ecologically responsible continuity over many generations, a continu-
ity without which it could not even fight for further social and political
transformation. This conservatism, of course, also requires radical change
to our energy economies, but in the name of making it possible for the
biosphere, and thus our societies themselves, to survive.
Because the focus of this movement is to sustain the biosphere, it dif-
fers sharply from prior revolutions in yet another way. Climate change
waits for no one: if we do not transform our practices today , we will
feel the heat in years to come. Never before has there been a deadline
for revolution, a claim on us to bring about social change before it's too
late. No doubt previous revolutionaries seized opportunities that would
never again arise, certain that it was impossible to endure oppression for
another moment. In that sense, they too felt a supreme urgency. But that
urgency arose from within the historical situation itself, from the inter-
play of social and political forces. Now the imperative emerges from the
purely physical consequences of actions that a short time ago we may
not have considered politically significant. Suddenly, material reality
obtrudes into our history, making felt an absolutely urgent demand that
we cannot ignore.
There is no mistake about it: we must act, and we must act now. Some
might argue that the urgency of the challenge will at last motivate us all to
participate in a movement that will transform the world in which we live.
But any sense that acknowledging the potentially catastrophic dimen-
sions of what we face will in itself help create an ecological revolution is
almost certain to fail. 93 The contrary possibility is much more likely to
come true. The revolution we must bring about goes against our tradi-
tions again and again. It is endlessly inconvenient: it has no constituency,
promises no liberation for us, and imposes its own timeline. It intrudes
into our history implacably, uterly indiferent to the normal political cal-
culations. It demands that we change our material practices immediately,
whatever our apparent interests at the moment might be.
Because the obstacles to action are formidable, indeed overwhelm-
ing, the odds are very strong that we as a nation will not act in time.
As I suggested in the previous chapter, the current political realities in
Washington make it almost impossible for our government to take the
necessary steps in the coming few years—during the crucial interval