The Basics of Bill McKibben’s, “Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?”

Bill McKibben in 2016

In my last post, I discussed some of the key themes in Jared Diamond’s new book Upheaval: Turning Points for Nations in Crisis.  Today I’d like to do the same for Bill McKibben new book Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?

McKibbon worries, among other things, that: 1) the world’s oceans will warm sufficiently in the next 100 years to stop oxygen production and undermine the food chain resulting in mass human starvation; 2) melting permafrost will release microbes and viruses; 3) melting ice sheets melt will trigger earthquakes; 4) the added weight of seawater will bend the Earth’s crust; 5) rising carbon dioxide levels will affect human cognitive ability;  and more. Science provides evidence for all of these worries.

Consider just the food supply; we all need to eat after all. The grains which supply most of the world’s calories—rice, corn, wheat—are all under stress from heat and drought. As the planet warms the pressure on these basic crops will intensify. And, needless to say, food shortages are connected to chaos and violence. Moreover, even if food remains plentiful, transportation of that food is also susceptible to threats from climate change, like flooding and drought. Furthermore, there are concerns about the nutritional value of crops grown in high carbon dioxide environments. And while bees die, pests are thriving on our hotter planet. (McKibbon backs up all these claims with scientific evidence.)

Consider too that rising ocean levels will lead to an unimaginable refugee crisis as various areas of earth become uninhabitable. The median estimate, from the International Organization for Migration, is that we may see two hundred million climate refugees by 2050. And, in the not too distant future, New York, Boston, and Miami will feel the effects of climate change too. Moreover, a team of economists predicted a 12 percent risk that global warming could reduce global economic output by 50 percent by 2100. So the climate crisis will eventually affect us all.

I will reflect on our catastrophic global problems in my next post.

Liked it? Take a second to support Dr John Messerly on Patreon!

5 thoughts on “The Basics of Bill McKibben’s, “Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?”

  1. Something we have to do is tell Christians that Jesus will not return to save them.

    “You are helping to destroy God’s green Earth, so Christ shall say to you who call yourselves Christians:

    ‘depart from me, I never knew you’ ”

    …because if we come from a secular perspective, to the religious we’re considered environmental extremists– tree huggers. However, informed religious discussion does succeed; which means reading the passages in the Bible and Quran concerning stewardship of the world.

  2. Alan: I think you make a good point. Aldo Leopold, whose article “Land Ethics” from 1949 is considered one of the great initial statements of modern environmental ethics, highlighted that most people tend to get their ethics from their religions. So it’s essential that religions refer to those aspects of their traditions that underline the present environmental concerns.

    We’ve seen a burgeoning of work like this over the past 25 years. Harvard Divinity has had an emphasis on world religions and the environment for many years. The Dalai Lama has written books on the issue. Patriarch Bartholomew has written enormous amounts on environmental responsibility and been rechristened as “the Green Patriarch.” Each of the past three popes has written on the issue. In 2015 Pope Francis’s encyclical on the environment, Laudato si, was published to high acclaim, even outside the religious communities. And the rather pedestrian Vatican is actually the first carbon-neutral municipality in the world, having turned toward greater reliance on renewable energy over ten years ago.

    Though if you look at the countries of the world with the best environmental records, you see they are also the least religious countries in the world, we cannot expect a worldwide trend toward secularization and social democracy such as we see in those countries. The demographics are clear. The poor and growing populations of the world are among the most religious places in the world.

    In this context, we can hope that religions do turn toward those elements of their traditions that have focused on narratives compatible with the environmentalist agenda. If we are lucky we will see religions reflecting this contemporary concern in their exegesis and highlighting that they have long had (dormant) teachings on these issues.

    As so often in religions, the moral concerns of the present will direct those elements of the religious past that are paid attention to, drawn out and developed. Paradoxically, the religious will then often claim that their moral concerns are directed by their tradition, even though it is the present concern that directs those religious to pay attention to a certain hidden element of their tradition or to develop that element.

  3. “Paradoxically, the religious will then often claim that their moral concerns are directed by their tradition, even though it is the present concern that directs those religious to pay attention to a certain hidden element of their tradition or to develop that element.”

    Their confirmation bias. Which means dialogue (that is to say, monologue) with religionists is hopeless. But fundamentalists are perhaps only roughly 1 -3% of the religious. Just say two percent. The other 98% can be reasoned with, but to little avail; civil disobedience similar to Occupy is what is needed. Otherwise it degrades to talking at cross purposes.

    It appears the Trump administration is attempting to provoke this sort of outcome: a madness to their method and vice versa.

  4. I know that about 60% of evangelical protestants are biblical literalists which is a typical criterion for saying someone is a fundamentalist. So I think you might be underestimating their numbers a bit. JGM

  5. “I know that about 60% of evangelical protestants are biblical literalists […] So I think you might be underestimating their numbers a bit.”

    Uh oh. Bad news.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.