Geoscience Reference
In-Depth Information
would make us nothing like the biblical prophets; we would instead sim-
ply serve as messengers from our own future selves, spokespeople for
those whom we will otherwise have damned. We would merely be fal-
lible citizens who wish to do the least harm to those who will follow. 121
Yet even the prospect of acting in that way is now disappearing.
Although the case for action is extremely compelling, indeed definitive,
our society is now taking the opposite course. As I have argued above, the
odds of our taking the necessary action in time are slender indeed and are
virtually gone. We are thus in the position of outlining the overall impli-
cations of the right choice primarily to grasp its opposite. Understanding
responsibility at this late hour may be most useful in helping us compre-
hend the full force of a radical ir responsibility.
What might that irresponsibility look like? Today, although the
effects of climate change are already quite visible around the world, we
still hesitate to act. It thus seems very likely that those effects will get our
serious atention only when they are more widespread, continuous, and
severe—only when they are significantly worse. In short, it seems we will
act only when the consequences of climate change have become much
harsher than today.
A concerted effort in a decade or two, of course, would come far too
late; it would not counteract the climate paterns that will have already
set in. As a result, in the years after we do act, people will soon notice
that their efforts will seem to have accomplished nothing. They will
ask, “Why are all the eco-friendly measures not working? Why are we
not seeing the results we hoped for?” The usual relation between action
and result will be suspended, raising tough questions about the value of
addressing the problem at all. Only then, perhaps, will we finally experi-
ence the nightmare of enduring in a world that is much more difficult to
inhabit, whatever we do.
At that point, we might be tempted to abandon ethical action alto-
gether. Because we will be living in wounded ecosystems, shrinking
economies, and distressed societies, we might well cast aside the atempt
to live responsibly, choosing instead to hunker down and weather it out
on our own terms. For many, only the promise that ethical action might
alleviate further suffering later on, by ourselves or others, could sustain
a choice for ecologically responsible living. But because by then we will
Search WWH ::

Custom Search