We interrupt this program

“Illness is the most heeded of doctors: to goodness and wisdom we only make promises; pain we obey.”

-Marcel Proust

I had planned to give you the third and final installment of my series on the war-eve essays of Aldo Leopold and the important lessons I think those writings hold for us as we deal with the great cart-off of Wisconsin’s sand counties–a dismemberment that is only exacerbating the climate crisis.

But after reading Bill McKibben‘s latest in the August 2 issue of Rolling Stone, I have decided to pone that post. The somewhat reluctant but undisputed leader of the international climate movement, who will be speaking at Fighting Bob Fest in Madison in September, thinks “Global Warming’s Terrible New Math” may be the most important thing he’s written since his book, The End of Naturealmost a quarter century ago. I’d have to agree, although I think “Multiplication Saves the Day,” which appeared in Orion Magazine in 2008, is a close runner up.

Like that earlier piece, McKibben’s latest is prescriptive. The disease is the same, of course: anthropogenic climate change. What the good doctor stresses here is that the patient–only the planet we live on–is rapidly going from serious to critical condition. Put-your-affairs-in-order condition.

Rick Chamberlin

Once in a while patients beat the overwhelming odds and survive such a diagnosis, but it rarely happens without bold, swift intervention. The treatment McKibben strongly advises is the same one he recommended before: multiplication–massive, collective action of both the direct and representative kind. But this time he gets specific about the regimen necessary to give the patient a fighting chance. It’s essentially a two-pronged strategy: a great divestment push modeled on the one that helped the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, and a price on carbon in the form of carbon fee & dividend legislation.

Next of kin–and that’s all of us–would be wise to read the doctor’s full report. It minces no words, which is what you want from your health care provider when you or a loved one is up against it. Denial can get you through the night, but it’s worse than counterproductive in the long run.

And so here, at the foot of the bed, is the chart. There is very little I can think to add except: you may as well act–and I hope it will spur you to act like you’ve never acted before–as if it’s your chart, because the quality of your own life and of your children’s and grandchildren’s lives, depends to a large degree on what you–on what we all–do now.

Global Warming’s Terrible New Math