The Cracker Barrel: The decisive decade?

Musings from local resident Craig Nagel.

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“More than at any other time in the history of human presence on this planet, we are now deciding what our own future will be.”

So begins an article in a recent issue of Time magazine written by Christiana Figures, co-host of the climate podcast Outrage + Optimism.

“Since the last ice age,” she continues,“ some 12,000 years ago, humans have been able to develop civilization as we know it thanks to the stability of the earth’s interconnected ecosystems, which cradled life and supported our expansion. During this era, the Holocene, humans flourished but nature reigned.”

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But roughly 70 years ago, Figures claims, the situation changed, and humans moved from being passive recipients of whatever nature offered to becoming the direct driving force behind changes in the natural environment.

“We now exercise such control over the planet that we have catapulted it and ourselves into a new geological era,” she writes, “known as the Anthropocene: the human-shaped epoch, in which the pen of history has been passed from nature to humanity, and we are the ones determining what will be written.”


And what we’ve written so far is not encouraging.

Decades of extracting fuels and ores and other natural materials, overconsumption, the greedy accumulation of great wealth in the pockets of the super rich, and the general disregard of natural balance have so altered the earth’s atmosphere, land and oceans that we are literally living ourselves out of our life-providing environment.

Figures believes we are at the most perilous moment in human history.

“Our planet will of course continue on her evolutionary path, started 4.5 billion years ago, but the human effects of those tipping points will render many parts of the globe uninhabitable to the human race with all the attending economic, social, political and security consequences. The resulting turbulence would be unprecedented — and irreversible.”

To protect ourselves from such a disaster, she believes we have to make two things happen — and make them happen this decade.

We have to cut our global greenhouse-gas emissions in half by 2030, and we have to safeguard all remaining healthy ecosystems, regenerating those we have depleted.

If we fail to meet this dual challenge, she believes we will condemn ourselves and our descendants to a world of ever-increasing climate chaos, spiraling destruction and deepening human misery.

If, on the other hand, we rise to the challenge and choose to cut our emissions and learn to work in greater harmony with nature, we may open the door to a world that not only averts the worst of climate change, but proves better than the world we have right now, with improved public health, more livable cities, more efficient transport, and more productive land.


“Without a doubt,” she claims, “we are in the decisive decade. We must be guided by the firm conviction that humans can meet this challenge. We must change the unfolding story of the Anthropocene from one of overconsumption, inequality and destruction to one of repair, regeneration, and reconnection — against all apparent odds.”

Collections of Craig Nagel’s columns are available at

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Craig Nagel, Columnist

Opinion by Craig Nagel
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