MAN VS. EARTHMELTDOWN
cold precision of the really big view:the satellite pictures,for instance,that show the steady melt of the sea ice above the ArcticOcean.(Theyarelikethe before-and-after pictures from somemakeover gone horribly wrong,the beautiful world disfigured bysome out-of-control plastic surgeon.)Ithink that these pictures—many of them taken by GaryBraasch,who has chronicled this crisis more relentlessly than anyoneelse with a camera—will someday be the iconic images of our decade,even more than the shots of the Twin Towers aflame,becausetheypresage the images wewill spend this centuryviewing—on our screens,and out our windows.They are the opening shots of a moviethat will keep playing,with horrible relentlessness,for all our time onearth.It’s possible we’ll have more terrorist attacks—but it is not pos-sible that theywill pose the same threat to our civilization and to our planet as the steady horror now unfolding in what we used to callthe natural world.This is what the earth looks like now.Some things,of course,don’t show up in pictures.To reallyunderstand what’s going on,you need a split screen.On one side,there would be Tuvaluans in their sinking shacks,Bangladeshis intheir flooding paddy fields,Inuits on their crumbling shores;on theother side,some Ford,GM and Toyota ads for monster SUVs.Whenwe say that this is a man-made crisis,we don’t mean all men.Wemean those of us,of both genders,who inhabit the rich world— Americans make up 4 percent of the population but produce 25percent of the world’s carbon dioxide.Even the Chinese,who havebegun to burn lots of coal,can’t compare—that country’s emissionsmatched ours in the past year,but there are four times as manypeople there.And we’vebeen doing it for a hundred years.Thisone’s on us. You would also need a picture that somehow sums up theforces that keep us from doing anything about climate change.Astack of forty billion one-dollar bills 10,856 miles high might do— that’s how much profit ExxonMobil made in 2006,more profitthan anyother corporation in the history of corporate profits.Ittakes but a small fraction of that haul to buy the political juice thatkeeps Congress from acting responsibly.
explore theface of the receding MarrGlacier,near Palmer Station,Anvers Island, Antarctica.
COAL YARD, INNERMONGOLIA.
China adds anewcoal-burning powerplant large enough to powerDallas or San Diego everyseven to ten days.