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  • Writer's pictureMichael Sales

What is Saving the World Worth to You?

Updated: Mar 16, 2023

A couple of days before England reported the highest temperatures in its recorded history (7/19/22), a New York Times/Siena poll delivered some very bad news to the Anthropocene: only 1% of the American population ranks climate change as the #1 problem facing America today. The climate’s 99-1 loss in the poll of public opinion stands in stark contrast with the 97+% of publishing climate scientists who are convinced that climate change is real. Most of the folks who are best informed on this topic view it as a pressing crisis.


As reported by NASA and many other sources, the evidence of the climate emergency is everywhere:


  • Global temperatures have grown steadily higher since the 1950s. They’re currently about 1° C higher than they were then.

  • A 2° C increase in global temperature will expose 37% of the world’s population to sustained heat waves, such as the current one in Jacobabad Pakistan (population ~200K), where temperatures rose to over 100° for 51 days straight.

  • Unabated, the continuation of present fossil consumption habits will result in a temperature rise of ~4°C, with unimaginably terrible consequences.

  • Droughts and extreme wildfires have become a fact of life in the Western US while violent storms and precipitation pelt the East.

  • Climate change is driving desperation and migration within and between countries.


Flooding in Marblehead MA caused by Hurricane Sandy in 2012

Being in the very small minority that considers climate change to be a truly pressing existential crisis is tough. There is so much that needs to be done, but there is so little will to do it. Depressing.


It would make a significant difference in public opinion if events driven by global warming were simply named as such in the popular media.


For example, the thermometer is expected to hit 111° F today in Phoenix AZ. The current drought in Phoenix is approaching 15 years in length. It has surpassed the worst drought in more than 110 years of official recordkeeping. Despite this fact, the digital version of today’s Arizona Republic carries no front-page information about the drought or its link to climate change. Nor is such a link to climate change made anywhere in the paper. It does carry a story about the early emergence of the yearly “wildfire season,” in which 1,400,000 acres were burned in 2020—2021. No reference is made to climate change. Ditto for a story on two private prisons losing power after a major storm causing about 2,700 prisoners to boil in 100+° heat.


I am unaware of any concerted and organized campaign to demand that the reportage of life-threatening weather events by the mass media be described in climate change terms.


Here’s a statement that is made repeatedly in press coverage: “While it cannot be stated with certainty that this (tornado, hurricane, forest fire, flood, drought, loss of life, tsunami, mass extinction, mass migration of desperate refugees, war, heat wave, sea level rise … nightmare) is caused by climate change, it’s the sort of thing that is correlated with the predictions made by climate scientists.”


BS!!!!


The specifics may vary, but the context is clear: global warming is causing extreme weather everywhere.

Idiot politicians like Manchin are posturing and dithering and getting wrought up with the scandal of women having sex or the protection of the wealth of billionaires and their yachts while the planet fries.


It is long past time for media outlets like the Wall Street Journal, Fox News, the Gannett Newspaper, and Xinhua News Agency which reach millions and billions to start telling the truth: we are rapidly approaching a requiem scenario for civilization and maybe for all life on our planet. Through our ignorance, rigidity, and immaturity, we are bombing ourselves back into the Stone Age. The situation reminds me of a scene near the end of one of my favorite movies, Schindler’s List.


In this scene, Oskar Schindler, who saved about 1,200 Jews from being exterminated by the Nazis in Poland, arrives at a railway station where there are boxcars crammed full of men, women, and children on their way to being murdered in the death camps.



Schindler, who was once a confirmed Nazi and a multimillionaire, had the extremely good fortune to find his humanity. He sacrificed all of his possessions to give comfort and life to a few hundred out of the millions who were slaughtered by a ruthless tyranny.


Tragically, as the Secretary General of the United Nations, António Guterres, stated on July 18, 2022, short-term thinking in the Anthropocene has created the conditions that make “collective suicide” very likely. We’ve put ourselves into the boxcars Schindler hosed down.


In To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch described courage as “When you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyhow.” This is the position that we, the members of the 1% who have no doubt that climate change is the existential issue confronting our era have to display.


What are we who know of the approach of this calamity to do to be true to ourselves? Can we prevent this self-inflicted apocalypse any more than Schindler was able to save the Jews in those boxcars? Probably not, although there might still be some very slight chance of stepping back from the eve of destruction. Should we concentrate on saving ourselves? Maybe. Should we bank on technological breakthroughs that will shift the management of Earth to artificial intelligent agents that won’t give a single damn about human sensitivities? Maybe. Should we expend our last ounce of energy pleading with the folks who are too busy worrying about today to concern themselves with the day after tomorrow for themselves, their children, and Nature? I don’t know.


I do know that, if through some miracle, civilization survives for the next 200 years, this era will be recalled with horror and contempt. It will be remembered as one in which most people didn’t have the education, skill, attention, or opportunity to give a damn, and as one in which there were some who could have made a difference, but preferred to party and make war while Earth burned.


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