The Apocalypse: Not in My Backyard
Sharman Apt Russell
Where I live in the rural Southwest, I am literally surrounded by apocalyptic vision. To my left, a neighbor prepares for the collapse of civilization once the supply of cheap oil disappears and the trucks stop running and the government crashes. To my right, another neighbor waits for the biblical end of days prophesied in Revelations. Both the Peak Oil doomer and fundamentalist Christian seem almost happy about the approaching catastrophe. The human race has sinned, and we deserve to be punished.
I’m not so happy with the human race, either. My apocalypse is spelled six degrees and goes something like this: in the next ten or twenty years, if we fail to reduce the percentage of greenhouse gases in the air, we’ll cause a two to three degree rise in the earth’s temperature, triggering the further release of methane gases in the north, the continued acidification of the oceans, and the flaming out of the Amazon rainforest. Feedback loops will lead to a runaway four or five degree increase in global warming, resulting in even further desertification, famine, war, and poverty on a scale virtually unimaginable. At six degrees, everyone dies from a broken heart.
In my own backward—which now includes a beautiful view of the
If I squint one eye, I can almost see them--those fires burning in the distance. If I try really hard, I can smell the smoke. If I stand on one leg and hop backwards rapidly five times, I am sure to fall down. Just a little effort and I can make myself truly miserable.
I love a good apocalypse as much as the next person. Only lately…I’ve decided to just say no. I still believe in climate change. I still believe that we might actually, foolishly, heat up the earth with catastrophic consequences. But it hasn’t happened yet. I don’t live in that future—yet.
Instead, I am on the board of a local group called the Upper Gila Watershed Alliance, and we’re working hard to reintroduce the otter to the
I would be the first to admit I’m a flawed human being. I fly in airplanes. I drive a car. I’m part of the problem as much as the solution. At this point, I may be irrelevant. Maybe nothing I do now, good or bad, matters any more.
But I’m not giving up. I’m not ready to consign the human race to ashes. We’re a young species. Maybe we’re too smart for our own good. Maybe we suffer from an addictive personality. I think of my own children and feel a motherly compassion. I think of how much I love my children. I think of how much I love my life, the beauty all around me, the curve of cottonwood trees following the river, shafts of light and flat-bottomed clouds in a sky so gorgeous I almost fall to my knees and sing my own version of Hallelujah. I’m not giving up.
The apocalypse? Not in my backyard.