Day 17: Do You Seriously Think Newsweek Would Actually Print This?

I did 7 hours of phonebanking for Martha Coakley yesterday. You can read the story here if you’re interested. Today I was teaching most of the day, so I didn’t have time to write my letter until now. You’ll note that I took the Brian Aldiss quote I’d used a few days ago and built a new edifice around it.

Do I actually think Newsweek will publish this letter? Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

If you live in Massachusetts, remember to VOTE on Tuesday.

The science-fiction writer Brian Aldiss described civilization as “the distance man has placed between himself and his waste,” and by this criterion ours is the most advanced civilization in human history. But it is increasingly obvious that when we are this distant from our waste, we are at best oblivious to it and at worst openly contemptuous of efforts to reduce it (as witness Dick Cheney’s sneering remark that “Conservation may be a sign of personal virtue but it is not a sufficient basis for a sound, comprehensive energy policy.”).

The problem is, simply, that the laws of physics are oblivious to our posturing. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, and when the CO2 output of our civilization overwhelms the absorptive capacity of our oceans and forests, the earth’s atmosphere will heat up. Let it get warm enough, and the frozen methane under the Arctic Ocean will enter the atmosphere, triggering a terrifying positive feedback loop. The best-case result of that is what is euphemistically called an “evolutionary bottleneck.”

But it is much easier to fixate on the latest celebrity scandal du jour than it is to confront catastrophic climate change while there is still time. If the public understood the difference between denialism and scientific fact, it would be simple to recognize lies and debunk them. Instead, while the world’s ecosystems collapse under the strain of our accumulated waste, irresponsible broadcast and print media bombard us with a steady stream of celebrity scandals, distractions and irrelevancies. Albert Einstein put it very clearly when he said, “We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if mankind is to survive.” What we need is nothing more or less than a new definition of civilization, one which embodies a wholly different attitude towards waste. If we do not act now to redefine civilization for ourselves and our descendants, our great-great-grandchildren will curse us for blighting their lives with a cultural and environmental heritage that amounts in the end to a world full of toxic trash.

Warren Senders

Please feel free to cut and paste parts of what I’ve written into your own letters to our media and politicians. If you have suggestions for people and/or organizations I should write to, I would welcome them.

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