The hours from 10 to 12 p.m. on a Friday evening are prime time for all kinds of things. Indeed, there is a time in one’s life when those hours seem full of promise every week. Something could happen, some adventure, some chance meeting that would propel your life in a completely different direction.
My life is not like that any more. Normally, 10:00 to 12:00 p.m. on a Friday night is time for reading and sleeping.
Last night, though, that time period included all kinds of exciting things. #1 son had a call offering him a job. He had planned to go camping, but when the sandwich shop called and asked if he would start work today, he agreed with every evidence of enthusiasm. I’m proud of him. He set off just after dawn this morning to find some rocks to climb, since he wouldn’t be going on that climbing and camping trip, but will join the ranks of the gainfully employed at 11:00 this morning.
Then I had three shows finish up. Actually, the third is not yet finished, because I could see right away that the hostess needed a little more time to get the best possible outcome. Fortunately, I had already closed and submitted two shows by the very late hour when that third hostess called me, so I did not even have to think for a moment about whether to help her get the best result or help myself qualify for the Central Office prize.
I would of course have done what was right for my client, but it was nice for me that I didn’t have to make that choice.
Which brings me back to the environment. You might have noticed a certain apocalyptical thread in my Lenten reading. It’s really not that I chose to spend Lent reading about the imminent demise of our human habitat. It’s that I had these books on hand. It’s an interesting subject, but one that is not always so pleasurable to read about. So I’ve had books on global warming, and pain, and the one I am just beginning, which is about what the world would be like if humans killed ourselves off and left it to its own devises, and now that I am not reading novels, that is what I have on the shelves to read.
I’ll be getting back to Napoleon pretty soon here, I am certain.
Anyway, I was telling That Man and The Empress about Under a Green Sky yesterday, and we were talking about the chances that we might be able to clean up our act and stop the process of global warming before it leads to another mass extinction. We discussed the really startling fact that there are so many people who think that there is some question about whether or not global warming is an issue.
“What about the idea that it’s cyclical?” asked The Empress.
“Sure it’s cyclical,” I answered, having just read a whole book on the subject. “Every 26 million years or so the earth gets all tropical and then poisonous, and most of the living things die off. The trouble is, the people who are saying it’s cyclical are behaving as though that meant it wouldn’t be a problem for us. They are ignoring the fact that our extinction would be part of the cycle. And that we’re speeding it up, to the point that we are as destructive as a meteor hitting the earth.”
We contemplated this. The Empress allowed as how she didn’t think we were going to change our ways, as a species. In fact, it seemed very likely that India, China, Thailand, and Mexico would follow the example set by the U.S. and Western Europe and plunge right into overconsumption and excessive energy use the minute they got the chance.
“What if,” I asked That Man, “you knew for a fact that turning down your thermostat would mean that your grandchildren would not have dead oceans to contend with. Would you do it?”
“I would,” he answered, “but only if every else would, too.”
And I think that is the problem in a nutshell. The environmental change is an example of the classic puzzle, the Prisoner’s Dilemma. If we all do the right thing, we will all be better off in the long run. But if most people are not going to do the right thing, then we will all suffer, so we might as well all refuse to do the right thing. If only some of us do the right thing, we will be suffering now (to the extent that avoiding overconsumption means suffering), and will also still join in the general suffering when the ice caps melt.
So we don’t just have to understand the problem of global warming (and it is tempting to think that it is only stupid and ignorant people who haven’t grasped it, but that is not true, any more than it is true of evolution; otherwise reasonable people ignore scientific information in droves), and know what we personally need to do to stave the worst of it off, but we also have to be convinced that the rest of the world’s population will join us in the effort. Otherwise, there is no point in our using hot water bottles and public transportation, or whatever our personal sacrifice would be. We see ourselves, standing on that Arizona coastline under the sickly green sky, thinking, “Shoot! I could have driven an SUV!”
We are having a gorgeous spring day where I live. I have the day off, apart from housework and groceries. I intend to do a good deal of lolling around, and possibly some yard work. I’ve had a bad sore throat for a couple of days and am singing in church tomorrow, so I will have to decide whether I think it’s allergies, in which case I should avoid the yard work, or yet another bout of the lingering virus that has been going around, in which case I might as well do yard work. Not an interesting philosophical choice like the Prisoner’s Dilemma, but something to consider while getting the groceries.
Enjoy your weekend!