A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Extinction
Approximately one hundred million miracles were required to clear the evolutionary path before Homo sapiens could rise to our present lofty eminence. Certainly one of the most beneficent was the favorable climate that appeared after the last ice age departed 12,000 years ago. Man, did we luck out! The glaciers crushed bedrock and flattened the land, leaving behind rich deposits of soil. This auspicious setting was characterized by long dry seasons that favored annual plants which die off after producing dormant seeds ready for the next go-round. Rich fertile soil? Seeds scattered conveniently on the ground? Humans would have been fools not to have invented agriculture and, since they are not, they did.
This happy confluence of events could lead one to think that Divine Providence is paying us attention or even to conclude that somebody up there likes us. Are, in fact, we destiny’s tot? Or are we not? These questions I shall leave to theologians and to heads wiser than mine. My focus is more mundane.
I am but a meek community organizer whose only aim is to save the world that a hundred million miracles produced. And I’ve got to pull off this stunt before catastrophic climate change wipes out civilization, or before I kick the bucket, whichever comes first. Since I’m pushing eighty, civilization will probably outlast me, even if global warming melts all the icebergs tomorrow. Hence, this essay.
The world sure as hell needs saving. Today our long lucky streak seems to be running out. Climatic conditions that favor humans may be deteriorating, possibly even drastically. The portents are not good and, now with the election of Donald Trump as President, they just got worse. (Maybe somebody up there is pissed off?)
British astrophysicist Stephen Hawking, who is like the smartest guy alive, thinks that humans, if we are to avoid extinction, will have to vacate the planet we’ve despoiled and transport ourselves to colonies in space.
(If it comes to this I hope we’ll create at least two separate colonies, one for conservatives, and one for liberals. Separating them shouldn’t be all that difficult since they already inhabit different worlds. Only 9% of the marriages in the US are between Democrats and Republicans.)
Don’t start packing your bags just yet, however. The date set for our extinction has been postponed. An unprecedented technological revolution is turning the world upside down and there is no halting its force. The genie is out of the bottle. And here’s the magic it delivers: this technological revolution is greening the economy and this, in turn, and over time, will alter political power balances in favor of environmental protection. In many places this shift in political power has already started. As this shift expands it will be Donald Trump who’ll have to pack his bags and move on.
Look at the growing proliferation of green businesses— small firms developing renewable energy, energy efficiency, advanced batteries, fuel cells, and biofuels. Look at all the green small businesses engaged in organic agriculture, alternative forms of transportation, green construction, ecotourism, and so on.
Green small businesses used to be too few and too slight to count much in economics and politics, but now they’re burgeoning. According to a 2014 study, there are now 7,200 clean tech businesses operating in Ohio. These firms have created more than 89,000 new jobs — many of them well-paying jobs in manufacturing. In Florida, this study identified 130,000 new jobs at 14,000 small businesses. In both states, these businesses are growing at much faster rates than the larger industries they’re part of. What do these trends portend for the future? The portents could not be greater.
This shake-up is producing options for environmental recovery and human progress that never existed before. Now, don’t scoff just because this claim sounds preposterously overblown. You want proof? Well, I got proof.
In this connection, there’s something you should know about me. My nose has been stuck in a history book ever since I learned how to read. For me, this was no scholarly pursuit, but a passionate quest to learn how things change and, whenever possible, to learn how things change for the better – information that’s essential for professional do-gooders like me. But, heaven help me, these are mighty murky questions to explore.
Dear Reader, I don’t mind telling you that I’ve slogged through many a muddled tale, tracking small rays of light hither, thither, and yon. I enjoyed these explorations but I recognize that many other people might not. So think of it this way: I read thousands of history books so you don’t have to.
So stick with me, kiddo. You might learn something. Let me start by giving you the low-down on what actually happened in the Garden of Eden.