Record hot summers, chilling winters, dangerously potent sunshine, droughts and floods – what’s going on with the climate? Have we humans finally messed things up beyond repair? What can we do as individuals, as societies, and as a world to respond to this growing threat to life?
Global climate change places a big question mark on the future. It also puts us in a dilemma: on the one hand, we still know relatively little about how the Earth’s complex climatic systems work. On the other, what we do know suggests that we may be facing the greatest challenge ever – a challenge to our very survival.
But if climate change is the illness, we already know the cure: environmental restoration on a massive scale, and big changes in the way humanity goes about its business. There is no real mystery to planting trees, improving energy efficiency, protecting rainforests – we know how to do these things. But we have not yet learned to take seriously our role as de facto trustees of the Earth. Confronting global climate change forces us to grow up, and quickly.
There are several recurrent themes to this issue, including:
- The situation is urgent. Despite our imperfect understanding of climate change, we must act now to avert the catastrophic consequences predicted by current science.
- We cannot turn back. The damage is so extensive that simply leaving the Earth alone will not work. We must go forward and use every tool at our disposal to heal the planet.
- Nothing less than a radical transformation of humanity is called for. The question of who we are is the heart of the matter. Are we a species of suicidal "consumers" – or planetary stewards?
Without a habitable planet, there can be no humane, sustainable culture. Now that humanity has become a "force of nature" on a geological scale – having the power to change geography, landscape, genetic codes, even the very atmosphere we breathe – protecting our living Earth must forever be our first priority. And it must become so immediately.