of shouldering a burden that should never have fallen to us, but that in
taking up that burden we can at last pass beyond enduring the weight of
our history and move to a new phase, into a world we have not merely
inherited, but made.
But that is not all. Because this ecological revolution would salvage
something of the future of the biosphere, as well as of all human societ-
ies, it would demonstrate our capacity to assume responsibility for the
encompassing ecological context of humanity's future as well. Insofar
as not acting would deprive people in the future of a full opportunity to
respond to climate change, as I argued earlier, an ecological revolution
would do precisely the opposite: it would protect the very possibility that
in the future we or others could act on humanity's behalf.
Acting in this way would, in short, go far toward restoring some
dimension of the stolen future and thus mending in some degree our
own broken present. It would salvage something from the ruins, piecing
together a remnant of the human despite the shatering efects of climate
change I have been describing over the last four chapters.
In doing so, however, we would take on a task breathtaking in its scope
and significance, for we would necessarily assume the ethical burden of
generations not our own—the weight of a violent history, on the one
hand, and of the potentially devastated generations to come. But even
this is not all. Between these two domains, of course, lies our present,
which in its almost insurmountable momentum, its ambivalent indiffer-
ence to the violence it still causes, and its refusal to accept genuine trans-
formation imposes still another burden on us—one that we can instantly
recognize as our own. In our free choice to save the biosphere from fur-
ther destruction, in our atempt to salvage something from the ruins of
our shared history, we must ultimately assume responsibility for addressing
the violence enacted throughout the entire sweep of modern history , from the
past through the present and into the future, and thus for many centu-
ries of human endeavor. 117 Strangely enough, to act justly we would in
our single generation bear the weight of that entire development, discharg-
ing an immense debt on behalf of the dead, the living, and the unborn.
Although we did not choose this moment, we might still freely choose to
accept its challenge, to make at last a full reckoning with modernity itself.