you're late

Recently I took myself to the bookstore to scan the magazine racks for potential markets for a pitch that came back to me the week before. (It came back nicely, with regrets and an invitation for more ideas, but I still need to find it a new home.) Three of the most promising magazines I brought home for detailed study, including ONnature (a publication of the Federation of Ontario Naturalists), the Ecologist and onearth (by the National Resources Defense Council). Frances Beinecke, the president of NRDC, opens her address with:

The end of an era has finally arrived. The man responsible for some of the most destructive environmental policies of the past 50 years is finally packing his bags, and a new president is arriving in Washington who wants to strengthen–rather than dismantle–the safeguards that protect our air, water and wilderness.

Everywhere I turn these days it’s the same. The Toronto Star ran an article in the Ideas section on the weekend about American scientists giddily anticipating having real! actual! scientists! in charge of the nation’s scientific institutions after Obama takes office.

I even saw a magazine cover recently decrying hipsterism as “over” and “hope as the new cool.” I can’t remember which magazine that was, but let me tell you, as someone who’s been slaving away in the hope mines all these years while cynicism and defensive irony ruled above with an iron fist, it was the strangest combination of cognitive dissonance and celebration I can remember experiencing.

No one likes being Cassandra, but you get used to the status of derided outcast, to being ignored; and then to be hauled up on to a pedestal (even if only metaphorically) can be discomfiting. Do you have any idea, any idea at all, how every time I go to the bookstore–which is rather a lot–I stare and stare at the rack of new green titles? It’s been there for months. Sure, it’s mostly lifestyle tomes recycling advice about compact fluourescent lightbulbs and turning off the faucet while you brush your teeth, but there’s an entire prominently displayed section on environmentalism that appears to be a permanent fixture of the store.

They say no one is an atheist in a foxhole. It seems, these days, like
the whole world is feeling the bullets of climate change whizzing by
our ears, and remarkably, it’s making believers out of a lot of former
skeptics. Including high-profile ones. In A Passion for This Earth, a collection of essays “inspired by David Suzuki,” Michael Shermer writes of his own 11th-hour conversion in 2006. Long-time prominent climate-change skeptic Gregg Easterbrook (in his book titled A Moment on The Earth
he argued that environmental trends are nowhere near as menacing as the
media portrays and that climate change is not happening) retracted his
position and switched to alarm. More cognitive dissonance, more celebration mixed with panic.

Listen: I was a working environmentalist through the 1990s, and that was no easy gig. So I think I’m entitled to this.

On behalf of those of us who kept slogging away for the past fifteen years on global climate change and acid rain and deforestation and endangered species and smog while the two primary mainstream responses appeared to be an angry denial of any problems or utter apathy, preferably while prostrate on the floor, playing dead; on behalf of those who kept geekily clinging to hope while being accused of planet-defeating pessimism; on behalf of those of us who have been planting trees and buying organic and writing letters and participating in environmental assessments for the past fifteen years, all the while being told that a responsible adult would have given up on these lofty ideals and traded it in for a career in finance long ago, let me say two things:

Welcome. You have no idea how wonderful it is to finally have you along.

And:

What in hell took you so long?

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