Saturday, December 19, 2009

Do you fix it?

Suppose you inherited a vehicle. It's paid for, and it's given you years of trouble-free service.

After a while, you take it in for a routine check-up and find out that it hasn't been maintained very well. The coolant needs to be flushed; it needs all its fluids changed; but most importantly the cylinder head gasket is leaking. Fixing it would involve tearing down and rebuilding the engine to replace the gasket. Expensive.

The service rep tells you that to fix everything it's going to cost about what it would cost to replace the vehicle. You can keep driving it for now, but it's a ticking time bomb. You just never know when it's going to overheat and leave you stranded.

Whether you fix it or not depends on a bunch of factors: how much you use it, how you can meet your needs another way, and how long you would like to keep it for.

The scientific community has given us that kind of ominous diagnosis about our spaceship Earth. We can keep driving it for now, but unless we make some repairs, it will fail on us soon.

Government representatives from around the world are meeting in Copenhagen to decide whether to fix the planet, and if so how. It's actually easier than deciding whether to fix the car:

How often do you use the Earth? Constantly.

How easy is it to get another planet that meets your needs? Impossible, we haven't terraformed Mars yet.

How long do you humans want to keep using the Earth? Permanently.

The only rational response here is to do what the science demands without further hesitation. Business as usual is as much a suicide pact as Mutual Assured Destruction was during the cold war. We depend on this planet completely. There are no viable alternatives.

With that in mind, the 'what' is cut and dried: Do whatever it takes to fix it. The 'how' is much more complicated, but it will involve each of us doing everything we can. If Copenhagen fails, there won't be time to wait for big government to save us. We're all in this together. It will be an exciting time to be alive.


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