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Global Warming And Visions Of A Sustainable Planet - Page 4

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We're in a race between human consciousness and the physics and chemistry of the earth. We can equivocate, but the earth will brook no compromises.

In our great hominid journey, no one really knows what time it is. We could be at its end, or we could be at the beginning of a great and glorious turning toward reconnection and wholeness.

We who are alive today share what Martin Luther King, Jr., called "the inescapable network of mutuality." We aren't without resources. We have our intelligence, humor, and compassion, our families and friends, and our ancestry of resilient hominid survivors. We can be restored.

Since the beginning of human time, how many people have loved and cared for each other in order for us to be alive today? How many fathers have hunted and fished, fought off predators, and planted grain so that we could breathe at this moment? How many mothers have nursed babies and carried water so that we could savor our small slice of time?

We can never know the significance of our individual actions, but we can act as if our actions are significant. That will create only good on earth. Besides, what's our alternative?

As U.S. Poet Laureate W. S. Merwin said, "On my last day on Earth, I'd like to plant a tree."

So let's save and savor the world together.

I wish you well on your journey.

Mary Pipher, Ph.D., is the author of the bestseller Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls. Her other books include The Middle of Everywhere and Seeking Peace: Chronicles of the Worst Buddhist in the World. Her latest is The Green Boat: Writing to Change the World. Contact: Tell us what you think about this article by e-mail at, or at Log in and you'll find the comment section on every page of the online Magazine.

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  • Comment Link Sunday, 21 October 2012 18:08 posted by Brian Page

    Humans have an amazing capacity to rationalize away their behavior, hell even the completely insane can usually pull this off. It should be fairly obvious that opinions, ours or others, are not the best way of acquiring knowledge about the world, evidence is. In science opinions are known as hypotheses and only when a hypothesis passes a test against empirical evidence, called an experiment, is it considered to be valid. At it's heart science is the end result of a historical quest for knowledge. It has proven itself a better method than campfire anecdotes and the myths that evolved into our philosophies and religious beliefs. A set of valid hypotheses that is consistent with the preponderance of evidence is collected into what science calls a theory. Parts of a theory that appear irrefutable and stand the test of time are called laws. These are not theories and laws as we know them in a social context, they are based on a continual process of evidence-based refinement known as the scientific method.

    The prime directive of the scientific method is to reveal the weaknesses of seemingly valid hypotheses, theories and laws. Experiment, the process of acquiring evidence, is the tool for invalidating what has previously been considered proven. Strict control of all relevant variables and the ability to be replicated are basic constraints imposed by the scientific method. To be accepted, experimental results must withstand careful scrutiny by experts in the field after which they are published for all to review and critique. This is how science works, how it avoids falling prey to the tyranny of opinion. Because nature doesn't really care about opinions, it is what it is, and to be understood must be dealt with in an objective and reasoned way. Few claim to deny science, but it's the failure to understand the scientific method that leads to the type of willful ignorance and rationalizations that produce the inappropriate denial of scientific results.

    Those espousing opinions that run contrary to established science usually can't sustain their cognitive dissonance forever in the face continually antithetical scientific evidence. When confronted with facts opposed to a preconceived opinion, a choice between modifying those opinions to accommodate new evidence or simply ignoring any such inconvenient data must be made. Science is perpetually malleable in this way, facts drive opinions, humans are not. What humans are good at is rationalizing away such behavior when it finally becomes evident that they were wrong. There is usually not much harm in this, it is an evolutionary survival strategy after all. However, sometimes willful ignorance has tragic consequences that can't be hidden. It is far more difficult to convince others of the validity of ones rationalizations than it is to convince oneself. So when your children and grandchildren ask you in 10 or 20 years what you did to help prevent the environmental catastrophe that they will be forced to live in, you might want to consider whether they understand the concept of willful ignorance before you frame your response. When will you have your epiphany?

  • Comment Link Thursday, 11 October 2012 14:17 posted by Richard Pauli

    Thank you for this wise article.

    The grinding gears of panic and anxiety was exhausting. Then my despair turned to anger. Now, my anger to disappointment - I think I can work with that. Now is the time for questions and re-engagement with the ruthless scientific laws that govern our world.

  • Comment Link Saturday, 29 September 2012 12:10 posted by Laura Olley

    Mary Pipher's article came to me as I was (and still am) in the midst of panic about the issue of global warming. I could barely read it I am so upset, but I am desperate for community on this topic and to not feel so alone. I am a new mother and I am so angry that the joy I feel about motherhood is mitigated by this sense of terror in regard to the grim future we all face. I believe that I have "pre-traumatic-stress disorder" and find myself considering a return to SSRI's and benzodiazapenes to get through it. But what I really need is community and the strength to take action. I am giving every last penny to groups like Oil Change International and the Environmental Defense Fund. We need a major movement and a call to action on a grand scale. I am distraught. Thanks to May Pipher for helping me not feel so alone.

  • Comment Link Monday, 24 September 2012 12:43 posted by Jennifer Thompson

    Thank you - This is right up my alley. This summer I observed vast landscape changes on the Continental Divide Trail in Montana - having been on a section of that trail in the Bob Marshall Wilderness 15 years ago. Returning to these same places this summer and observing vast change in Alpine environments, the color of the Alpine Lakes, the vegetation, animal habitat, ETC! I had a visceral experience of Global Warming. IT IS HERE. Plus just last night photographing 4 fracking platforms along the Rocky Mountain Front in Montana. Global Warming and a continuance of the abuse and destruction of the environment by companies. What to do? Lay on the Earth, forgive each other and ask forgiveness to the Earth, write a poem, get together with others for support. These are the things I am doing to survive. Every act of active compassion is necessary now. Thank you so much for this writing which validates my visceral experience of Global Warming and confirms my need for personal response.

  • Comment Link Monday, 17 September 2012 17:56 posted by Lee Salmon

    Mary's article is one of the best I've ready that addresses how we avoid issues that seem overwhelming yet must be confronted for the surety of our own future and that of others we love. We must step out of our discomfort to address the overarching issue of global climate change which threatens life on this planet as we know it. Nothing else is really that important.

    How do we elevate this to an issue that needs to be front and center in this looming Presidential election and debates? Is there really anything more important?