If you know anything about climate change, you’ve had sleepless nights; and climate scientists know a thing or two about climate change, so we can assume they’ve had more than their share of sleepless nights. Esquire reporter John H. Richardson got to wondering how they cope, and the result is an infuriating piece entitled “When the End of Human Civilization Is Your Day Job“.
That’s not a knock on the piece, which is excellent. It’s a knock on the state of affairs the piece describes—a state where we were warned of a clear and present danger, where we ignored the danger and pilloried the messengers, and where many of those messengers now suffer from what at least one psychologist calls “pretraumatic” stress:
Jim Driscoll of the National Institute for Peer Support just finished a study of a group of longtime activists whose most frequently reported feeling was sadness, followed by fear and anger. Dr. Lise Van Susteren, a practicing psychiatrist and graduate of Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth slide-show training, calls this “pretraumatic” stress. “So many of us are exhibiting all the signs and symptoms of post-traumatic disorder—the anger, the panic, the obsessive intrusive thoughts.”
One of those is Glaciologist Jason Box, who laments the fate of his home state of Colorado:
“The forests are dying, and they will not return. The trees won’t return to a warming climate. We’re going to see megafires even more, that’ll be the new one—megafires until those forests are cleared.”
His response is twofold: first, he says, he tries to soldier on:
I’m not letting it get to me. If I spend my energy on despair, I won’t be thinking about opportunities to minimize the problem.”
But he also moves his family to safety—leaving his job at Ohio State University for one in Denmark:
His daughter is three and a half, and Denmark is a great place to be in an uncertain world—there’s plenty of water, a high-tech agriculture system, increasing adoption of wind power, and plenty of geographic distance from the coming upheavals. “Especially when you consider the beginning of the flood of desperate people from conflict and drought,” he says, returning to his obsession with how profoundly changed our civilization will be.
And that pretty much sums it all up: either we recognize the realities of life on a managed planet, or we perish.