Some scientists, Guy McPherson included, fear that climate disruption is already so serious, with so many self-reinforcing feedback loops already in play, that humans are in the process of causing our own extinction. August, September and October were each the hottest months ever recorded, respectively. Including this year, which is on track to become the hottest year ever recorded, 13 of the hottest years on record have all occurred in the last 16 years. Coal will likely overtake oil as the dominant energy source by 2017, and without a major shift away from coal, average global temperatures could rise by 6 degrees Celsius by 2050, leading to devastating climate change.
Think of it this way. An old and very dear friend of mine died a few months ago of cancer, and made the mistake of never believing seriously that his end was coming, and thus went out basically screaming, “No!!” It wasn’t pretty; he was so angry his wife had to have him taken out to hospice. On the other hand, my dad, who died of the same type of cancer, was ready for it, embraced it, and died at home surrounded by family. While the very end was rough, he had a pretty good last year experiencing life, family, and love while waiting for the cancer to take him down.
Could we learn to regard collapse not as a firm prediction but as a scenario worth exploring? After all, the Pentagon has contingency plans for events that are arguably less likely and less devastating.
It is time to stop trying to “do” things to reverse the cataclysm in which we are embroiled—to stop looking for “answers” and start asking the right questions. The most important one we can ask in this moment is: How do we live in the face of the possible near-term extinction caused by the Fukushima nightmare and catastrophic climate change?
On page 53 of Guy McPherson’s new book Going Dark, he asks: “Is it possible for a scientist to die from a broken heart?” I can’t answer that question, but I do know that it is possible for a scientist, or any of us, to live wholeheartedly and to discover an unprecedented depth of meaning and connectedness as a result of allowing our hearts to be broken—over and over again. My friend Andrew Harvey says that the only heart worth having is a broken one.