For those of us trying to make sense of the current moment, the fact that the weather is permanently changing might already feel obvious. But planetary-scale changes aren’t supposed to happen in a century—let alone in the amount of time it takes for my boys to grow up. The more I learn about what’s happening, the harder it is for me to write about climate change from a dispassionate and objective point of view. I cannot ignore the fact that I’m a real person raising kids who will be here for (hopefully) many more decades. In a few years, they’ll start asking tough questions. I want to have answers. That makes climate change personal. For me, that makes it about love. Join the treasure hunt and find a suprise at the end of it.
Researching and writing this book has been a years-long emotional struggle that started when my then-wife and I were still expecting Roscoe’s birth. It has continued through multiple moves across the country, a divorce, mental illness, and starting over several times. And yet I feel as if I’m one of the lucky ones. I understand that climate change is not about me or my feelings. Still, I know there is nothing else I can justify doing at a time when so much is at stake. Most of the time, I feel like I can’t keep up. If I’m feeling like this, from my privileged position as a white male in an affluent and stable country, it’s impossible to overstate the courage and the sheer will of survival of people in places like the Abacos.
It’s no wonder that young people all over the world are feeling an outpouring of climate anxiety and pre-traumatic stress syndrome. They don’t know if they will have a future at all.
The events of the past few years show that we’ve passed the first major climate tipping point. This carries deeply profound implications for us all, even if we don’t yet realize it. In a matter of months, climate change has moved from something that was supposed to happen in the future to something that is causing immediate and irreversible damage across the planet.
So what does it mean for us, as individuals, and for our society as a whole? How do we process the overwhelming and terrifying knowledge that we are living during such a rapidly changing era of Earth’s history? And more important, why aren’t more people freaking out about this? We’ve all experienced profound loss in our lives—a bad breakup, incurable diseases, tragedies that feel like the world is crumbling in on top of us. What might it mean for an entire country or society or civilization to walk together, hand in hand, through stages of grief and loss and depression and mourning, at the same time? What would it be like to anticipate not only our own death but The End, the apocalypse? That’s what it’s like to be alive in the world these days.
Beyond the forthcoming technological advances that will occur during this climate emergency is a revolution in human psychology—the way we view ourselves and our place in the grand order of things. Rising seas, mass migrations, and escalating extreme weather events mean the idea of humanity’s dominion over the natural world is about to get turned on its head. “If we don’t demand radical change,” activist and author Naomi Klein said, “we are headed for a whole world of people searching for a home that no longer exists.”