Could it be the billionaires know something we don’t? Is it a coincidence that three of the richest men on Earth are all making plans to free themselves from this planet as soon as possible? Richard Branson just returned from his maiden flight into orbit aboard his own Virgin Galactic space plane, while Jeff Bezos is planning his own trip to space in his Blue Origin rocket this coming week. Elon Musk has already set his ultimate sights on Mars through his SpaceX program, where he hopes to establish an off-planet colony.
Perhaps we should be listening to what these three visionary people are trying to tell us. Or, perhaps, we could all, for a moment, let go of our ideological constraints and listen to what Mother Nature is trying to tell us.
Earth is in trouble.
If you don’t believe it, then consider 121 degrees Fahrenheit.
In British Columbia.
Or consider the summer of wildfire that has already descended on the West weeks ahead of schedule and the exceptional drought that has engulfed much of the western U.S. An analysis released by a group of climate scientists and published by the journal Science this past week concluded that the unprecedented heat that engulfed the Pacific Northwest earlier this month was made at least 150 times more likely as a result of human-caused climate change. Indeed, they concluded the temperatures reached in that region would not have been possible had humanity not amped up our atmosphere with heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide and methane.
But that is just one weather-related event. Climate change is super-charging hurricanes and other rainfall events, is intensifying drought, heat, and even, in some cases, cold outbreaks as the breakdown of the polar vortex has caused a kind of wobble in the system that allows cold that used to be bottled up near the poles to descend further south than in the past. Meanwhile, the polar regions are seeing warmth like they’ve never seen before, causing permafrost to thaw, which releases more greenhouse gases as it does. Just to the south of that, the taiga, that ring of coniferous forest that straddles the northern hemisphere is burning like never before. We’ve been breathing in the results of it in recent days right here in our region.
We know there are some who will continue to deny climate change until they die from it. There’s no longer any point trying to convince them. We don’t need to argue the science with those who are informed— they already understand what’s at stake. What we need is to push our political leaders to take the coordinated steps necessary to reverse the current circumstances that threaten the very future of this planet. We can’t address this through individual action alone, and those who claim otherwise are actually limiting progress, or attempting to shift blame where it doesn’t belong. Addressing a global crisis of this magnitude will require the full and sustained attention of governments across the world and major investments in a new energy, transportation, and housing future.
Only governments can muster the resources and initiative to address what most of us now recognize for the existential crisis that it is. Only governments can head off the wrong kind of investments, such as new fossil fuel infrastructure. Lip service won’t cut it anymore.
In some respects, we’re already too late. Our global climate crisis will get worse. That’s a reality that’s already baked into the cake because of poor decisions our governments have made in the recent past and continue to make, even today. But it’s not too late to head off the kind of catastrophic climate future that threatens most life on the planet.
Can we, as a species, mount an effective, collective response to the most serious threat in human history? Some of our most visionary billionaires appear to be betting against us. They’re investing billions in an escape plan for themselves, their descendants, and the cream of the global elite, betting that the rest of humanity won’t be able to save this precious planet and the glorious diversity of life that has evolved here.
While the billionaires may have an escape hatch, there is none for the rest of us. We have only one home and if we can’t muster the fortitude to save it, the rest of us will face a very unpleasant future.