Considering the full dimensions of this decision, then, teaches us that
enacting an ecological revolution is a world-historical act, immense in its
implications, for through it we would accept responsibility for the eco-
logical costs of human evolutionary and cultural history across the past,
present, and future, and as a result would ultimately accept our role as
stewards of the biosphere itself. But such a massive act is not a further
example of cosmic arrogance. On the contrary, that act has these dimen-
sions only because any act we commit today will ramify backwards and
forwards across our whole history; in its physical consequences for the
biosphere our decision will reveal the overall significance of that history
for beter or for worse, showing that human beings are in the end agents
of reparation or disaster. The enormous, overbearing import of our cur-
rent moment arises not from our ambition but from our position at the
crucial moment of the Earth's climate history. We are at the crossroads,
and we simply must choose.
But this act may seem far too immense in another sense. How can we
turn against the longstanding historical paterns that have produced our
current ease and convenience? Why would we relinquish the unprec-
edented abundance that meshes so well with our wishes? No doubt
doing so will be very difficult. But we need not act out of purely altru-
istic motives. We now know that business as usual will condemn us to
a miserable fate, dissolving the future that anchors the narratives of our
lives. To retain the value of our own present actions, to maintain the pos-
sibility that we can live intentionally, we must intervene. Acting wisely, in
short, is in our own self-interest. This fact should give us some comfort.
It is not so difficult, after all, to set aside immediate whim in the name of
long-term self-interest; we learn to do so as soon as we go to school in
childhood and in various ways continue to do so throughout adulthood.
Delaying some portion of gratification is a necessary part of modern life.
A smart decision would simply take such prudence one more crucial step,
extending it to the fate of the biosphere itself. Acting responsibly does not
require us to become exemplars of stunning virtue, moral heroes of some
kind; it only demands that we step up our prudential thinking, applying it
to a part of our experience that once seemed exempt from such concerns.
Because acting in this way serves our interests, the fact that it would
also conserve a future for others seems less of a burden than a bonus. In