What have we done?

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This is the opening photograph in my brother’s high school yearbook.

There’s something about it I really like. The optimism of youth, I believe. Six people—all young, all looking out at the world, all seeing great and exciting things in the future. They’re all either 17 or 18, all ready to chase their passions and dreams. There have been few deaths yet. No ex-spouses, no children born with defects or issues, no mass layoffs, no leaks in the basement, no fighting for the next paycheck.

Just optimism.

Again, I really like this picture. It screams to me, “Anything is possible.” And, indeed, the ensuing pages of the Wampum (the yearbook name) deliver such platitudes. Alongside other hopeful photographs are words like FOR YESTERDAY IS BUT TODAY’S MEMORY AND TOMORROW IS TODAY’S DREAM and TODAY MAY NEVER END YET TOMORROW WILL ALWAYS COME.

The theme, in one word: Hope.

The theme, in two words: Optimism and hope.

Today, however, as I stare and stare at the pictures, I feel little optimism and even less hope. The yearbook, circa 1989, has faded. The pages are a tad yellowed. The images are faded. Like me, the folks in that picture have wrinkled and aches and pains. Today did, despite the promise of some guy charged with writing inane yearbook drivel, end. Tomorrow might not always come.

Sigh.

In case you missed it, a few days ago a team of more than 300 scientists warned in a report to the White House of, “mounting evidence that harm to the nation will increase substantially in the future unless global emissions of heat-trapping gases are greatly reduced.” Specifically, the scientists told us that the impact of climate change is happening now, as we speak. And that it is 100-percent undeniable. Here are the first four paragraphs of the piece …

Screen Shot 2014-05-08 at 10.55.39 AMThis is not, as many conservatives want you to think, a hoax. This is not a scare tactic. This is not bullshit. It is very real, very terrifying, very disheartening. If you are one of those who thinks it’s all nonsense, well, stop. Stop right now. Stop and read this. Trust me. Take 15 minutes and read it thoroughly. Don’t skim.

I don’t understand what’s wrong with us. I just don’t. Conservative politicians (and many Democrats, actually), act as if this is no biggie. What about jobs? What about the miners? The economy can’t handle massive changes? It’s probably overstated.

No, no, no, no.

Wait. Time out. Earlier today I received this comment, from someone who read a previous post on climate change …

Screen Shot 2014-05-08 at 11.01.54 AMFair question, JamesKann. And even though I’m far from a financial policy expert (especially as it pertains to the climate), here are my thoughts:

A. If someone found out he was going to die of cancer, he would do anything to stop the tumor. “Look, you can stop the growth if you quit your job at Apple and work at a gas station.” Done. Put differently: I have kids. Maybe you have kids. I want them to live, and live happily. I want their kids, and their kids, and their kids, to live happily. I want the planet to exist—much more than I worry about my job, or your job. So if we need to end mining, and by doing so we find ourselves in Great Depression II, well, yes. You do it. Because our planet is fucking dying. Like, it’s genuinely, truly killing itself—and there’s an increased chance that, ultimately, humanity ceases to exist. So if, to save the globe, we have to ban coal—do it. But, of course, develop alternative forms of energy as work avenues (significantly easier said than done, obviously).

B. Crack down on oil. According to Rolling Stone, in 2012 “Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson told Wall Street analysts that the company plans to spend $37 billion a year through 2016 (about $100 million a day) searching for yet more oil and gas.” We can’t have this shit. Carbon emissions are heating the planet at a staggering rate. And yet … BP, Exxon, ConocoPhillips, Shell … there’s no interest from those corporations in doing anything but making money and pleasing stockholders. How do we crack down? I don’t know. I just don’t.

C. We should hire someone to kidnap the Koch brothers and place them in a cave in Guam—never to be heard from again. Hell, I’ll put in $200. They’re the second richest people in America, they work in hydrocarbons, and they’ve done everything—absolutely everything—to hush the climate change awareness effort and make sure elected officials spew their message.

Wait—again. Wait. JamesKann, you’ve called me out. Correctly. And the right answer, come day’s end, is … I don’t know. I don’t know what to do, or where to turn, or how to stop this. What I do know is I’m a parent, and I love life, and I’d gladly surrender my TV and my car and any future flights to know the planet would heal itself.

The question is—Would you?

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