Year 2. Month 9, Day 8: Variations on a Theme (I)

The August 31 LA Times reports on the arrests of James Hansen and Darryl Hannah:

The arrest of actress Daryl Hannah at a protest this week outside the White House led to headlines. But it’s the detainment of NASA’s top scientist on climate change that’s generating talk.

James Hansen was arrested alongside Hannah and several other people at a sit-in to protest the Keystone XL project, a proposed $7-billion, 1,700-mile pipeline that would transport crude oil from Alberta, Canada, to the Texas Gulf Coast. Environmentalists fear the project will destroy pristine forests and pave the way for another devastating oil spill, but proponents say it will create jobs and reduce the nation’s reliance on oil from places such as Venezuela and Saudi Arabia.

Hansen heads NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, which examines such hot-button issues as climate change and humans’ effect on the planet. Before being taken away by authorities, Hansen used a microphone to urge President Obama to act “for the sake of your children and grandchildren” and stop the pipeline project, according to a Bloomberg report.

I want to shake Hansen’s hand. But this letter will have to do; it’s a variation on yesterday’s theme of “this ain’t no game.” Sent Sept. 3:

James Hansen’s assertion that burning the oil of the Canadian tar sands would mean “game over” for Earth’s climate is profoundly wrong.

Not because his science is faulty; if there’s anyone equipped to prognosticate about our planet’s future it’s the NASA climatologist, a man of enormous personal and intellectual integrity.

No — it’s because the future of Earthly life for the next million years is not “only a game.” There’s no replay button; we cannot shuffle and deal a second time. If anyone knows this, it’s Hansen; I’m sure he’s just trying to tell our political and media figures the scary truth in language that’s easier to grasp. While his words make the facts more accessible, they also deceive us into believing our species will get another chance to get it right. The scariest thing about this “game” is that humanity’s not going to get a mulligan: losing is forever.

Warren Senders

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