The “Pikes Peak” of Global Warming
The following is a test. (I took it and failed:<)
Imagine you’re a mile above tree-line on Pikes Peak when black clouds gather, rumbling a warning you can feel in your stomach and obscuring the distant summit. Like a metal bunny at a shooting gallery, you present the only target for lightning on the eastern slope. Between the thin air, your exhaustion, and the distance to the summit, you’re at least forty minutes from reaching the top. If you turn around and run downhill, you could be in the relative safety of a sub-alpine forest within minutes. Because you’re an experienced mountaineer, you know that people die every year from being struck by lightning on Colorado Mountains, and you noticed dozens of blackened stumps as you passed through tree-line.
Which would you do…trudge onward toward the summit or play it safe and turn around? (Expand the thumbnail to glimpse your degree of exposure.)
Yesterday while descending Pikes Peak, my wife encountered dozens of hikers who pressed onward and upward despite these very conditions, which caused me to wonder whether they ignored their danger for the same reasons so many refuse to face the disastrous effects of fossil fuel usage or change their ecological behavior.
I know exactly why the hikers pressed onward because I’ve done so myself and been lucky to survive. [Note: I use “we” in the following explanation because we’re fated to endure the effects of Man’s eco-abuse together regardless whether we individually turn around.]
- We continue upward because we can see our goal—it’s called “Peak Fever.” After hiking eleven miles and climbing over five-thousand feet, we don’t feel like turning around.
- We continue upward because we refuse to admit the danger is real…because to admit it exists and its severity entails a responsibility to turn around lest our actions cause others to suffer (by having to grieve over our charred remains).
- We continue upward because our location—two miles and forty minutes from reaching our goal—might represent the summation of a year’s worth of planning, exercise, and scrimping to pay for a vacation in the Rockies.
- We continue upward because in the back of our minds we know we might never have another chance to climb so high or be there again. Because we don’t trust the future, we refuse to surrender the moment.
- We continue upward because we know our comfort awaits inside a refreshment stand on the summit (sad but true…hot dogs, pizza, donuts, etc.). Whereas turning around ensures we’ll hike eleven more weary miles without food in our tummies or the inner glow of reaching our goal.
- We continue upward because we’re not driven by a love of walking, of Nature, or of being alive, but rather a compulsion to reach a goal that tells us we’re special—that we’re somehow better than the ants below us who never matched our lofty achievement.
- We continue upward because our priorities define how we see ourselves and visa-versa—a mental prison that blocks us from changing our minds or actions.
Ultimately, we continue upward because our egos agree with Napolean Bonaparte, a tyrant whose ambitions caused millions to suffer: “Glory is fleeting, but obscurity lasts forever.”
For what it’s worth, so does extinction, death, and probably global warming—but it doesn’t need to end this way. By opening our hearts and minds, we have the ability to re-choose our priorities. We have the power to protect our children’s future by demanding a sustainable present.
Please. Prioritize Earth and do it now!
“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.” Nelson Mandela
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