Geoscience Reference
In-Depth Information
Chapter 5
The Stolen Future
Because our economy and political traditions are more real to us than the
biosphere itself, the ecological revolution we need is not likely to take
place until climate change itself becomes much more persuasive, until
the biosphere tells us in unmistakable terms that it will truly decimate
us if we don't change. At that point we will finally understand what it
requires of us and will modify our societies in ways still possible for us.
The fact that a damaged biosphere will eventually coerce us into action
tells us that we face a basic choice: either we carry out an ecological revo-
lution today in a manner that conserves what we know best—or climate
change will devastate our society later on and force us to adapt to condi-
tions we did not choose. Here again, our situation is unprecedented: the
necessary ecological revolution, however inconvenient, is the product of
a forced choice, a decision to prevent a later, much more intrusive and
chaotic event.
If we do act too late, it won't be for the first time. Many observers
would point out that in this respect, the ecological crisis of our day paral-
lels many others we have already experienced. Hunters on the American
high plains decimated millions of buffalo and nearly eradicated the spe-
cies without much of a public outcry; only a few small herds remained
after the great slaughter. Developed nations injected DDT into the food
chain long enough for that molecule to drive some species to near extinc-
tion before Rachel Carson's call to action finally led to a ban on the prod-
uct in the United States. In the 1970s, trawlers on the high seas wiped
out a substantial share of desirable fish populations by the time nations
finally took action. We could add almost indefinitely to this list, each item
of which would demonstrate very clearly that in countless cases, we act
ater the damage has been done.
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