Climate change and the judgement of history

Meyer Hillman is a smart man.  He’s 86 years old and is speaking the truth about the catastrophes we are facing.  He also has some wise words about the ways that humans can find joy on the post fossil fuel age. (Hint:  think simple things.)

Recently, he penned an op-ed that details the three choices facing humanity relative to fossil fuels:  1.  Stop all use immediately.  2.  Minimize use as much as possible and hope for the best. 3.  Do nothing and hope the future can figure it all out.

He’s not optimistic that we will choose 1 or 2.  Of choosing option 3 he says, “Future generations will judge us on what we choose to do in full knowledge – accessories before the fact – of the devastating consequences of continuing with our energy-profligate lifestyles.”

It is here where I disagree with the honorable and gentle man.  For I do not believe there is such thing as “the judgment of history.”

Aside from historians, I don’t think most people think of things that way.  We are  forward looking animals.  We simply accept the past as something inevitable that has happened.  Ultimately, we only care about the future

That is why there is no use saying that the future will judge us harshly for destroying the climate, and quite possible the entire livable ecosystem.   I do not think that future people will.  Should humans not become extinct, they wont care about us any more than the average person today judges anything from the past.  They will focus only on the future possibilities out of what they’ve inherited.

While we rightfully condemn the actions of their societies, we don’t impugn the Germans or Japanese of today for the atrocities of their grandparents.  We don’t rightfully judge ourselves for the sins of our American great-great-grandparents for their treatment of indigenous and enslaved people.  We move on.

They won’t be screaming at us like Charetlon Heston’s character at the end of the planet of the apes: “They blew it up! God, damn you! Damn you all to hell!!!”

If we are to do what needs to be done it can only be because it is the right thing to do – fearing the “judgment of history” means nothing.

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