The years have passed since I showed Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth to my writing and rhetoric class at University of Hartford in 2007, and even mentioned the report on the climate crisis produced by the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Center for a New American Security. Only a few students were interested. Since then the crisis has worsened as is said to become “existential.” See this 2022 piece in Salon, for example, with lots of background on the research and our attempts to deal with it, or not. We need hope to confront the challenge at all, but this must be hope based in reality, and that isn’t easy to accommodate or implement. Unrealistic hope can be a trap and as bad as denial. “We have set in motion an industrial machine of such complexity and such dependence on expansion,” Wright notes, “that we do not know how to make do with less or move to a steady state in terms of our demands on nature.”
For some positivity, see George Monbiot on “Rewild the World” if you want to envision our future as a “raucous summer” and not the silent spring predicted with climate change if we do nothing. Check out his life story also! What an adventuresome & activist journalist. Then watch E.O. Wilson on setting aside half the planet for wildlife. Perhaps he inspired Monbiot… Here is a link to “What Would a Truly Wild Ireland Look Like?”
Meanwhile, forest reestablishment and regrowth is a bright spot giving hope. “Restored Forests Breathe Life Into Efforts Against Climate Change.”
Or is it? Phantom Forests are a problem: “High-profile initiatives to plant millions of trees are being touted by governments around the world as major contributions to fighting climate change. But scientists say many of these projects are ill-conceived and poorly managed and often fail to grow any forests at all.” https://e360.yale.edu/features/phantom-forests-tree-planting-climate-change?utm_source=pocket-newtab
Here is a link to 10,000 links on ecology at The Eco Gateway. For the scoop on the depth of our problems Climate Central is useful, and there are two lively historical graphics on the history of CO2 emissions and on temperature escalation. Unless we can reign in over-consumption of fossil fuels there is no hope, never mind eliminate fossil fuels. Anything that seems to require a change in lifestyle and behavior is a problem. As noted by Gore, “the public sphere itself has evolved into a place hospitable to reason’s enemies.” See his site, including The Assault on Reason and by Susan Jacoby The Age of American Unreason & The Age of American Unreason in a Culture of Lies. Without reason we won’t change our ways, and we’re seriously lacking, but we also have to tap into the right emotions to drive change and that means being close to nature and other species at a time when we’re increasingly disconnected from the natural world. Gore has another quote:
One of the world’s leading neuroscientists, Dr. Vilayanur S. Ramachandran, has written, “Our mental life is governed mainly by a cauldron of emotions, motives and desires which we are barely conscious of, and what we call our conscious life is usually an elaborate post hoc rationalization of things we really do for other reasons.” There are other mental structures that govern feelings and emotions, and these structures have a greater impact on decision making than logic and reason. Moreover, emotions have much more power to affect reason than reason does to affect emotions—particularly the emotion of fear. A scientist at Stony Brook University, Charles Taber, went so far as to say, “The Enlightenment model of dispassionate reason as the duty of citizenship is empirically bankrupt.” We have to seek out reason, as we have no choice.
It is helpful to go back in geologic and evolutionary time in order to understand climate challenges today, and not ignore the challenges. As we face The Sixth Extinction, here is a rendering of the history of extinctions from https://www.nps.gov/subjects/geology/time-scale.htm
The divisions of the geologic time scale are organized stratigraphically, with the oldest at the bottom and youngest at the top. GRI map abbreviations for each geologic time division are in parentheses. Boundary ages are in millions of years ago (mya). Major North American life history and tectonic events are included. Compass directions in parentheses indicate the regional locations of events. Bold horizontal lines indicate major boundaries between eras. Graphic design by Trista Thornberry-Ehrlich (Colorado State University) and Rebecca Port (NPS Geologic Resources Division), adapted from geologic time scales published by the U.S. Geological Survey and the International Commission on Stratigraphy.