This morning's news of death and disaster in Central Florida due to tornado activity coincides with the larger news that accompanies the concurrent release of the United Nations report on climate change. We have too long chosen to remain deaf to the signals from our planet with the result that the damage caused by our negligence is now, according to the scientists who contributed to this study, basically irreversible. The harm we have inflicted on our little corner of the universe is surely no more than an infinitesimal blip on the cosmic radar screen; but to us, the human species--well, Florida is likely to prove but a minor foretaste. Even Katrina, with all her deadly force, may look like a tempest in a teapot when compared with what the Earth has in store for us, her unruliest inhabitants.
The UN report makes clear that the effects of our industrial and post-industrial consumption and our burning of the fossil fuel resources that enabled it may last for centuries to come. Whether the human species will survive its own mindless improvidence and greed remains an open question. We pride ourselves on the knowledge we have gained about the planet we are given to inhabit, but surely our ignorance is far greater. In the grand scheme of things, I suppose, it matters little to the universe--perhaps even to the planet itself--whether this one troublesome species survives. We have contributed already to the extinction of so many others, and the world keeps turning inexorably, shrugging off the loss and adapting to the change in ways of which we humans seem incapable. Our minds are prisoners of old ways of thinking, old conceptions of what it is we need--and what we need is always more than what we have. We seem fated to strive for the "growth" and "progress" that will assure our downfall.
Until we learn that there must be some limit to our grasping, until we learn tolerance and patience for the needs of other humans and of other species, we will continue down this path toward eventual destruction. We need to be more mindful that it is our actions that contribute to the creation of the world we live in; and our actions, should we all finally agree to make it so, that can begin to reverse the disastrous path that we have chosen.