We caused climate change and it’ll change our societies forever, in ways small and seismic. But the problems we’ll face are a small part of the problem: climate change is a catastrophe across every single ecosystem. We’re a sliver of that, albeit a self-focussed one.
Jake Bittle captures this reality in his review of The Fragile Earth: Writing from The New Yorker on Climate Change:
In the best of these three pieces, “The Sixth Extinction,” Kolbert positions “climate change” as a pan-organic calamity, a form of ecological genocide that incidentally may inflict irreparable damage on human society. This is perhaps the most valuable piece of climate journalism ever written because it is the only one that accurately depicts the scale of a crisis too often rendered in narrowly human terms. Extinction is not a metaphor, but it functions like one, carrying with it a fearful connotation that has yet to be matched in subsequent accounts of the calamity.
We’re responsible for that – even though it’s a wide-ranging structural issue and not the result of any one individual doing any one thing. We, as a society, appointed ourselves master and controller of the planet by shaping it at every level. From micro plastics in the ocean to wide-spread deforestation to gases in the sky, we’ve touched everything.
That matters, this is our doing. But the effects go well beyond us. And we need to reckon with that.