Dim desperation

“Our science is a drop, our ignorance a sea,” declared William James a century and a quarter ago in an essay whose title cuts to the chase of Naomi Klein’s next chapter: “Is Life Worth Living?” If we think it is, we might think twice about following the geoengineers who propose to dim the sun, spray sulfur into the stratosphere, induce a permanent haze, create a virtual volcanic parasol, or do any of the other mammoth-scale projects whose unforeseen outcomes could very well make life unlivable.

Or, in a last-ditch Hail Mary situation they could be our final dimming prospect for salvation. We’re not quite there yet. not quite to Plan B. But what’s Plan A, if not harnessing the sun and other sources of life here on the surface of our earth?

Klein reminds us that it is indeed our salvation we’re talking about here. “In pragmatic terms our challenge is less to save the earth from ourselves and more to save ourselves from an earth that, if pushed too far, has ample power to rock, burn, and shake us off completely.” So maybe we want to instruct the engineers to tread lightly and put the parasol away, until our science is at least an island and not just a drop in the sea.

James’s theme is suicide, Klein’s ecocide. How to resist both? James had an idea: “Be not afraid of life. Believe that life is worth living, and your belief will help create the fact.” Or at least the will to postpone Hail Mary. It is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.

6 am/6:36, 65/88, 6:45

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