Connecting the Dots: Disconnected

John Bos

John Bos


Published: 05-07-2024 1:56 PM

On April 25, the Biden administration finalized a highly anticipated suite of rules to cut hazardous, planet-warming pollution generated by power plants in one of its most significant environmental actions to date. The EPA estimates the power plant rules will prevent nearly 1.4 billion metric tons of planet-warming pollution from entering the atmosphere through the year 2047 — equivalent to taking 330 million gas cars off the road for a year.

The problem is that 1.4 billion tons is a drop in the climate bucket. Do you know what a gigaton is?

A gigaton is a unit of measure equivalent to a billion metric tons. It’s so massive that it almost defies meaning. It has few practical applications on a human scale. But a planetary scale, a gigaton is trivial. The atmosphere alone weighs about 5½ million gigatons.

After I graduated from high school in the mid-1950s, annual emissions from burning fossil fuels have increased every decade. Global CO2 emissions from fossil fuels reached around 37.5 gigatons annually in 2023, setting a new record high.

The recent 100-degree heat wave in Gaza offers a sweltering glimpse of what is to come. The heat bore down on Palestinians living in tents and aid groups working in the sun. And thousands flocked to the Mediterranean Sea to cool off, among them a 5-year-old boy named Zakaria, who told NPR that his swim in the ocean had made him happy.

But for his father, the heat wave had been “torture, in every sense of the word.” Even worse would be the summer to come, he said. “We don’t know what to do with our families, with our children. We don’t know how to face this heat. We are terrified.”

A Washington Post analysis found that concurrently, one of the most rapid sea level surges on Earth is besieging the American South, forcing a reckoning for coastal communities across eight U.S. states. At more than a dozen tide gauges from Texas to North Carolina, sea levels are at least 6 inches higher than they were in 2010. High-tide floods in the region are expected to strike 15 times more frequently in 2050 than they did in 2020, according to William Sweet, an oceanographer for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

There was a time, anthropologists tell us, when the majority of people on earth understood how to live in balance with nature. What happened?

In its Sixth Assessment report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that it is unequivocal that the increase of CO2, methane, and nitrous oxide in the atmosphere over the industrial era is the result of human activities. We are the principal cause of the many changes in the atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere, and biosphere.

I am, as is almost everyone in the Western world, disconnected. Disconnected from the planet on which we live and from its natural systems. We are living in unnatural human constructs built upon the extraction of fossil fuels from Mother Earth. The result is our climate crisis, air and water pollution, habitat destruction, the generation of toxic wastes, all creating a mortal threat to the environment and its people.

We’ve left the natural world and created an artificial world around us, in our cities and towns, which is quite alien from that in which we first evolved. “We placed our planet at the center of the universe,” Thom Hartmann writes in his Substack column, “and ourselves at the top of the hierarchy of our world. As time went by, we decided for ourselves that various things were right and wrong with the rest of the planet and set about organizing things ‘out there’ to comply with our needs ‘in here.’”

If we could only set aside the assumption of our supremacy and instead realize that all things have value and a sacred right to live on this planet, then the chances of reducing planet-scorching actions might improve.

I wake each morning wrestling with what I dread as the inevitable destruction of Planet Earth, on which I live. At the same time, I am acutely aware that I will not be personally affected by what I see is coming. It takes me to Wendell Berry’s classic poem: “When despair for the world grows in me / and I wake in the night at the least sound / in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be …”

Berry then finds momentary peace in his reconnection with wild things, in a habitat unsullied by humankind.

Connecting the Dots is published in the Recorder every other Saturday. In his essays, John Bos is attempting to make sense of the increasing disinformation that is endangering our democracy, freedom, and life on Earth. As always, serious comments and questions are invited at