In 100 years or so, when Google’s autonomous robo-historians write the book on their fleshy predecessors, they will no doubt try to explain why we blew it on climate change. Why, despite decades of ever-more-definitive evidence, did the human species not take even the most basic of measures to avoid a catastrophe?
They will find plenty of blame to pass around. Our political systems, they will observe, just weren’t up to the diplomatic challenges of mustering a multinational effort -- we couldn’t agree on whose fault it was, who should pay to fix it, even whether we should bother trying. Our brains proved ill-equipped to process the gravity of a long-range threat until it was too late. And our news media, the storytellers to whom this message was entrusted, were too easily distracted by more lurid dramas.
We didn’t see it coming, even though, on every other level, we knew it was.
This, as nature photographer James Balog tells us in the documentary Chasing Ice, is essentially a failure of imagination. Unless you have a glacier in your backyard, the earliest effects of a warming planet have so far appeared to most of us only intermittently, a signal lost in the noise of the daily weather.