Here's an uncomfortable truth. Carbon emissions can be reduced through changes in lifestyle. But they can also be reduced by reducing the number of individuals who have lifestyles. We can have fewer children. We can stop breeding livestock and pets. But there's more: we can let sick and starving people die. We can kill the dogs and cats in animal shelters. At some point though, a phrase from conservative religious ethics comes to mind and even starts to seem apt. We should surely not become a "culture of death."
In short, limiting animal breeding and human family size is all to the good, but let's not start dispensing with sick people and cats and dogs, as if they were of no value.
Speaking of the "culture of death," I'm starting to worry about the mini-culture that is my family. For a while now we've been running a Friday night "end of the world" film series. We've now contemplated the apocalyptic powers of fire (Knowing), ice (The Day After Tomorrow), germs (I am Legend), and aliens (War of the World). I'm not sure what will be the bringer of death and destruction in tonight's movie (The Island), but I'm starting to think "enough."
The "end of the world" theme in recent movies and books (like Margaret Atwood's The Year of the Flood and Cormac McCarthy's The Road) seems to be a symptom of unease about the real apocalyptic worry of our time--global warming. So argues William Deresiewicz in an insightful review of Atwood's novel.
So here we are, right back where we were a few decades ago and hoped we'd never have to be again: staring down the barrel of global catastrophe. Anyone over 40 will remember the feeling. The numb resignation, the night panic, the sense of a world gone mad. The missiles, it seemed, were already overhead, hanging like a pregnant pause. And now the feeling is back, and anyone under 40 has to wonder what's in store for them before they die. Will they live to see the cities drown, the fields dry up, the food system collapse? Will they die a peaceful death, or will they be driven from their homes to wander the roads and eat grass? And if the worst does come, how will the survivors find the will to go on?We need to worry, think, and do something. But enough about death! I've proposed that our next film series should be about inspiring social reformers--people who try to do something about the world's problems. I'm afraid that didn't go over well.