Mortgaging Planet Earth

Whenever I start to feel a little cynical (depressed?) about being an environmentalist (i.e. whenever I get the urge to put on some snakeskin sneakers, wear diamonds bigger than my eyeballs, smoke CO2 cigarettes, and hop on my mahogany-furnished private jet to hurtle me and my friends around the world while drinking whiskey made from rare orchids just so I can finally stop crying about penguins and polar bears losing their habitats), an editorial like the one in today’s New York Times “Our Moral Footprint” by Vaclav Havel comes along, reminding me that I’m not the only one wishing people would stop arguing about global warming and start doing more than changing light bulbs. It’s analogies like these that give me hope that others will turn off their tvs, get out of their cars, and start paying back the earth for all we’ve borrowed …

Maybe we should start considering our sojourn on earth as a loan. There can be no doubt that for the past hundred years at least, Europe and the United States have been running up a debt, and now other parts of the world are following their example. Nature is issuing warnings that we must not only stop the debt from growing but start to pay it back. There is little point in asking whether we have borrowed too much or what would happen if we postponed the repayments. Anyone with a mortgage or a bank loan can easily imagine the answer.

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