Nature says pay me now or pay me later

In the grand scheme of things, where do we stand as humans? Are we destined to become a small point on the timeline of the universe? Five mass extinction events have occurred over the eons. We shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking that another extinction cannot happen. So why are we in such a rush to bring about our own extinction due to climate change, a phenomenon over which we still have some control?

Save the Earth, save ourselves. It’s obvious, but our nature seems to rebel against it. Our faults – greed, corruption, indifference, stupidity – prevent us from doing what is necessary. Has the need for self-preservation been overtaken by vested interests?

So this begs the question, do we deserve to be saved? How can we allow this to happen, knowingly bring about our own demise? Is it pride, vanity, that we can not imagine that we will not find a solution? Intelligence without wisdom and humility is dangerous. Our technology, a silver bullet or silver bullets, can save us time in the short term, but only a little.

The tragedy is that the worst of climate change could have been avoided if we had only listened to our scientists and taken action. But that would have contradicted our nature to postpone, to procrastinate, in the hope that the predictions were exaggerated, that we could go on as usual, pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, waiting for a miracle.

We know that countries with vast reserves of fossil fuels are determined not to turn them into stranded assets. The savings will always outweigh the environment. We have been seduced by consumerism. Our governments and our economic systems have failed us.

Now the Earth is claiming its debts and repaying us for all the insults we have inflicted on it. “You can pay me now or you can pay me later. Later came with enormous interest. Ecological succession states that “each species over time creates conditions which are not suitable for them, but which are suitable for another form of life”.

Without us and over time, the Earth could begin to restore itself, other species would emerge or re-emerge and the biosphere would purify itself of our pollution, but it would be a world without us. Maybe that’s how it was always meant to be. We had a good race, but now it’s coming to an end? There is still time, but time is running out.

Unless we drastically reduce our use of fossil fuels, stop building pipelines, funding the fossil fuel industry, and empty promises at summits, there is little reason to believe that climate change will not be uncontrollable and catastrophic.

Human suffering will be unimaginable. And until we stop living like there’s no tomorrow, there just might be no tomorrow. Think about it the next time you spend time with your grandchildren.

Wayne Poole lives in Dundas.

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