The Age of Climate Dithering Must Come to an End

There is a new genre fiction called “Climate Change Fiction” that has become increasingly popular. The major theme of these works is what the world will be like after the effects of climate change has taken effect.

One of my favorite Science fiction authors, Kim Stanley Robinson, has utilized this theme in several of his books, the latest being, 2312 which won the 2012 Nebula award for best science fiction novel and has been nominated for the Hugo award for best science fiction novel of 2013.

2313 mostly takes place off Earth among colonies on Mercury and the moons of Saturn. Earth itself is still recovering from massive flooding due to climate change that took place starting in 2060: Florida is completely under water and New York is now like Venice with people going from skyscraper to skyscraper by boat. There are attempts alleviate the flooding through massive geo-engineering projects that will take more than a hundred years to complete. It is not a pretty picture of the future of this planet.

It was lack of action in the period from 2005 to 2060 that brought Earth to this state. In 2312 this period is known as “The Dithering.” Dithering is defined as “a state of indecisive agitation” and is a very good term to use to describe what is going in this country regarding climate change action. Scientists are growing increasing alarmed at the rise in CO2 levels in the atmosphere and although many politicians know the dangers of climate change, they are afraid to take action. They are “dithering”: agitated by what they know is coming in the future but still indecisive as to how to proceed.

At the end of July, I attended the Climate Reality Project Leadership Corps training in Chicago. This was something I have wanted to do for a long time. It was a very exciting and stimulating experience. There were 1500 people from all 50 states as well as from 40 other countries. We had three days of training on how to spread the message of the necessity of action on climate change but the center of the training was an all-day session with Al Gore. He showed us his updated presentation that was shown the movie An Inconvenient Truth and showed us how to use it effectively. We were given the presentation at the end of the training and we all committed to carry out at least ten actions over the next twelve months.

It was exciting to be a room filled with people from all over the world so passionately committed to combating climate change denial and to press for real action by our governments. But there was also a real fear in what the future will bring if we don’t succeed.

I got into environmental activism almost thirty years ago primarily because I was the father of two young children and I was really concerned about the world that their children would live in. Now they are grown up, married and have given me three beautiful grandchildren. My fears for their future have only grown greater as we are living in the age of “The Dithering.”

In the Jewish calendar, we are in the middle of the month of Elul, the days before the High Holidays. This month is supposed to be time of reflection of what we have done in the previous year. We are especially supposed to consider our failings to others and to God and begin a process of teshuvah (repentance). One of the classical descriptions of teshuvah by Moses Maimonides (1135-1204) says that our teshuvah is not complete until we find ourselves in the same situation where we previously had sinned and we do not repeat it. It might be years later but our teshuvah is still not complete.

Einstein once famously defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. That is what we are doing now and as much as we may know that we must act on climate change, we keep doing the same thing over and over, dithering, hoping it will go away. We are creating in the heavens a great sin that will literally hang over future generations for hundreds of years (the time it will take for the carbon we are producing now to naturally leave the atmosphere) and still we cannot even begin our teshuvah. Enough with dithering; it is time to act.

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