The AGU Meeting

Last weekend I tried to move the camper-van I own off the hill. “Tried” because I was unsuccessful. The bus, as I call it, had a dead battery. After getting a jump from AAA I promptly killed the engine, so we only got several feet out of the roadside assist.

Eventually we gave up entirely on the trip. Whether the snow will give us another chance or not remains to be seen.

What has resulted, though, is a bit of self-re-evaluation. (Can I use double hyphens like that?)

Anyway, here is the result, at least as it stands just now: I may not be dead yet, but it sometimes seems as if I am. It seems everything is just too hard to do.

Maybe I’m just feeling sorry for myself, Maybe I’m just in a mood. Maybe  not. Heaven knows. I probably deserve a little self-pity. I am handicapped now. Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.

I’m much more handicapped than anyone I know. But that’s just what I happened to get. It’s not as if God has it in for me. If he did I would hurt more. Daily I am reminded of how much more unbearable it would be if I wasn’t so lucky as to have almost no pain.

When I first was tempted by the concept of suicide, I realized it was not an option. One of the things which was very clear as part of the Vision was that I was supposed to propagate it at every opportunity. Suicide would be an end of those efforts, so it was not on the table. Since then I have realized that an exception might apply if I thought the suicide, itself, might draw enough attention to the Vision to make the difference between the message of the Vision getting noticed and it not getting that attention. Unfortunately, that comes with unpleasant possibilities of it’s own.

My peers in the scientific community do not seem to share my concern over the dangers of climate change. At the very least, the editorial boards of the most popular journals do not seem to be interested in entertaining a discussion of how bad it might be. Having seen the possibility of it being as bad as I think it will be in a Vision hardly carries a positive imprimatur with the scientific community.

So, what am I to do?

Next week the largest meeting of scientists directly involved with questions related to climate change takes place in San Francisco. It presents me with an excellent opportunity to draw attention to the ignoring of the issue by the political establishment, especially as indicated by selections made by incoming President Trump.  But, like I said, those people attending the conference may not share my concern.

Here we run into my own insecurities. I’m reminded of those many times as a boy that I stood on one side of the gym looking across the basketball court at the line of girls waiting for one of us boys to break away from our own line and cross the court to ask one of them to start the dancing. Usually it was me that took the walk. Why was it always me?

That climate change is real and human caused is obvious to all of those in my line of scientists on our side of the gym. I believe that. So why is it so hard for me to cross the court?

Perhaps because so many of my peers see no solutions. No one wants to be a doomsayer. They might not begin dancing.

So my real challenge may be in getting them to see a possibility of a solution. The only hope I currently have is that we have to get off this planet. That is not a very satisfactory hope. First off, there will be, under any scenario I can imagine being achievable, few humans who will benefit. Secondly, whether it can be accomplished at all is not so clear. Thirdly, most of those who can do anything to accomplish anything are human. As such, they see everything as being centered around humans. The Vision wasn’t about humans. The “we” contained in the Vision wasn’t referring to humans. It was talking about all living things on this planet.

The good news is that there are places which may already be terraformed if all we require for that concept is that the place be habitable to some lifeforms from this planet. But humans are, of course, only interested in terraforming when the habitability question is driven by the question of habitability by humans. It is this type of terraforming that I was referencing when I expressed doubt that we would be capable of doing it. We might be, but we might also not be.

Whether we can terraform any place even with a lessor reading of “terraform” depends on the starting point of the proposed terraformed planet and the time allowed for the terraforming process.

That we must do this now is something which requires the input of the scientific community. The input is needed now, not thirty years from now. I had the Vision in 1986. Had I started then there is equal chance we might still be where we are today as that we would be thirty years further down the road. But at least the preliminary part might be behind us.

The issue of climate change, the worst case scenario, and its potential for this planet cannot be delayed forever, If it is, there will be no time for solution. Whether there is still enough time remains to be seen. “The end of days” may be O.K. with some folks, but it is not O.K. with me. The best I can do is “The end of days after I’ve done everything I can do to make the end of days a little later in coming.”

Perhaps I’m just an alarmist. But where is the danger in being an alarmist? Does it seem likely that we’ll see the election of someone who is not only a climate denier, but whom we are as likely to compare to Adolph Hitler as to anyone? I think not.

The danger lies at the opposite extreme.

It is wise to have the scientific community make the final judgments. It is foolish to let industrialists decide.

Well,this is getting too long, now, so I’ll sign off.

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