“Now we’re the lung cancer patient trying to sneak cigarettes in the ICU.”
16 Dec 2009
Let’s play doctor, says Bill McKibben, in a recent article for Yale e360, “A Timely Reminder of the Real Limits to Growth”.
I’m sitting there in a white coat looking at my clipboard and I say: “Hmmm, your cholesterol is going up. If you keep eating this way, you’re going to have a heart attack some day.” You hear that, and you stop on the way home for a bacon double cheeseburger.
But now imagine I’m sitting there in my white coat looking at my clipboard and all of a sudden I whistle, and say: “Your cholesterol is off the charts, man. You’re in the zone where people have heart attacks all the time. You better hope you get it down before the stroke.” You hear that, and you stop on the way home for some Lipitor and a pair of running shoes.
So what’s our response been?
We’ve known for a very long time now that, in some vague way, we were headed for trouble…. Only true ideologues or the most oblivious among us thought that we’d never reach the “limits to growth,” but plenty of people convinced themselves they were far enough away that they’d be someone else’s problem.
Going back to the medical metaphor, he writes:
Just as the man with the high cholesterol needs to think at every turn about his diet, his exercise, his medicine, so we too have lost the right to casual obliviousness that goes with not knowing. If we choose to ignore the warnings, we’re not some 14-year-old smoking because his friends think it looks cool, or even the pack-a-day lifer with other things on his mind. Now we’re the lung cancer patient trying to sneak cigarettes in the ICU.