I have been trying for some time to write the predictions journal that I promised in December, but frankly, the news is so uniformly bad that I have hesitated even to approach the subject.
I am no Nostradamus, incidentally. I extrapolate, I do not prophesy. Over my writing career, there have been a few odd incidents of unintentional prophecy, such as the identification of a Korean-made car in Nature's End as the Hunyadi, some years before the Hyundai was introduced.
This journal entry is not about prophecy. It is about prediction by extrapolation--thinking about the future, not dreaming about it. Not to say that there is anything wrong with dreaming about it. I am sure that there are some good prophets out there. However, I am a predictor, and it is to prediction that I will turn.
I have children on their way to getting married. My best friend had his first grandchild a few months ago. I am sure that most of you are involved with future generations also, that you have children who are precious beyond imagining, and that you, also, want the world to continue.
Unfortunately, we are in a time of horrific crisis far beyond anything I imagined when Art Bell and I wrote Superstorm. It is so much worse than I expected then that I almost can't believe what I am seeing. We are well into a sudden climate change situation, but it may not be the one that we envisioned in Superstorm.
This is because greenhouse gasses are rising so much faster than anticipated that the earth's climate is literally disintegrating before our eyes. Not only that, we are gobbling resources at a furious and completely unprecedented rate.
Of course, this is in part due to explosive economic growth in India and China, but it is also due to the fact that the United States, the world's number one polluter, has quit trying to save the planet at what is probably the most crucial moment in the past fifteen thousand years.
What is so terrifying is that this process of turning away from our own future emerges out of a bizarre death wish known as "the Rapture" that is afflicting a substantial enough proportion of the American population to affect the electoral process.
These mad people, and there are millions of them, are led by lunatics who have extrapolated some sort of "code" out of the bible that tells them that the world will soon end and the self selected "elect" will be "raptured" into heaven while the rest of us are left behind by the cruel, selfish and mean-spirited god of their dreams.
In other words, Jesus Christ, the great master of compassion, will transform into the great champion of the selfish, and heap rewards on the few while leaving the many to perish.
Of course, this is silly fallacy. It was invented in the 19th century by a couple of semi-educated fanatics who mixed Bible verses with their own loopy fantasies and came up with something about as sensible as the idiotic Nazi "eternal ice" theories of the crackpot Hans Horbiger.
I juxtapose these two fallacies quite intentionally, because they both emerge out of the same thing: a death wish that is spreading through mankind like a disease, and must be recognized as such by those of us who are not afflicted, before the sick destroy themselves and the rest of us with them.
Death wishes are commonly triggered during overpopulation experiments with rats. Once population reaches a certain density, the animals begin to engage in destructive behaviors that eventually lead to a dieback of the trapped colony.
However, ideas do not feel organic. The people who believed the Nazi eternal ice theories thought themselves sane enough. So, also, Rapture believers I have personally met hardly consider themselves insane, much less carriers of a disease.
But they are, and what is so horrible is that, if we do not act to save ourselves very soon, their prophecies will become self-fulfilling. However, nobody is going to disappear out of an airplane or off a sofa in order to be "raptured away" by the heartless mythical Jesus that these selfish and self-deluded people have conjured out of their ignorance and greed.
Like the rest of us, they will suffer a future of lingering death that will last for generations, condemning billions living right now, you and me likely among them, and billions yet born, of course, to lives that are in no way worth living.
Primarily, people are going to starve for energy first and then for food, and they are going to suffer from unbreathable air and heat, and ultra-violent weather that takes many different forms. It is possible that something like the superstorm will alter this suffering in part of the world, at least for a time, but the statistics now point to a rise in temperatures so aggressive that human activity may have interrupted the climate's 2.8 million year cycle of ice ages, delaying the onset of the next such period until after the heat has killed most or all of us.
Yes, it is that bad. I know that many of you reading this would like to believe the lying rhetoric of those who claim that global warming is "unproven" and a "theory," and that others probably cherish the blind notion that "god will provide."
God already DID that: he provided us with our brains. It is up to us to use them. Failure to do so, in this case, is more than a sin, it is a crime against humanity. And indeed, history will see the America politicians, preachers and radio rhetoricians of this era as having engaged in a crime against humanity. They will be noted in the history books of the future along with Hitler, Stalin, Mao and their henchmen as masters of a dark and murderous evil that has been stalking this species for at least a hundred years.
More objectively, they will be seen as victims of deep life forces that seek to a natural balance. There are too many human beings on the planet, and nature seeks to correct that problem. It seeks not only in the environment around us, but in our dark inner selves, for restoration of balance.
It is from that inner darkness that ideas like Nazism and Rapture Theology come, and paroxysmal actions like the murderous wars and genocides that have swept so many population groups in this century arise.
That this darkness has been allowed to take hold in this free country--this place devoted by its founding fathers to hope and freedom and the extension of human happiness--is not because of a lack of environmental leadership or a failure of scientific endeavor. The leadership is crying out, increasingly, in justified terror. The science being done in this area around the world is exemplary and ferociously convincing.
No, it is not a lack of leadership at all, it is proactive leadership, some of it viciously cynical, some of it legitimately deluded, that has led too many Americans away from faith in the value of human life. How ironic that many of the same people who preach about the evils of murdering the unborn eagerly embrace the idea that it is a religious requirement to actually seek to induce the mythical battle of Armageddon in order to hasten the "end times"--which will mean not the tragic deaths of some thousands of aborted fetuses, but the unimaginably terrible spectacle of the deaths of billions, the collapse of the species back into a far poorer and more primitive existence, and possibly even its extinction.
There are extremely serious dangers waiting for us literally around every corner at this point. The marine food chain is failing in the North Sea and the Antarctic. Glaciers and ice caps are melting much, much faster than the most dire predictions of just five years ago. As an example, bare rock is visible on Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa for the first time in 11,000 years and it has recently been discovered that one of the most dangerous of all climate change triggers is running amok in the arctic: fresh water is flooding the northern ocean.
In the past, global warming events have always climaxed with a methane release that has caused a spectacular rise in temperatures worldwide, with huge increases in the arctic. This has been followed by a very quick, widespread and fearsome storm--the Superstorm scenario, in other words.
Until recently, scientists have not understood where this methane came from. But now they know, and we are truly sitting on a time bomb that is much more unstable than we imagined in our worst nightmares of five years ago.
The situation is urgent--and the biggest polluting nation in the word, which could do the most to delay or alleviate this catastrophe--is ruled by a regime that is a mixed bag of oil-patch toadies who spread lies about global warming as a matter of policy, and religious fanatics whose attitude toward the end of the world is, 'bring it on, we love it!'
As an example of just how urgent this situation is, there is a catastrophe waiting to happen in the North Sea that could, pretty much at any time, induce tsunamis in the region that would result in a death toll in the area of twenty to thirty million people right in the heart of our species' most vital civilization, Europe.
The reason is that submarine landslides in the Storegga region of the Norwegian continental shelf are caused when methane trapped in the sea floor starts turning into a gas, like carbonation being released in a bottle of soda when it's opened.
Three times in the past 30,000 years, these landslides have taken place, and tsunamis have washed over the east coast of Britain, the entire Netherlands, and the Baltic states.
We know now that methane trapped in undersea formations turns into a gas when ocean water temperatures reach a certain point.
And Europe is not the only area in danger. Similar formations exist all over the world, including off the US Pacific coast and in the Mediterranean. And once ocean temperatures rise another few degrees, outgassing events, submerged landslides and tsunamis are going to become an effectively permanent feature of life.
Understand, I am not writing of a single, awful event like a great earthquake. I am writing of a new ecological feature that will be with us for hundreds of years, during which, in the end, the great majority of coastlines will at one or another time be drowned.
But that isn't the worst of it. That only accounts for a few hundred million deaths and the destruction of the world's trade economies. It gets worse. Methane not only outgasses from the ocean floor, it is released to the tune of trillions of tons from melting permafrost in the arctic.
The result of the sudden loading of the atmosphere with all this methane is a dramatic increase in temperatures. We will see a time when summers will bring vast waves of death across this planet, when temperatures will reach past 130F in many places, power grids will fail, and there will be no escape from the heat, not for anybody.
Two summers ago, a heat wave of unprecedented intensity killed 30,000 in Europe. Temperatures have soared well into the 120s in India in recent years. And lest Americans reading this dismiss this crisis because it's "only happening to foreigners," remember that a great heat wave in 1995 was a foretaste of what will become an annual phenomenon if we experience methane loading of the atmosphere, and that heat wave struck Chicago.
So, this is not really a list of predictions. It is a single prediction: we are approaching the end of the road for earth's ecology and for many species, especially larger animals, which are traditionally more vulnerable during climate upheavals--and thus, most especially, us. Whether in 2005, 2006, or whenever, we will see some of these catastrophes unfolding pretty much at any time and probably with little or no warning.
What can we do about it? Well, if you believe any of the death wish lies discussed above, come to your senses and start using the gift God gave you instead of indulging in the arrogant sin of refusing to do so in favor of indulging greedy fantasies. In a word, wake up and turn away from Rapture Theology. Make up for your wasted time by becoming instead a proactive environmentalist, and give your new movement at least as much money as you threw at the old one.
I know that I won't convince one of you to actually walk away from whatever demon preacher has hypnotized you, but my guess is that the future will: when you are facing what we all must face, then you will come to your senses.
The one good thing is that concerted effort on the part of all the nations in the world can change things fast. But it cannot be done without the United States. If the United States does not recognize the problem, a vast catastrophe is inevitable.
Other countries know it, too. Even China has embraced the global warming message and is seeking ways to control its own emissions. The Kyoto Treaty recently went into effect, and is being taken extremely seriously by its signatories.
Meanwhile, the Bush Administration has effectively abandoned the EPA's enforcement role, and enforcement actions have dropped to their lowest level in 15 years. It has recently been urging delegates to the Evangelical Leadership Summit to refuse to endorse a resolution proposed by the Rev. Rich Cizik that would recognize the threat of climate change and transform the position of the evangelical community on this issue. The Rev. Cizik is further hampered, of course, by Rapturist thinking among the delegates, some of whom actually consider it sinful to do anything at all that might stave off the end of the world.
If you are not infected with the death-wish disease, THEN what do you do? Most importantly, speak out. It is past time to be polite to the Rapturists and the professional liars: every time you hear such a person promoting these ideas, you should engage them. Often, the hallucination can be penetrated with surprising ease, especially when you draw them into considering the children and the unborn.
So, I'm sorry that I haven't got a fun list of 2005 predictions for you. But the time for such things is past. Our situation is urgent and it must be addressed with the clear-headed care that it demands.
Will we succeed or fail? If climate change events happen too quickly and on too large a scale, then obviously failure is inevitable. But the earth usually doesn't work that way. The earth usually gives warning. If outgassing starts on the sea floor, obviously a great catastrophe will be unavoidable.
But if it starts in melting permafrost, scientists could detect the increasing methane before an outright catastrophe takes place. At that point, draconian efforts would need to be undertaken to immediately reduce our own emissions as far as possible, at least for a time. If the United States is by then returned to the government of the hopeful and the sane, we will participate in this, and even perhaps lead it, and maybe mankind will escape the awful consequences of our present inaction.
There is, incidentally, another Christ, not the cruel, death-hungry and guilt-spreading vulture of the Rapturists, but the beautiful being whose words make the New Testament a document of such value to humankind. He belongs to the innocent and the free, and those who are humble enough to accept the gifts we have been given, of our beautiful world, and the intellectual power we need to keep it that way.
It is time to recognize the death wish for what it is, and make a stand for life, for man, and for the children.
And perhaps, for all of us to recall the Beatitude that defines moral performance in this arrogant age: Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
We shall indeed, and our children shall, and all the generations yet unborn.
NOTE: This Journal entry, previously published on our old site, will have any links removed.