I was just out walking in the town I live in. An unseasonably nice day, warm and breezy, like the best days of early fall. Then it hit me: my generation may very well be the last to experience habitable climates on most of Earth.
It is almost certainly too late to adopt enough changes to avoid disaster. As for our social preoccupations, they are vexing, for sure, but not nearly on an order of magnitude comparable to environmental issues. No matter how our current crises play out, how sordid or how sublime our responses to the xenophobia raging across the planet, it will all take its place in history, alongside all the ages, dark, golden, or forgotten.
If there still is history. If the effluent we keep pumping into the air leaves us with a future, let alone history.
In a way, it’s a self-correcting problem. Either we correct our course, which seems increasingly unlikely, or we render our planet inhospitable. In either case, our cultures will change, and our sheer numbers will decrease, in the former case by intelligent design, in the latter by brute force. The earth will return to its inanthropic cycles, none the worse for wear, to whatever state counts as normal.
We are far too young a species to grasp what that is. Earth has passed through phases as diverse as completely covered with ice, an atmosphere poisonous to virtually any life, and desiccation more severe and universal than anything since we crawled out from our ancestral apes into the brave new world. Through most of it, life had yet to occur, much less evolve, and even when it had, it clung tenuously to existence. At least five times since it’s emergence, life has been almost wiped out. Even our own species was squeezed through a fine and narrow filter some 60,000 years ago, when genetics point to a breeding population of Homo sapiens of less than 2,000. Some scholars speculate that it was during this period that our evolving intelligence was given a swift kick to accelerate it, in response to the demographic crisis.
Given how that is turning out, I’m not very optimistic. I hope I’m wrong.