Climate change

I was a climate-change agnostic when I went to see Guy McPherson at the 100th Monkey. I thought Earth might be more subtle and complex than we think, like everything else. I’m leery of numbers that only show up on a machine, even if the numbers represent something said to be important. I imagine some schnook peering in disbelief at a dim red readout and smacking the thing, and the number changes.

I thought I was gonna see Anthony Watts, too, a prominent climate-change skeptic. McPherson and Watts were going to debate, except Watts had a personal emergency and didn’t show, so McPherson gave us a talk, which essentially amounted to we’re all going to die soon. Climate change from human activity has gone so far that nothing we do is likely to make a difference, and all this you see around you is going away. There’s a forty-year lag between the causes and the effects, so the weather we’re getting now was influenced by what people were doing in 1974. We’ve got maybe another generation or so and then that’s it, no more civilization and no more us. Life will go on, just not us folks.

I was stunned. A friend had told me that McPherson’s spiel was a major downer, and she did not exaggerate. I was at first alarmed that my sons mightn’t have as long a ride as I had envisioned. Then I thought that longevity for its own sake doesn’t seem as worthy a goal as service, for instance, and the quality of their lives is up to each of them. I don’t mind civilization going away as long as it takes congress and the banks with it. I don’t mind people dying out either, although I bet a few of us survive, mostly assholes.

Peter Melton showed us a video of Anthony Watts, but it didn’t amount to much, and I looked Watts up later online. Wow, talk about another perspective.

McPherson is a serious man. He lives sustainably off the grid in southern New Mexico and admits that climate change and the end of civilization will affect him far less than it will the rest of us. I like the way he walks the walk. Guy McPherson is not fucking around.

Guy McPherson has also been doing this for thirty years, and his theory infuses his public persona and private life. He’s got all the facts and numbers at his disposal and is as glib as he ought to be after thirty years of practice. He seems like a nice guy, and I liked the way his talks—I also went to the discussion at the Chico Peace and Justice Center the next night—ended with appeals to rely on love and live as well as we can until we can’t anymore. At the end of the Thursday gathering at CPJC we actually joined hands and sang Kumbaya, no shit.

Doomsday might be coming right up, and it might be just the ticket. We don’t know where to yet, but we know it’s one-way. Whatever; I’m not sweating it.


  1. Anthony, I couldn’t watch the whole Anthony Watts video… My sense is that McPherson is right but just like the shock and numbness caused by the death of a loved individual there is absolutely no way to take in extinction so I go forward with sorting through my husband’s endless boxes of stuff, making time to meditate, carry firewood, weed, and generally keep to the silence of this time. I don’t know the details but did read some of McPherson’s writing when I interviewed former Chicoan Peter Melton. It sits in me like the same kind of weight as drone strikes, clear-cutting, nuclear weapons development, Israeli policy toward the Palestinian people… still there’s something liberating in just being healthy and in the moment… don’t know how the dualities can exist simultaneously but just want you to know I appreciate your writing and willingness to take on the “hard” subjects.

  2. The earth is at a tipping point; we are all at a tipping point. Don’t you feel it in everyone’s lives, whether to tip toward hope and action, or toward the status quo and cynicism. Went to Washington DC and heard Dr Nancy Knowlton of the Smithsonian Marine Science Division. She had three trends on her lines….one the status quo — DISASTERS we just wait for. One for mild action, disasters not quite as swift, and the trends if we act. The last one was hopeful. And so were 410,000 people marching in Washington DC the next week to push the UN for climate change. So were the ministers and tribal members talking about change for faith and spirituality reasons, not just physical ones. Paul Hawken’s book Blessed Unrest has a wonderful ending chapter about how we are like a cellular organism forming connections, that is happening outside the media viewpoint. I want to be part of the blessed unrest occurring, the rising up for a better world and to save the beauty in it.

  3. PS. St. Francis of Assisi once said:
    “Start by doing the necessary, then what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” And AP Porter quoted Seth:

    “Live each day as fully and joyfully as possible. Imagine the best possible results of any plan or projects. Above all, do not concentrate upon past unfavorable events or imagined future ones.”

    There is work for us to do, each in our own big and small ways. And we must be at it, show up to our own lives and the one we share.

  4. ming on mongo says:

    For what it’s worth, Watts is affiliated with and supported by the uber-conservative Heartland Institute. Ever since this Industry- and Koch-funded “think tank” cut its teeth on denying the dangers of cigarette smoking back in the 1990s, “orchestrated doubt” has become their primary “product”.

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