Greta, who no longer needs a last name, celebrated her 17th birthday four days ago. More about Greta and the iceberg later, but first I want to float an idea for a totally new kind of resolution.
After over seventy years of experience, I have concluded that New Year's Resolutions don't work. So, in green print below, is a
New Decade's Resolution for everyone who would like to help maximize the chances that all of our children and grandchildren will have the opportunity to live comfortable, meaningful and full-term lives.
In the 2020's, I will put ten times more effort into promoting efforts to slow or reverse climate change than I will put into celebrating our successes of the past.
Ironically, the inspiration for this memo
was a recent article about good news
in the world - good news that did not mention climate change. It was published last week in the
New York Times
This has been the best year ever!
For humanity overall, life just keeps getting better.
In his column, Nicholas Kristof listed many "good news" statistics, beginning with this statement:
2019 was probably the year in which children were least likely to die, adults were least likely to be illiterate and people were least likely to suffer excruciating and disfiguring diseases.
To back up his claims, he provided some powerful graphics like the one below that tracks the sharply improving literacy levels throughout the world.
Note the bold red line with global average literacy increasing from 10% to 85% in the last two hundred years - most of which occurred in the last sixty years.
As we know, focusing on just the good news and patting ourselves on the back never makes anything better. It just fuels more complacency when it comes to ignoring the scientific facts about climate change and the steadily increasing odds that humanity will go extinct before 2100.
Now that almost 90% of the world's humans can read, let's all pray that in 2020, more people will be reading about, and acting on, the elephant in the room: CLIMATE CHANGE.
HuffPost published a list
of eight climate change-related stories since 2010.
Did you talk about any of these headlines at your holiday gatherings during the past month?
1. The past five years were the hottest ever recorded on the planet
2. Four of the five largest wildfires in California history happened this decade
3. Six Category 5 hurricanes tore through the Atlantic region in the past four years
4. Arctic sea ice cover dropped about 13% this decade
5. Floods with a 0.1% chance of happening in any given year became a frequent occurrence
6. There were more than 100 "billion dollar" climate disasters, double from the decade before
7. Meanwhile, we pumped a record 40.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the air in 2019
8. We're ending this decade on track to warm a catastrophic 3.2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century
A Closer Look at #4 above: The Arctic. With temps rising, the sea ice continues to melt rapidly and climate scientists are predicting an ice-free Arctic ocean within the next few years.
Scientists agree that it will eventually happen, it's just a question of when? Likely between 2020 and 2025. And when it does happen, the warming of the Arctic will accelerate, feedback loops will kick in and we can throw the 1.5 to 2.0 C global average temperature increase goal (over pre-industrial levels) out the window.
Take a close look at this data. Look at the average (Arctic Sea Ice Extent) for the 80's, the 90's, the 2000's as illustrated by the
three dotted lines. Then, look at the ten solid lines: one for each year since 2010 - with every year being well below the average of the precious decade.
last four years (2016, 17, 18 and 19) have recorded the
four lowest average extent of sea ice in the Arctic in the entire history of the satellite record since 1979.
The image below shows the minimum Arctic sea ice extent for 2019 which took place on 9-18-19. The thin yellow line is the median extent from 1981 to 2010. All that blue area inside the thin line is now absorbing the sun's heat instead of reflecting it back into space - like it did when it was mostly white ice and snow.
Getting Serious about Serious Stuff.
We humans like to have fun, prefer good news over bad news and do not seem to be very concerned about the fact that Mother Nature is rapidly losing her ability to keep us alive.
That said, we must come to our senses and urgently shift in the direction of that New Decade's Resolution
that was mentioned at the beginning of this memo.
In SOS Memo #36 below, I wrote about our collective obsession with all things human - as we go about destroying the biosphere that gives us life. We have a distinct preference for watching our fellow monkeys instead of getting serious about saving our civilization.
It's like we're all eating, drinking, dancing, playing cards, watching ball games and rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic while a courageous 17-year old Swedish girl is up at the bow of our ship yelling something about a great big iceberg that we're about to hit.
As for all of us adults, we're just
monkeys being monkeys
and can't seem to be able to help ourselves
It's how we're wired, as E.O. Wilson explained in his 2013 book,
The Meaning of Human Existence:
We are an insatiably curious species; provided the subjects are our personal selves and people we know or would like to know. The behavior goes far back beyond our species in the evolution of the primate family tree.
It has been observed, for example, that when caged monkeys are allowed to look outside at a variety of other objects, their first choice for attention is other monkeys.
The Bottom Line. As young Greta says,
I want you to panic. I want you to act as if your house is on fire, because it is.
Short of a huge, widespread natural emergency that kills millions of humans and forces us into action, we are going to have to take charge of our brains and start primarily focusing on what's most important.
That said, it is my sincere belief that, for the longterm survival of humanity, we must reinvent almost every element of the way we live in the developed world.
Doing more recycling, eliminating meat & dairy, lowering many categories of consumption, taking public transportation and avoiding air travel are all steps that individuals can take to slow climate change.
But those individual actions will not be enough!
The good news is that those above actions, taken by enough people, may buy us some time - maybe even enough time for our leaders to get that "conversation" started - the one about
developing and implementing a truly green civilization in which we humans can survive and thrive indefinitely.
But whatever kind of civilization we develop, it must truly put the needs of the natural world ahead of our our own desires. This is why we better get it right the first time:
We're only going to get one chance to get this right - so we had best err on the side of learning to live even "greener" than Mother Nature demands.
Finally, let's make these 2020s the decade that future historians will record as being the breakthrough era when humans came to their senses, leveraged their resources and the awesome power of AI to dramatically reinvent their entire civilization - and, in so doing, turned the corner on climate change.
All the children of the world deserve nothing less!
Happy, World Changing, New Decade!
PS: You may be wondering how you can help promote the never-ending search for a way to save our species. You can get me in front of some audiences who you think might be ready to hear about the long-overdue, global "conversation" about our survival.
As always, I am simply trying to spark the global conversation about what is needed. By sharing a vision of what I believe is possible, I hope to influence others to think bigger, better and bolder.
To see the latest on our 2020 book, OUTCRY, now being written, scroll to the bottom of my home page at:
As for speaking, I continue to search for mainstream audiences who may have an interest in learning more about a realistically hopeful vision for our future - and their role in making that vision come true.
As such, I will travel anywhere for an opportunity to speak to one or more groups in each city that I visit. I will create a custom presentation for each audience and I only ask for travel expense reimbursement and a modest honorarium.
In the months ahead, I will continue to focus on the urgent need for a totally reinvented greening of our civilization - beginning with a model in the USA that could be applied globally over the next fifty years.