Magazine article The Humanist

Editor's Note

Magazine article The Humanist

Editor's Note

Article excerpt

LAST SUMMER in this space I asked, "Isn't getting people to care about what happens after they die--in a realistic, naturalistic sense--primarily a humanist issue?" Climate change remains the biggest threat to the survival of humankind. Alternatives to burning fossil fuels are needed ASAP and we humans are the only ones who can make that happen. So yes, it's a humanist issue, and I know most humanists agree.

But as Tom Engelhardt writes in a February 3 article in the Nation titled, "Ending the World the Human Way," it's a tough story to sell. He succinctly lays out all the evidence for global warming along with the obstacles to dealing with human-induced climate change and then basically says no one cares. Of course he knows that's not true, but the point is that the scope and time scale of humanity's likely demise renders it uninteresting and un-newsworthy to many.

Engelhardt notes that humanity's been on the brink before, citing the nuclear age of the past century: "For the first time, we humans--initially in Washington, then in Moscow, then in other national capitals--took the power to end all life on this planet out of God's hands. You could think of it as the single greatest, if also grimmest, act of secularization in history." The writer's theistic spin aside, he says the threat of nuclear war was more gripping than climate change because the end could come with the push of a button and the ensuing chain reaction. Even so, news stories on nuclear weapons arsenals were unpopular because they suggested the end of news, period. "The nuclear issue was somehow everywhere, a kind of exterminationist grid over life itself, and yet, like climate change, nowhere at all."

Some readers have accused this magazine of not dedicating enough space to climate change. It's not that we don't see it as the biggest issue facing humankind. …

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