Imminence vs. inevitability

As I warily watch the growing storm in the Atlantic and sadly read about the dwindling storm in the southeast, I wonder how long we will have this pointless debate.

Proponents of climate change point to the increasing violence of natural disasters, along with scientific data that appears to support their views and stridently demand the world take steps to protect itself from our apparent death wish.

Opponents of that view, point to the same data as inconclusive or so infinitesimally impactful as evidence that the cries of climate change disaster are no more than hysteria and “leftist propaganda.”

The main body of people, either less informed or less interested, feel that either way, it’s a long time before it happens in any consequence and certainly not in their lifetime. In most people’s minds, there are more urgent problems like homeless, healthcare, financial security and terrorism. And maybe nuclear war.

Though I live on a peninsula and am liberally minded (and a long-time reader of science fiction), I can understand that view. The problems of today are both real and compelling. It’s always tough to imagine and tougher to think about problems “way off” in the future.

Unfortunately, that phenomenon is not exclusive to world-shattering ecological disasters. As of this year, it was estimated that 81% of Americans don’t know how much they need to retire. Let me repeat that number: 81%.

Only 2 out of every 10 Americans even know how much they will need to save to retire. That doesn’t even get to the point of actually saving that much money.

If people can’t even figure out how to prepare for their own life expectancy, how can they ever be expected to care about the lifespan of the planet?

It’s said that parents care more for their children than for themselves. It’s said that parents want their kids to have lives better than their own. I’ve never been a parent, but I have seen that sentiment from my own parents and grandparents.

But that’s not just about providing their children house and home and (if needed) money for their schooling. It’s also about making sure that they won’t need their children to take care of them after they’ve gone. That their kids won’t have to sacrifice their dreams or futures to support the poor planning of their parents.

All of that means that people need to look at what’s in the future, not just what’s coming next week. It means, if necessary, a standard of living smaller than you can afford in order to afford a future without support.

And in that planning of the future, it also includes understanding that the home you once provided under a roof is also a home you provide on this planet. Saving for that retirement means paying attention to the harm being done to the planet and the means we can employ to help heal it.

“Never put off for tomorrow what you can do today.”

That’s an old adage that bears personal responsibility and importance. For your retirement and for your planet.

Start saving for both today. Don’t be so focused on imminence…bear in mind inevitability. The day when it’s too late to take action always arrives sooner than we expect.

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