Dave Webb
Consultant, Creative
Davis, California, United States

The Gonging Sound

“Still, the facts of climate change hit an optimist the way a bat hits a baseball.”

Dear William,

I’m writing in October 2015, six generations before you were born. How possibly could you imagine back this far, why would you? I met my great-grandfather, and knew my grandparents, but six generations back? I have no idea, none.

I write because I have some explaining to do.

I’ve generally taken the rosy view--it’s my nature, my upbringing. I prefer a good laugh, and things will get better, and if only we try a little harder, and someone can fix this, and the people come around eventually. Innately, I feel the same about climate change. But there’s optimism, there’s cynicism and then there’s the laws of physics, which care for neither: what happens when you put too much C02 in the air is like cancer. It is, and it is, and it is. The clock is ticking.

Still, the facts of climate change hit an optimist the way a bat hits a baseball. The earliest conversations about climate change hurt, almost in a physical sense. For a long time I couldn’t face it squarely.

I rode my bike to work for 25 years, ate organic food before it was stylish, engaged politically, wrote an enviro newspaper column, owned an energy efficient house, a hybrid car, but I live among the most wasteful people ever and my details are so many tiny gestures.

I don’t feel smug—smugness haunts progressives as a poor stand in for wisdom, a faux certainty about simple truths when nothing’s simple. I live in a country with the word “united” in its title, while America is less and less so in this time when we need it the most.

William, we can’t know each other. But you can look back and wonder how I had so much, and did so little while professing to care this much. To that, there’s nothing I can say. Apologies are hollow, a tinny gonging sound.

Still, things stopped going downhill as fast after the Paris Climate Talks, thanks to activists who got knocked down 99 times and rose the 100th, and the little things millions of people did right, and an enlightened politician or two, and the rare bottomline capitalist who grasped the word “long-term.” But while the decline of the climate slowed after the Talks, things were never as good again as in 2015.

And, gong or no, I’m so very, very sorry.