Both historical evidence and everyday experience strongly suggest that human beings are simply not very good at replacing short-term interest with concern for long-term well-being. How else to explain that we continue to ignore mounting evidence that continued reliance on fossil fuels is already making us sick and very likely will destroy the very underpinnings of planetary life as we know it?
Each new study of the real and likely impacts of climate change – not some distant possibility, but very much here-and-now reality – is more grim than the last. Already in 2011, Scientific American chronicled the direct annual U.S. health impacts of fossil fuel burning: 10,000 hospital admissions due to cardiovascular ills, 600,000 athma attacks, over 30,000 premature deaths, more than five million working days lost to fossil fuel related pollutants.
Those statistics barely hint at the health impact of of what will come with fossil fuel-indudced, climate change-related ecosystemic breakdown – crop failure, ocean acidification, rising sea levels and storm intensification, lost habitat and massive species death, newly virulent disease outbreaks. Yet fossil fuel dependence forges on untrammeled, indeed picking up steam, it seems, the nearer we approach the precipice of our own destruction.
Are homo sapiens really so incapable of behaving in their own long-term self-interest? Are we really so mad?