Geoscience Reference
In-Depth Information
Chapter 9
Infinite Responsibility
If what I have been suggesting is true, our present failure to do what is
necessary to ward off severe climate change constitutes a grave threat not
only to Earth's living systems but also to fundamental aspects of our ordi-
nary lives. As I have argued, it endangers the future that shapes the narra-
tives by which we live, undermining the significance of everything we do.
The reality of that threat calls upon us to value the lives we know and to
see them as destructive at the same time, as a result spliting our response
to ordinary experience.
The ethical implications of our inaction are equally divided. Our fail-
ure will ultimately steal the future from those who follow us, depriving
them of a full opportunity to address the problems that will afflict them.
But our ineptitude, in turn, arises in part from the decisions of our ances-
tors; over several recent generations, they expanded the world economy
exponentially and produced us in staggering profusion, greatly limiting
the options available to us.
Heirs of a discredited past, haunted by a disappearing future, we
meet our present moment in dismay. Yet we cannot simply surrender to
despair, for the demands of ordinary life perpetually call us to orient our-
selves to a future, even if it is disappearing. We are thus caught beyond
reprieve between the demand to act and a great difficulty in doing so,
shackled and stumbling at the crossroads of history.
If we truly experienced in full the haunted, broken qualities of the
present, we would yearn for an emotional and spiritual resource through
which we could gain consolation. Yet our situation already undermines
nearly every version of comfort and hope familiar to us. As long as we
work hard to provide for a beter future, as long as we depend upon hope
that the world we know will endure, and as long as we grieve in a mode
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