Almost daily scientists are sounding dire warnings about the effects of climate change. Our young will bear an unprecedented burden. They are eager to discover what can be done, as time slips away. But few of them – or us – are aware that global warming is but one facet of a looming planetary catastrophe. Most of the natural and social systems humans depend on for survival are also in various stages of collapse. Each failure will impact the other systems, including climate, in a series of feedback loops that can unleash a virtual tsunami of destruction, and do so far sooner than climate scientists, looking only at their own discipline, predict. The corona virus pandemic has shown how unprepared we are. Multiply its effects times 10, times 50, to get an idea of what’s coming. We have entered what scientists term a “critical state,” at the brink of an unstable precipice. The smallest push or pull, from any direction, could suddenly topple us. Despite the global scale of the emergency, its root causes are predominantly human and surprisingly simple. With courage to act, we can slow the devastating cascade and, perhaps, even reverse some of the worst impacts.
It’s coming at us like a freight train. Not since the first small group of homo sapiens, somewhere in Africa 200,000 years ago, struggled for survival against the odds, have we, as a species, been in such danger. How many were there, then? A couple of dozen? The very first ones, Adam and Eve and the hominid kids. Almost anything could have wiped them out, in Africa, with its super potent bugs: an outbreak of dengue fever, or malaria, or blackwater fever, or an infected tooth. Or death from drought, slow starvation on the parched veldt. A persistent big carnivore, or a pack of proto-hyenas might have finished them quickly, in a matter of days or even hours. End of story. But they made it. Had strong antibodies, or found water, or reacted fast, jumped out of the way of tooth and claw, and climbed a tree. Alert. Maybe they had help from a Creator, maybe not. But at least they did their own part. Not like us, sitting here on the railroad tracks all these centuries later, with our lazy backs turned, munching a double bacon cheeseburger and watching the Super Bowl on TV while destruction bears down. Oblivious, like the Romans of Juvenal’s day, “anxious for just two things: bread and circuses. ” Oblivious to what? To ourselves, to Newton’s Third Law of Motion, and to the coming storm our very success has provoked. In other words, failing to understand and anticipate the idea of resistance.