Robert Jay Lifton

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A scene in eastern Puerto Rico after the passage of Hurricane Maria. Credit Kirsten Luce for The New York Times

Climate images have never been able to convey our full planetary danger until now. The extraordinary recent four-punch sequence of hurricanes — Harvey, Irma, Jose and Maria — threatened the lives of millions of people, obliterated their homes and has raised doubts that some places will ever recover. The rest of us have a newly immediate sense of catastrophes of biblical proportions. As meaning-hungry creatures we search for explanations. No wonder some have embraced the apocalyptic narrative of total destruction by an angry deity. And no wonder that climate-change rejecters like President Trump have increasing difficulty defending their position.

Even before the hurricanes we had experienced a drumbeat of storms, floods, droughts and wildfires that rendered global warming not just a remote future danger but an immediate one.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Climate Swerve

Americans appear to be undergoing a significant psychological shift in our relation to global warming. I call this shift a climate “swerve,” borrowing the term used recently by the Harvard humanities professor Stephen Greenblatt to describe a major historical change in consciousness that is neither predictable nor orderly.

The first thing to say about this swerve is that we are far from clear about just what it is and how it might work. But we can make some beginning observations which suggest, in Bob Dylan’s words, that “something is happening here, but you don’t know what it is.” Experience, economics and ethics are coalescing in new and important ways.…  Seguir leyendo »

Nothing is more rapidly globalized than nuclear fear.

The partial meltdown of reactors in Fukushima, Japan, has created overwhelming fear in people living nearby, considerable fear in people living in the rest of Japan, and a certain amount of fear in people throughout Asia and even in Europe and the United States.

Nor can this fear be simply dismissed as hysteria. It can be exaggerated — especially in relation to other continents — but the fact is that, depending on what happens to the reactors, how the wind blows, and what kind of radiation plume develops, the danger could be grave.…  Seguir leyendo »