Geoscience Reference
In-Depth Information
Instead, he prepares us for that new planet and gives us advice about
how we might live there. This shift in itself is a signal of how far we've
come. Unfortunately, even his advice about adaptation cannot do justice
to what we face. In the last half of his topic, he suggests that we should
create strong small communities, produce food locally, and rely on the
resourcefulness and creativity of towns rather than the nation as a whole.
These suggestions are remarkably sane. But doing so would hardly enable
us to survive the events he describes so well in the irst half of the topic.
How well will local communities raise their own food in many regions,
when rain falls less regularly, the landscape retains water less well, and the
plants may not have the chance to mature? How will towns flourish in the
midst of dying forests and drying streams? Where exactly will these small
communities succeed?
Not long ago, people who studied climate change could emphasize
the possibility of transforming our fossil-fuel economy. A few years later,
the tone has shifted: now they emphasize the prospect of engineering the
Earth or offering up a localist ethic as a counterbalance. As I have sug-
gested, I do not think these suggestions provide actual solutions. But
they do have the merit of pointing out the problem. The challenge, then,
is to face that problem without looking away, without escaping to increas-
ingly less credible responses. A crucial shift has taken place in the last few
years, and yet for the most part we avoid it; we hasten to move on, to
ind some pretext for optimism. There must still be comfort available to
us, wherever it may be. But these responses fail to take into account the
real implications of what is before us.
I do not discount the need for us to begin assessing the task of adapt-
ing to a changed Earth. Here again, the IPCC reports perform a valuable
service. The 2007 assessment takes great care to describe the potential
effects of various levels of warming on ecologies and societies around the
world—and on how they might adapt. Because of our increasingly dire
situation, many observers now treat these sections of the report more
seriously than they did in the past. But as the focus shifts toward adapta-
tion, we should pause and think about the implications of that change
in emphasis.
For one thing, “adaptation” is a misleadingly gentle term for the task
before us. “Adaptation” suggests that we can adjust some of our practices,
Search WWH ::

Custom Search