A Huge Problem

Osmos
Screenshot from the game Osmos HD

Since our mini-doc will have a thread that touches on climate change, I thought I’d post some thoughts about the issue that I’ve been thinking about for a while. 

A couple years ago, I read an article about climate change in Rolling Stone by Bill McKibben.  I’m one of the people that believe we need to stop calling it global warming or climate change, both of which sound harmless, and start calling it what it is:  a climate crisis.   McKibben’s article was clearly about our climate in crisis.  He used numbers and math to make the crisis clear and undeniable.

Numbers don’t lie, so he proceeded to lay out the numbers for the reader.  It was so unbelievable that I read it again the following day before leaving Omaha for Lake Tahoe, where I was scheduled to be a Visiting Artist for the week.  Omaha was predicted to hit triple digit temperatures nearly every day of the week, so I was looking forward to spending a week at the lake.

On my flight, I played a video game called Osmos and I was reminded that I am a part of the problem.  I am clearly contributing to the crisis simply by choosing to fly.

Osmos, by the way, is a marvel of game design: Beautiful graphics, a clean, simple design, and an even more simple goal — “Become huge.”  With each level you conquer, the challenge is greater.  It becomes more difficult to become huge and win the game without the environment around you swallowing you up first.  If you fail, you get the notice “lifeform terminated.” It is a race against time.  Once you pass a tipping point that is irreversible, the game abruptly ends. As you improve and get to the most difficult levels, you realize you have to start replaying levels repeatedly in order to win.

It goes without saying, of course, that we won’t get multiple opportunities when it comes to Earth.  We only have one Earth.

Some smart people propose we could create an atmosphere on Mars and make that planet livable. But, there are two basic problems with the idea:

First, it has become increasingly clear we won’t have time. Some have calculated we’ve already passed a tipping point. 

Second, if we can’t save our own planet, which miraculously already has the perfect conditions for life, how realistic is it that we can change a hostile climate of a dead planet not all that much larger than our Moon?

The problem has become huge.  Increasingly, we have less opportunities and time to correct it.  

We have one planet, and if we screw it up, it’s Game Over.

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