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Driving off the cliff


I am by nature an optimist, however, my optimism is being tested.

Bill Maher, when being interviewed and asked about climate change recently, made the comment that we are like Thelma and Louise, holding hands and driving towards the cliff.

I hope that he is wrong, but human nature tells me that there is the possibility that he may be right. Ideally, in reaction to climate change, we should all be working on solutions to what appears to be less of a theory and more and more a reality. But that is not what we are doing.

When confronted with a future crisis we, at best, procrastinate, and at worst deny that there is a crisis. People diagnosed with lung disease continue to smoke, obese people put off dieting and exercise, people continue to spend more than they earn on their way to poverty or bankruptcy, workers refuse to learn new skills even when it is evident that they will be replaced by automation, and people put off going to the doctor hoping that the pain will go away on its own. We wear blinders when it comes to a very likely, but possibly unpleasant, future.

As we look around the world, we find that this aversion to facing reality is not exclusively an American trait. The very weak guidelines coming out of the latest climate conference demonstrate that humans everywhere are reluctant to take the painful and necessary steps to reverse or even slow the current climate trends.

As coastal areas see higher and higher tides and damage from increasingly violent storms and islands in some areas appear to be threatened by rising waters, we continue to pretend that it is not serious enough to act. People still want to drive their big gas-guzzling trucks, resisting the move to more efficient vehicles; buy all kinds of stuff made from or wrapped in plastics which probably will end up in the ocean; and use water resources as if they come from an unending supply of clean drinking water.

Now this is not a holier-than-thou diatribe. I realize that I am as guilty as anyone, and I understand the resistance to giving up many things that we use and enjoy. I drive an internal combustion engine truck. I try to recycle, but I know that it is a fraction of what I use or consume. I water my lawn and plants whenever I want to. I buy products that are probably made overseas, where there are little or no environmental regulations. I also know that all of this is woven into our current society and will be extremely difficult to change.

I pray that Bill Maher is wrong, but I also fear that he may be right.