Why We Just Don’t Care about Our Children’s Future (It’s not our fault)

“A crime is something someone else commits.”

John Steinbeck

As I implied in my last piece, our passive, sluggish response to the climate crisis is in fact the natural result of evolution. Or the lack thereof. The brain of the human animal is simply not equipped to handle the reality that homo sapiens (Latin for “wise man”) has become an immense, powerful, Earth-altering, geologic force. Our ego is arrogant enough to believe it, of course, but lacks the emotional maturity to fully accept the catastrophic implications of the power we now wield.

Our species evolved to cope with immediate threat or danger, not this slow, steady, strangling death; not this collapsing, world-wide disintegration that is properly characterized as “climate chaos.”

Most of us understand the fact of human-caused climate change as a geographically and temporally distant abstraction. We process it intellectually as if we are an exonerated bystander or an actor in a play; as if we are not as guilty as anyone of a lifetime of fossil crime; as if we have a choice whether we participate or not; as if our children and future generations won’t remember our complicity in the ecological genocide unfolding on Earth’s verdant stage; as if there is another planet for us once we have righteously ruined this one; as if this – all of this – isn’t deeply personal, emotional, real; and weirdly much more immediate than our senses are willing to admit.

Even though it is global and threatens all life on Earth, to our brains, it just doesn’t feel as real as a toothache, broken leg or even a papercut in the present moment. Thank the human brain.

Bryan Walsh made this point in a Time Magazine article earlier this year when he noted that even though the problem is obvious to most of us, “The whole world is doing little to slow the pace of climate change.” He wrote, “We know—at least those of us not in the grips of outright climate denial—how bad it is. But we can’t seem to act to save the future.”

The “biggest reason,” Walsh wrote, “is found within our own minds.” How do we know this? How do we know anything? Science. Some of us trust science.

In this case, we can turn to “the narrow metal tube of a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine,” where we discover that when we think about ourselves, “a certain part of your brain, called the medial prefrontal cortex, or MPFC, will light up like Times Square on New Year’s Eve.” However, if we think about a close relative, “the MPFC will still light up, though less robustly.” And if we think about strangers, people who we have never met, “the MPFC will light up even less.”

Furthermore, and this is absolutely key to understanding my point, if we think about ourselves in the future, our brains light up as if we were thinking about another person. To you and me, our future self (and yes, our children’s future self) is as important to us as a stranger on the other side of the planet. We don’t really care. Sorry, future self. Sorry, future selves of all children alive today, including our own. And the further out in the future we project, we care even less about that person, even though it is us, and our precious progeny.

Jane McGonigal, the research director of the Institute for the Future, explained, “Your brain acts as if your future self is someone you don’t know very well and, frankly, someone you don’t care about.”

Damn brain. But at least that means we’re off the hook, right?

Walsh helps us see why this explains our failure to treat the climate emergency as, well…an emergency. Why should we care about our children, grandchildren and future generations? Why should we care about billions of poor, black and brown people? Why should we care about whether most plant and animal species go extinct or not? Yawn. Not our problem. Not our fault.

Our brains simply aren’t wired for that level of compassion, social concern and empathy. We just don’t care. We are primarily wired to care for ourselves in the present moment. We are wired to care for our partner, our children and family, our tribe or our community today. In this time. In this place. And that’s it. We are willing to sacrifice for someone or something of value here and now but, sadly for our species, it seems we seems we won’t sacrifice for someone else in the future, even if that someone else is us.

Jesus Christ might want us to love everyone but our biology objects. Christ might want us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves but tragically for our children and grandchildren in the future, they just don’t make the cut. They are not included in our neighborhood of concern.

We appear to identify with our family, team or nation now and exclude other tribes, teams or nations even if it is our own lineage in the future. Are we willing to sacrifice now to help others later? We might “think” the answer is yes but evidence suggests otherwise.

Take sea level rise. This isn’t a new concern. Scientists have known for decades that our greenhouse gas emissions (yours and mine) are warming the planet and that causes sea level rise for two reasons. A warmer ocean expands (bigger water molecules) and as the planet grows hotter, glacial ice melts into the sea. That water has to go somewhere and that is why it is now regularly flooding the streets of Miami and homes along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.

It has also been obvious for just as long that islands and coastal communities will not survive sea level rise and that many millions, if not billions of people, will be affected. We know this intellectually but we don’t feel it emotionally except maybe when a hurricane happens. And even then, how long do we care? Two weeks maybe?

Plus, we don’t connect it to our emissions. We keep that reality separate. It is no different with droughts, wildfires, extreme weather events or species extinctions. We know these things are happening and most of us, if pressed to do so, can make the intellectual connection with the fossil fuels we personally consumed today and every single day of our existence. But again, yawn, so what? Are we to blame for destroying our planet or is it our brain’s fault? How can we make ourselves care about something we don’t really care about, even if it means the possible extinction of our own species?

Dr. Orrin H. Pilkey does not know the answer to these profoundly disturbing, existential questions but he can tell you everything you ever wanted to know about sea level rise. He is a Professor Emeritus of Geology, Division of Earth and Ocean Sciences, in the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University, and Founder and Director Emeritus of the Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines.

He received his Ph.D. degree in geology at Florida State University and has been a professor at Duke University since 1965. After his parents’ house in Waveland, Mississippi was destroyed by Hurricane Camille in 1969, he switched his research focus to the study of coasts, a field in which he is well known internationally. In 2012, Duke University honored Dr. Pilkey with the naming of a building at the Duke Marine Lab in Beaufort, NC:  the Orrin Pilkey Marine Sciences and Conservation Genetics Center.

Dr. Pilkey has published more than 250 scientific papers and is the author or co-author of numerous books including The Rising Sea, published in 2009, which was his first book to focus on the global threat from sea level rise. In 2011, Dr. Pilkey and his son Keith Pilkey wrote Global Climate Change: A Primer and in 2014 he co-wrote The Last Beach, focusing on how the world’s beaches are threatened by sea level rise and the challenges we face in trying to save them. The 2016 volume, Retreat from the Rising Sea: Hard Decisions in an Age of Global Climate Change, co-authored with his daughter, Linda Pilkey-Jarvis, and his son, Keith, focused on sea level rise and the need to retreat or move back off the shore.

Dr. Pilkey’s most recent book published this year, is Sea Level Rise: A Slow Tsunami on America’s Shores, which was again cowritten with his son Keith. In this latest publication, the Pilkey’s argue that “the only feasible response” to the “unstoppable, impending catastrophe” of global climate change is for people who live “along much of the US shoreline to begin an immediate and managed retreat.”

But they aren’t doing that. Not even close. Why? Once again, the human brain. It is easier to deny the reality right in front of us than deal with it. And yet we – all of us – not just islanders and coastal dwellers, will be forced to deal with it in the years and decades to come.

I recently read Dr. Pilkey’s latest book in preparation for my interview of him which will be broadcast on my Wake-Up Call radio show on KKRN 88.5 FM (kkrn.org) on Tuesday, November 12, 2019 at 4:00 p.m.

Dr. Pilkey describes sea level rise as a “slow-motion tsunami” because it does just as much damage, but obviously moves at a slower pace. He calls the rising sea, “the first truly worldwide catastrophe caused by global climate change.” He writes, “It will impact all seven continents in all the world’s coastal cities from Los Angeles to New York, Rotterdam, Lagos, Mumbai, Shanghai, Tokyo, Honolulu, and many others. A few, like Miami and New Orleans, will disappear, as their geographical features guarantee that they ultimately cannot be defended against the rising waters.”

The reason we struggle to comprehend the enormity of sea level rise is because it corresponds with geologic time, not human-mind time. Many of us live today and think about fairly mundane, pedestrian and self-centered concerns that involve us in a narrow frame of time. We are mainly concerned with this week, this month or this year. When Dr. Pilkey explains that sea level rise is here to stay, he means it is at minimum, “a 400-year problem.” No matter how hard we try, we will never grasp the meaning of those words. Let alone, “hundreds of thousands of years.”

In his book, Long Thaw: How Humans Are Changing the Next 100,000 Years of Earth’s Climate, “David Archer predicts that if we continue to emit carbon dioxide, we may eventually cancel the next ice age and raise the oceans by 50 meters. A human-driven, planet-wide thaw has already begun, and will continue to impact Earth’s climate and sea level for hundreds of thousands of years.”

And while our perceptual reality suggests this is moving slowly and gradually, this again is a trick of the mind. In his book, The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming, David Wallace-Wells writes, “…never in the earth’s recent recorded history has there been warming at anything like this speed – by one estimate, around 10 times faster than at any point in the last 66 million years. Every year, the average American emits enough carbon to melt 10,000 tons of ice in the Antarctic ice sheets – enough to add 10,000 cubic meters of water to the ocean. Every minute, each of us adds five gallons.”

While our tiny minds fail to understand such immense realities, perhaps we can relate to the fact that nearly 90,000 miles of American ocean and tidal (including bays, lagoons, and estuaries) shoreline is developed and it is all at risk right now as the seas continue to rise.

Perhaps we can also understand that America’s coastal communities, like the rest of the world, are already being impacted by sea level rise. Take Norfolk Virginia, for example. Home of “a Naval shipyard older than the nation itself,” sea level in that city “has risen 1.5 feet in the past century, twice the global average, in part because the coastline is sinking.”

Over a decade ago, “the Navy commissioned the National Research Council to study the risks climate change poses to its ability to respond to these crises and keep the country safe. The 2011 report said a thawing Arctic would stress the military’s fleet by opening a vast new arena to police in particularly harsh conditions.

The report also found that 56 Naval facilities worth a combined $100 billion would be threatened if sea level rose about 3 feet.”

The report also “warned that the Navy needed to begin protecting the most vulnerable facilities immediately, and had only 10 to 20 years to begin work on the rest.” And of course, like anything else related to preparing for our climate future, these report recommendations have been ignored.

Despite knowing what’s coming, we pretend we do not know. Pilkey writes, “Developers still construct beachfront houses along the Carolina and Florida shorelines. In Miami, certainly the most threatened city in America, two high-rise construction projects costing more than $1 billion each are underway.”

How much sea level rise are we talking about? Of course, it depends on what time frame we look at. Many sea level projections focus on the end of the century where Pilkey writes, “estimates from credible scientists range from 1 foot to a rather wild 10 feet.”

Most scientists believe that it is realistic to envision a 3-foot sea level rise in the next 80 years, but it could be as high as 6 feet. In 2017, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued a report setting “the ‘extreme’ scenario of global average sea level rise by 2100 to 8.2 feet (2.5 meters), up half a meter from the last estimate issued in 2012.”

But even 30 years from now, we need to be worried as new research revealed, “Rising seas could affect three times more people by 2050 than previously thought. The new research shows that some 150 million people are now living on land that will be below the high-tide line by midcentury.”

Southern Vietnam will disappear. Residents of Bangkok, and “more than 10 percent of citizens” of Thailand are likely to see their land underwater by 2050. The city of Shanghai is threatened and “much of Mumbai, India’s financial capital and one of the largest cities in the world, is at risk of being wiped out.” Alexandria, Egypt, will likely disappear as could “Basra, the second-largest city in Iraq.” Should we care about this?

According to a 2017 Cornell University study, by the end of the century, 20 per cent of the world’s population, or about 2 billion people, “could become climate change refugees due to rising ocean levels. Those who once lived on coastlines will face displacement, and resettlement bottlenecks as they seek habitable places inland.”

According to Pilkey, climate refugees in America will come from all our coasts, beginning with Miami-Dade County in Florida, San Mateo County in California, Charleston County, in South Carolina and Clatsop County in Oregon, to name a tiny few. Most, of course, will come from Florida, where 20 of the 25 cities most at risk from sea level rise are found. Millions of Floridians are expected to flood north to escape the rising tide.

Long before this happens, however, real estate values of coastal properties will crash and crash hard, affecting the rest of our economy. Pilkey explains that current owners of coastal property will inevitably go looking for “a greater fool,” to whom they can unload their property before the sea comes to claim it. This process has already begun.

A recent analysis “estimates that property value losses from coastal flooding in 17 states were nearly $16 billion from 2005 to 2017. Florida, New Jersey, New York and South Carolina each saw more than $1 billion in losses.”

Another study found, “By 2045, roughly 300,000 homes and commercial properties in the continental United States may face chronic, disruptive flooding, threatening $135 billion in property, and potentially forcing the more than 280,000 current residents to adapt or relocate.” Should we care about this? Would it make sense to elect leaders who are determined to address this crisis?

Pilkey writes, “We are clearly facing an uncertain future forced on us by global climate change, and particularly by a rising sea. Yet, instead of recognizing the urgency of our plight and the need for immediate long-term planning and action, we remain in a cocoon of questioning and uncertainty aided by some of our leaders who stare at the evidence of climate change and unstoppable sea level rise and yet deny it.”

Is there hope? I guess that depends on us. Do we care about our own future and our children’s future? Can we make ourselves care? Or are we doomed by our hard-wired brains that tell us not to care? What is absolutely true is that the climate crisis does not care what we think. It only cares and will only respond to what we do.

Douglas Craig
Doug Craig graduated from college in Ohio with a journalism degree and got married during the Carter administration. He graduated from graduate school with a doctorate in Psychology, got divorced, moved to Redding, re-married and started his private practice during the Reagan administration. He had his kids during the first Bush administration. Since then he has done nothing noteworthy besides write a little poetry, survive a motorcycle crash, buy and sell an electric car, raise his kids, manage to stay married and maintain his practice for almost 30 years. He believes in magic and is a Dawes fan.
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47 Responses

  1. Avatar Doug Cook says:

    Why aren’t we getting worked up over climate change? Simple, because we have had 30 years now of catastrophic predictions that never seen to come to fruition. We were told that there will be no more Arctic ice by 2007. We were told that children in the Midwest would never grow up to see snow, we were told that Polar Bears will soon be extinct. What have we seen for the past 100 years? We have seen a temperature increase of about one degree. In the history of the world, a rather stable climate.
    Try as I may, I see no evidence of catastrophic sea level rise. What we see is a natural sea level rise between 1.7 and 3mm a year, consistent for the past 160 years. I just checked the NOAA’s sea level data and see no catastrophic rise anywhere in the world. What we see is ice expanding in Greenland, ice expanding in Antarctica and ice loss slowing in the Arctic after the low of 2012 and is now expanding according to NASA. Dr Craig wants us to believe that sea level rise will increase from 3mm a year to 6-10ft in 80 years. The likely scenario? The 1 foot that NOAA gives as the low figure. That is about what we have been seeing for the last century. But of course, that won’t get the headlines, only the catastrophic claims get the headlines. There is absolutely no emperical evidence to make that catastrophic claim It is nothing but scare tactics.

    • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

      Doug — Glad to read that you’ve done all the basic research and refined the models, simplifying them to be linear. Ten thousand climate scientists must be blushing.

      • Avatar Doug Cook says:

        Climate scientists continue to lower predictions of catastrophic claims. Look at the latest IPCC report. The predictions of global warming in the report is a fraction of what it was in the first report in 1990. My contention is the scare tactics used by those like Dr Craig is disengenious and is used merely to instill fear. He often repeats the 6 ft sea level rise, where even NOAA admits that is a worse case scenario that has little chance if happening. I don’t have to do research, but I can read…and I just don’t read scary headlines. I dig deep into the research and learn about the subject.

        • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

          Doug — Just to take one example, you’re flat wrong about Greenland. Mass ice balance has trended toward loss for the 5 decades of careful measurement.

          As of 2018, NASA analyses using three techniques of measuring mass ice in Greenland (e.g., satellites measuring gravity or surface height changes) all agree that Greenland is losing between 150 to 180 gigatons of ice per year. The measured ice loss in the last 8 years is six times the rate of loss when they first started measuring in the early 1970s (which is why I earlier mocked your simplistic assumption of linearity).

          In short: Your armchair science protestations are less than compelling.

          • Avatar Doug Cook says:

            The Greenland Ice Sheet contains about 2.6 million Gt of ice. So if it were to lose 200 Gt per year, every year, it would be over 14,000 years before it “would have no ice.”..catastrophic? Don’t think so. During the last 100 years, Greenland oscillated between gaining and losing ice. Its greatest loss raised sea level by 0.07 inches in 2012. NASA is perplexed why the large glacier in Greenland, the Jakobshavn Glacier in western Greenland is growing. Data shows that the melting in Greenland that hit its peak in 2012 has turned around and ice is starting to expand in the last 2 years.
            But let’s say that ice is still melting…so what? Is that unusual? Unprecedented? Of course not. We know that the Vikings settled in Greenland between 985 and 1400AD and successfully farmed the land growing a variety of crops that can’t be grown today because of the cold temperatures. A team of scientists from Northwestern University reconstructed the last 3,000 years of southern Greenland’s climate history. What they found was that, in the areas where the Norse Vikings settled, temperatures very likely were hovering around 50°F.
            That certainly wasn’t from AGW, correct? So here it is Steve. Yes, the climate continues to change, ocean currents change, solar activity changes, global temperatures change. You yourself claim that we started measuring ice in the early 70’s. What does that show us? Not much…it is 40 years of data, we have core samples that show centuries of oscillating between warming and cooling…melting and freezing.

    • Avatar Gary Tull says:

      Mr. Cook, After a relatively recent flight over the Atlantic at a time when visibility was fairly clear, I can assure you that ice is not expanding on Greenland. The very opposite is quite apparent in a rather obvious way.

      • Avatar Doug Cook says:

        Sorry Mr Tull, your one anecdotal observation doesn’t negate the actual facts or measurements. I’ll defer to NASA on this one.

        • Avatar Gary Tull says:

          My conclusion is not based on only a one-time anecdotal observation. Greenland ice is NOT expanding as you say it is. Certainly not in density or thickness. Final stop!

  2. Avatar Bruce Vojtecky says:

    People are concerned about Climate Change but they focus on mundane self-centered concerns like what they are going to eat today, not tomorrow. Where they are going to sleep tonight, not tomorrow. Can they afford to go to the doctor or take their kids to the doctor today, or tomorrow. Many, not just sickly elders, have to choose between food or needed medicine. Those are the reasons people don’t consider Climate Change the number one problem in the world. It is easy to debate Climate Change when you have food, shelter and healthcare.

    • Avatar Linda Cooper says:

      Hello, Bruce Vojtecky. I think I understand what you are saying. I get it. Yes, folks are struggling. Maslow’s perspective, and all of that. So darn hard to find time to engage, when one just wants to be warm and have a good meal.
      However, as I read Doug Craig’s article, I think the invitation is that for those of who can, it’s important for us to be engaged. I will also add informed.
      Oh, I think the climate “crisis” is real. And in thinking of the future, the question is always, what can I do?
      For me, it’s about baby steps, when I have struggled with walking, I still attempt another step. This does not require money. Perhaps I can send a small donation. Maybe a small sign in my front yard. Or simply listening to others in this regard. I’m not rich, however, I am fortunate. So my silly-dilly thing was to give up daily wine, and donate it to a cause I believe in. Kind of funny, I know!
      Doug Craig asks, “is there hope?”
      I would say, for those of us who can, let’s engage. One step at a time.
      Because the alternative is so awful.
      And really, when one is even down and out, there is the aspect of still contributing what one can contribute. I think, having been there, that there is great power in that.

      • Avatar Bruce Vojtecky says:

        Linda Cooper, I could save about a gallon of gas every Saturday morning by not going to volunteer at St Marys Food distribution. But I see people who are truly down and out, from the homeless that push their home, a shopping cart, to people who are disabled in wheelchairs and walkers.
        I am not the only one as the church has many volunteers, from elderly who sit in chairs and bag apples, oranges, onions and other produce to scouts, runners, who will push a cart to those who have cars and load their food for them.
        This is the main food source for the truly down and out. A lot of the food we hand out is donated and at the end of it’s eatable date and therefore in able to get food for the month several go to distributions every week. The people wait up to three hours, fortunately the church has bathrooms and sheltered areas, to receive food.
        While several languages are spoken many are white elderly. The only reference to Climate change is whether it will rain or be blistering hot. The talk is about getting to their next doctor appointment or where they can find free clothing.
        I take exception to those who have ample food, shelter and healthcare and want others who do not have those essentials to step up and focus on climate change.

        • Avatar Doug Cook says:

          “… I could save about a gallon of gas every Saturday morning by not going to volunteer at St Marys Food distribution”
          Can’t get enough of your humble bragging, lol.

    • Avatar Patrick Newman says:

      Bruce, I hear you. In my opinion, climate disruption (and, in my view, the probable end of our species) is a very real thing. I see no evidence we have the means to stop it; stopping it, if it can be stopped, would require deep sacrifices people will not make. (At least not the people I know, after 63 years of observation.) So, in the midst of this, you address the suffering you see. And, in doing so, that suffering becomes more and more real. And, more infuriating. I have no answer for you. It’s painful. I hear you.

      • Avatar Bruce Vojtecky says:

        Patrick, it is not just local Phoenix people who are showing up at the food bank. The sno-birders are back and Phoenix, by some accounts, has doubled in population. I see the increase in the families at the food bank. One result of this increase, it usually didn’t happen until January after the Holidays, is that severe Winter is coming earlier, because of AGW/Climate Change, in the northern states. The farming states are still suffering from last Winter’s flooding and more people are moving to the southern states. Water is the big issue now down here.

        • Avatar Patrick Newman says:

          That’s an interesting perspective. I see the impacts on our area, due to fires, mostly. But, this is happening in conjunction with economic failures, wherein one of the wealthiest nations in history has people dying on the streets, due to a lack of affordable housing and basic social services. To go beyond denial is to feel the suffering. Thanks Bruce and please know that your work is appreciated.

  3. Terry Turner Terry Turner says:

    I lived many years of my childhood in Florida. I think one of the reasons people are in denial is that the process was slow until recently. I remember the huge expanse of beach in Miami Beach. It’s now about half the amount. (Compare photographs of the 1950s and 2019.) Parts of Miami are regularly underwater now, and they are raising the sidewalks to try and compensate. Several Pacific islands are now underwater or nearly gone. We are breaking records for heat and cold all over the planet, for more severe hurricanes and wild fires, for extremes of weather, all leading to drought and famine.

    My hope lies in our young people, who are speaking up and taking action to save the planet, and in the idea of the “Seventh Generation” – that in our every deliberation, we consider the impact of our decision to the seventh generation.

    As the saying goes, “There is no Planet B”.

    • Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

      And I think of Southern California in the ’50’s compared to now: blue skies, the short Pasadena Freeway that was expected to relieve all the traffic, population of LA County four million compared to ten+ million in the 2010 census. All this, of course, is due to overpopulation rather than climate change, but without so many folks, human-caused climate change wouldn’t be the issue it is.

      • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

        Ultimately, it all comes down to population growth. The good news is that the worldwide population growth rate is declining. The bad news: Not fast enough.

        Here is where I part company with most liberals. We have enough damned people in our country, so I’m not for throwing open the borders and letting everyone in. Further—and this is politically incorrect in the extreme—I am particularly opposed to letting in immigrants who hail from pro-natalist cultures.

        Want to have eight kids? Stay where you are.

        • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

          The curmudgeonly stand-up comedian Bill Burr’s take on global warming and environmental degradation is to “joke” that it’s all about our out-of-control human population.

          “I’ve been telling you guys for a decade that I have the solution. You know, I’m sorry, but four-fifths of you have to go.”

        • Avatar Richard Christoph says:

          1950 2018

          El Salvador 2,199,897 6,427,495

          Honduras 1,487,234 9,489,792

          Guatemala 3,146,073 17,245,346

          Mexico 28,485,180 130,759,074

        • Avatar Linda Cooper says:

          Not that you need the support, however, I feel I must chime in. I too would be classified as a very liberal individual. Yet, the aspects of over population need to be addressed. There just isn’t enough room for everybody. Climate wise, and otherwise. Does one take care of, and manage immediate concerns or does one continue to allow throwing open the borders? What really gets me, is that while people are advocating health care for all, there is little consideration for the fact that doctors in practice are shrinking. The burdens put on them are incredible. Dentists make more money! Additionally, I’m on a FB site for a doctor who is advocating for addressing doctor suicides. In this regard, few are paying attention to the crazy hours doctors must commit to residency. It’s not about the money aspect to me (in terms of helping folks,) it’s about the fact that we are without resources to take care of even the present population. The doctors being the resource! There aren’t enough doctors available to take care of health care right now in the United States. And not one politician is addressing this. So, here’s a bright idea, just continue to increase the population without restraint – and a better term would be – management. My idea of restraint, without a price, would be to manage the amount of children one has. Now, think about all of this when you need to go to emergency, wait for hours, and then you don’t see a doctor who has professional life experience. It’s all computerized.

          I apologize for the lack of links. But, I will tell you this, as I have posted before: I moved to Chico right before the Camp Fire. Just when we thought we would be safe, ha, ha. The introduction of thousands of folks from the Camp Fire from Paradise impacted this area big time. And nobody was prepared. Yes, a lot of great work and help was implemented. Doctor’s offices doubled up to accommodate the Camp Fire folks. Nobody ever commented on what I previously posted. I think either I’m too negative, or it’s just too much for people to absorb. Manage the population. And manage the resources. Because nobody can have “medicare for all.” Without enough doctors, it’s just not possible.

        • Avatar Patrick Newman says:

          Two sides to the coin: Population and consumption. One of us (in the US) consumes 30 times what the Bangladeshi consumes. One birth here equals 30 there. We want to jump on planes, live in 3,000 square foot houses, eat meat by the ton. The answer: Less people and less consumption.

    • Avatar Doug Cook says:

      Terry, I just looked at different topographical maps of the Miami area, comparing 1950 map to 2012 map…there is literally no change between the 2 maps, which shows that sea level hasn’t risen appreciably. Miami Beach is not a natural beach anyway… there was a tiny sliver of very low lying sand about 120 years ago dredging pumped tons of sand onto the coast and … ta da! Miami Beach. Virtually ALL of Florida’s beaches require frequent renourishment (at least every two to four years) to keep them from washing away due to.. not SLR… normal storms, currents, wind and waves, and other normal erosional processes. Each renourishment project dumps anywhere from two to four feet of new sand on the beach. If you look at the sea level measurements from NOAA, you would see no increase in the rate of rise.

  4. Avatar Ed Marek says:

    A retrospective of how the scientific consensus of climate change over previous decadessignificantly underestimated the immediacy of the threat :

    “How Scientists Got Climate Change So Wrong

    Few thought it would arrive so quickly. Now we’re facing consequences once viewed as fringe scenarios…”

    The most alarming statistic reported is not regarding the present crises itself, but the level of ignorance of Americans on the scientific consensus:

    Only “..17% of Americans…

    correctly understand…

    that almost all climate scientists think global warming is happening…”


  5. Avatar Bruce Vojtecky says:

    I just watched a movie on Netflix, not recommended for the squeamish, that could be a glimpse into Earth’s future, Snowpiercer. Everything is controlled by the privileged few.

    • Steven Towers Steven Towers says:

      Fantastic movie. Tilda Swinton is very often an odd duck, but she outdoes herself in this one.

      Since the movie is allegorical, I always wonder if “Wilford” (Ed Harris) is supposed to symbolize something more than the über-wealthy class. Since he expects to be treated like a god, is that what he represents?

  6. Tom O'Mara Tom O'Mara says:

    TREMENDOUS article. The third paragraph alone really “hit me where I live,” as I try to grapple with what I might call the Greta Thunberg challenge not to fly in airplanes. It is so easy to rationalize that one (or tw0) short (or long) flights might not make that much difference, and how hard it would be to try to get to LA or the East Coast otherwise. . .I will continue to grapple, but will I act?

    • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

      That’s a real conundrum for people who love travel but are “woke” (throws up in mouth a little) to the importance of fighting AGW.

      I haven’t chased it down to confirm that it’s true, but I’ve heard a couple of times now that the founder of the “Lonely Planet” travel guides has sworn off world travel.

  7. Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

    I walked outside this morning at 6:00 AM and it was already a balmy 65*F, and I thought to myself: Mmmffffffffffff. Here we go.

    And yes, I realize I was committing the intellectual crime of conflating weather and climate. But as Dr. Craig points out, that’s kinda how we’re wired—to respond primarily to the here and now.

    That said, I’ve noticed that some people are also wired like this when it comes to discounting the future: “How will things be for my grandkids? Why should I care? I’ll be dead and gone.”

    • Avatar Doug Cook says:

      “…I walked outside this morning at 6:00 AM and it was already a balmy 65*F, and I thought to myself: Mmmffffffffffff. Here we go.”

      ..and that is proof of catastrophic AGW? Meanwhile, “…A powerful arctic cold front is plunging through the U.S. and will deliver the coldest air of the season to the central, southern and eastern United States, shattering scores of mid-November records in the process.”

      So what does that indicate? Another ice age upon us?

      • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

        Did I say it was proof of AGW? Or did I say in the next f***ing paragraph that I was conflating weather with climate, and call that an intellectual crime because it proves nothing? And didn’t I agree with Dr. Craig that the tendency to think that way is owing to a fault in how we’re wired?

        Jesus Christ. I can abide contrarians, but not simpletons.

  8. Avatar Candace says:

    Steve, I agree that rapid population growth is a huge problem. Your position assumes that immigrants from countries with pro-natalist policies will automatically continue to have children at the same rate as they do in their country of origin. Given that most immigrants coming here illegally are in dire financial straits and not all are large families, I wonder if that assumption holds true.

    • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

      I’m not *assuming* that people with pro-natalist backgrounds will have more kids—the data show that they do. And I wasn’t talking about pro-natalist policies—I was talking about pro-natalist cultures.

      But you’re right…people who immigrate from parts of the world with high fertility rates do tend to dial it back once they’re here. Still significantly higher rates than the native-born, however.

  9. Douglas Craig Douglas Craig says:

    It is understandable that some of us make the mistake of concluding the future will be a continuation of the past. Consider human illness. Some of us might have a disease that is stable or gets slightly worse over time. We could conclude therefore that that will always be that way. I have had three dear friends and three cherished clients die in the last 16 months and for most of them, their decline at the end was rapid and severe. We have had decades to arrest the worsening climate crisis and we not only have ignored it, we are increasing our emissions. It is as if someone with lung cancer increases the amount of cigarettes they smoke after they get the diagnosis. They can look back at the “scare tactics” of those who warned them to stop smoking and insist that their decline will be slow, gradual and easy. The reality of the climate crisis is that the rate of change is rapidly accelerating. This is a fact.

    The World Meteorological Organization (WMO), says the five-year period from 2014 to 2019 is the warmest on record and “Sea-level rise has accelerated significantly over the same period, as CO2 emissions have hit new highs.”

    While the planet “only” warmed .09 degrees C (1.62 F) between 1880 and 2011, it exploded between 2011 and 2015 another 0.2 degrees C (.36 degrees F). 2018 was the 42nd consecutive year (since 1977) with global land and ocean temperatures above the 20th century average. From 1880 to 1980, a new temperature record was set on average every 13 years; however, for the period 1981–2018, the frequency of a new record has increased on average to once every three years. Nine of the 10 warmest years have occurred since 2005, with the last five years (2014–2018) ranking as the five warmest years on record. The yearly global land and ocean temperature has increased at an average rate of 0.07°C (0.13°F) per decade since 1880; however, the average rate of increase since 1981 (0.17°C / 0.31°F) is more than twice as great. Think of a roller coaster. It moves slowly when it climbs a steep incline but when it reaches its zenith and starts its downward trajectory, it begins to pick up speed. That is where we are. Only a fool would insist it will move at the same speed going down as it did going up. The climate deniers serve an important social purpose, a lot like alcoholics in a bar who lie to themselves and each other and deny reality so they can live inside a comfortable illusion and continue business as usual. We will always have deniers who cannot deal with reality and therefore argue the rest of us should also pretend. Meanwhile, the 6 years from 2014 to 2020 are the hottest 6 years in the history of recorded temperature. This past June (2019) was the hottest June ever since global records began in 1880 at +0.95°C (+1.71°F). This past July (2019) was not only the hottest July ever, it was the hottest month ever since climatologically, July is the globe’s warmest month of the year. It was 0.95°C (1.71°F) above the 20th century average. This past September (2019) tied with September of 2015 as the hottest September ever and was also 0.95°C (1.71°F) above the 20th century average. Each of the first nine months of the year had a global land and ocean temperature departure from average that ranked among the five warmest for their respective months. It is virtually certain that 2019 will end among the top five warm years, and will most likely finish among the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th warmest year on record. This October was the hottest October ever and was also the 43rd consecutive October and the 418th consecutive month with temperatures above the 20th century average. And as we heat up the planet we melt the glaciers. Since 1961 that means 9.6 trillion tons of ice has melted. Every year another 335 billion tons of ice melts into the world’s oceans. As we observe this accelerating trend, we can act responsibly or follower the deniers’ lead and just let the biosphere and human civilization collapse. Each of us has a choice and every single day, we choose to continue to support a system that is reliant on fossil fuels, even though it is destroying the world we all claim to love.

  10. Avatar Stan Chrzanowski says:

    The thing is … as long as the folks that warn us about the dangers ahead live like there’s no danger ahead, we’re screwed.

    Small example – NASCAR. A bunch of cars going around a track wasting gasoline going absolutely nowhere in the long run, but if you ask them if they’re concerned about climate change – of course they are.

    Another example – large, crowded events like concerts and sports events. A waste of gas and energy, but we need entertainment. We can’t entertain ourselves or play sports with our neighbors.

    Another – jet skis instead of canoes and kayaks. Seriously? Personal Watercraft?

    Look at how you live and ask yourself if everyone in the world – all 7 billion – lived the same wasteful way, would the planet be better off or worse off? I live next to the Everglades in Florida. They’re “restoring” the Everglades. Sea Level Rise will decimate the Everglades in 30 years but environmental groups are blissfully ignoring that eventuality as though our planet is in a static state.. WTF, over?

    Let’s all get in our private jets and fly to the next climate change conference. Gimme a break. When y’all behave like this is really happening, I’ll think about changing my lifestyle.

    P.S. I don’t do any of that crap above, maybe because I’m just burned out at age 72, but the best of luck to my grandkids. They’ll need it.

  11. Avatar David Askren says:

    Funny that you mention Jesus – and skim right past it. When Christian theology plays a major role in destruction of the planet. Here’s just one current article -http://zackhunt.net/2017/06/02/sin-climate-change-denial/

  12. Douglas Craig Douglas Craig says:

    Thanks Dave! I will check this out.

  13. Douglas Craig Douglas Craig says:

    Thanks David Askren! I will check that out.

    Regarding Greenland and Antarctica, it is perplexing why anyone would think the ice is expanding there. There is this thing called the Internet and I suggest we all Google NASA Ice Sheets and go to https://climate.nasa.gov/vital-signs/ice-sheets/ and read: “Data from NASA’s GRACE satellites show that the land ice sheets in both Antarctica (upper chart) and Greenland (lower) have been losing mass since 2002. Both ice sheets have seen an acceleration of ice mass loss since 2009.” Antarctica is losing 127 billion tons of ice a year and Greenland is losing 286 billion tons a year. One billion tons of ice is equivalent to “a block of ice one kilometer square” and we lose 286 of these every year. Why would anyone state that Greenland and Antarctica are gaining ice unless they are deliberately lying? https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/edu/learn/video/nasas-earth-minute-greenland-ice/

    This is also from NASA: “Unusually warm air temperatures this summer have caused record melt across Greenland. Approximately 90 percent of the surface of Greenland’s ice sheet melted at some point between July 30 and Aug. 2, during which time an estimated 55 billion tons of ice melted into the ocean, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center.” That is 55 billion tons in 3 days. https://climate.nasa.gov/news/2908/landsat-illustrates-five-decades-of-change-to-greenland-glaciers/

    Also according to NASA and scientists from the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, new data shows five feet of sea level rise from Greenland alone in the next two centuries. “This new estimate is 80 percent higher than previous estimates.”

    This study found that ALL the ice on Greenland will melt in the next 1,000 years if we do not curtail our emissions. “The entire Greenland Ice Sheet will likely melt in a millennium, causing 17 to 23 feet of sea level rise.”

    Even if we drastically limit our emissions “so they begin to decline by the end of the century” would still “produce up to six feet of sea level rise in the next millennium, according to the study.”

    And from NOAA we learn that “melt-day area for 2019” totaled 28.3 million square kilometers (10.9 million square miles) for the season. “Melting was observed over nearly 90 percent of the island on at least one day” and “was particularly intense along the northern edge of the ice sheet, where compared to the 1981 to 2010 average, melting occurred for an additional 35 days.” Greenland lost over 300 billion tons of ice this year. http://nsidc.org/greenland-today/

  14. Avatar Hollis Pickett says:

    So, I’ll repeat the same “tired refrain” that I have spoken for about twenty years. That humans are a parasitic species. That we are the only species on this planet capable of propagating beyond the capacity of our environment to sustain us. That we use our planet’s precious resources faster than they can be replenished. Other living beings are totally dependent on the one thing that we can, and do, control…..the presence of water. Our ability to bring water to wherever it’s needed. Our ability to create a livable environment in the harshest of circumstances. Do we respect our skills and use them for the betterment of all? Are you kidding?!? Of course not. Certainly, some are more dialed in than most. As to the rest, I refer you to a book written by Richard Dawkins – “The Selfish Gene”. And I would ask you to consider your imprint on the face of this planet. I am not a religious person. I would nonetheless argue that we were given heaven….and we have almost completed the work needed to turn it into hell. We are willfully out of control. We shuttle aside any reminders that we, the super species, could be in any way responsible. And yet, the conversations we were having in 1970 about overpopulation have sizzled, then fizzled, then died when confronted with our willingness to deceive ourselves….our willingness to live in a carefully crafted fairy tale (aided and abetted by those who profit from our naïveté) that everything will be fine if we just believe it will be. I remain hopeful that I can contribute by example. I actually see some hope in the mindset of our younger generations…..but only if they can take control before it’s too late. I encourage each and every one of you to lead by example. I ask you to include in your calculations the other innumerable life forms…of such great beauty and grace….that will go down with us if we fail to correct our course. I despair more than I hope in spite of the fact that it’s my nature to hope.

    • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

      A small ecological note: I would quibble that we are far from the only species capable of propagating beyond the capacity of the environment to sustain us. It happens in cycles that are especially boom-and-bust in r-selected species. Populations of arctic voles regularly explode, they eat themselves out of house and home, and the populations crash. Vats of fermenting red wine contains yeast that consume sugar and excrete alcohol until the alcohol content reaches ~15%, at which point the yeast have killed themselves. Disease parasites often kill their hosts.

      A larger philosophical note: The idea that we are profoundly different from other biotic species has its roots in Biblical theology rather than in biology. We are—just as all other species—products of the natural process of evolution by natural selection. We are every bit a product of that natural process as paramecia, penguins, and polar bears. It’s reasonable to argue that everything we do is natural, including striving to monopolize resources and having too many offspring. That’s not to say that raping the earth and making it uninhabitable to humans is desirable, but if we eff up so badly that we become extinct……oh well……nature red in tooth and claw. It’ll be time for some other taxa to take over the planet. Maybe cockroaches. But maybe something evolving from toothed whales, eventually.

    • Avatar Randy says:

      I rather think humans are an ‘adolescent’ species who, at this point in our collective development, are dominated by urges more related to toddlers and teen agers than mature adults. The appeal of Trump, all he represents and the childish mentality if his base is my evidence.

  15. Avatar Buford Holt says:

    Somewhere I have a book I am long overdue to return to my brother-in-law, called Seven Degrees, which looks at the fossil record regarding the world at times of warmer climates in increments of 1 degree. Sobering stuff.

  16. Avatar Paula Kahler says:

    Another book I would recommend is “The Parents’ Guide to Climate Revolution; 100 ways to build a fossil-free future, raise empowered kids, and still get a goo night’s sleep” by Mary DeMocker New World Library 2018. This is a book not only for parents, grandparents, and teachers but for ALL of Earth’s citizens working to mitigate the effects of climate change.