This is really happening.
The Arctic and the glaciers are melting. The oceans are rising and acidifying. The corals are bleaching, the great forests dying and burning. The storms and floods, the droughts and heat waves, are intensifying. The farms and savannahs are parched and drying. Nations are disappearing. People are dying. Mass extinction is unfolding. And all of it sooner and faster than science predicted. The window in which to prevent the worst scenarios is closing before our eyes.
And the fossil-fuel industry—which holds the fate of humanity in its carbon reserves—is doubling down, economically and politically, on all this destruction. We face an unprecedented situation—a radical situation. It demands a radical response.
This is about waking up, individually and collectively, to the climate catastrophe that is upon us—truly waking up to it, intellectually, morally, and spiritually.
In recent years, I have come to know and work alongside some truly re-markable, wide-awake people—those I think of as new American radicals—in the struggle to build a stronger movement for climate justice: a movement less like environmentalism and more like the radically transformative movements that have altered the course of history in the past, from abolitionism to civil rights.
Of course, we must begin by acknowledging the science and the sheer lateness of the hour—the fact that, if we intend to address the climate catastrophe in a serious way, our chance for a smooth, gradual transition has passed. We must acknowledge the fact that without immediate action at all levels to radically reduce greenhouse emissions and decarbonize our economies—requiring a society-wide mobilization and a thus far unseen degree of global cooperation, leading to the effective end of the fossil-fuel industry as we know it—the kind of livable and just future we all want is simply inconceivable.
It seems fairly obvious that the reason we don’t hear politicians, or the “serious” people in our media, talking much about the true gravity of this situation is that to propose anything that would actually begin to address it with the necessary urgency at the national and global level would simply sound too extreme, if not outright crazy, within mainstream political conversation. Leave fossil fuels in the ground? Who are you kidding? Be serious.
This is the reality—or the surreality—of the historical moment in which we find ourselves. At this late hour, with the clock ticking down on civilization, to be serious about climate change—based, mind you, on what science and not ideology prescribes—is to be radical. The climate catastrophe is so fundamental that it strikes to the root of who we are: It confronts us with a kind of radical necessity—a moral necessity.