world as we know it can change (or that scientists can be right about something big). Unfortunately, an even more infrequent reaction seems to be to stand up and try and do something about it.

For the last year, I've fallen into the first camp. I'd like to relocate myself to the third, again, but it's hard. We all know that it is, because if you're reading this then at least you've thought about climate change.

But it does have to be done. Even if it's a depressing slog, it's necessary. Because even if it takes BP another two months to lock that oil down, the Gulf will, someday, be clean again. The birds can be cleaned off, and they might be able to replenish themselves.

But once climate change happens, it's almost impossible to go back - it lays too many blocks in the path. Ice disappears, ecosystems are damaged beyond reconciliation, and methane from all over the world is released into the atmosphere. When we reach the point of no return (here's to hoping we're correct and that it still lies in front of us), I certainly hope we've grown up enough to meet it head on. At the least, I hope that we don't start blasting the President for not showing enough emotion. It will truly be all of our faults.

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