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I USED TO BEGIN every breakfast conversation with my wife with the story of the big bang. For one thing, it is the most amazing story there is. For another, I like the big picture and this is the biggest. It's Chapter 1 and no story makes sense if you don't start at Chapter 1.

But I am an MIT grad (3 times over) with lots of engineering and physics and I was a fan of cosmology (that's the study of the cosmos, just to be clear) at or about the time of puberty. I remember George Gamov's arguments about the “steady-state universe.” Or maybe it was the exams in physics at MIT that often began “derive from first principles,” which meant start with the most basic things we know. As you might expect this got a little boring and Susan and I now have a signal: hold up one hand (that's Susan's hand of course). It's time to change the subject.

WELL, IT WAS THEN but it isn't now. I have been driving myself looney for the last five years or so because I didn't have a platform to talk about the state of our planet. Three lecture/seminars at the annual meeting of the Thoreau Society in the summer in Concord only led to my inviting the director to lunch and chewing him out for the society's totally ignoring climate change when their icon was the founder of environmentalism. Now I just send annoying e-mails to whomever is asking me to rejoin the Society.

So what's the loonyism about? It is about a very deep feeling that no one “get’s it.” And by get it I mean to have a big and deep and fully aware view of what an incredible place this planet is and what we have done to it and what more we are going to loose if we don't make some very fundamental changes. So finally there is no choice.

I THINK IT IS TOO LATE but there is a slim chance it might not be. Every assessment I have read for the last 10 years is gloomier than the previous one and about five years ago they got gloomier than mine, and that almost never (well actually leave out the almost) happens to me. Now it's a mixture of depression and a fear almost like panic except it is always there. It feels like my brain has permanently changed.

I am tired of two things. The first is all of us not appreciating what we have; that is what Life is as a result of our sentience and consciousness. The second is that if we don't start spending a trillion dollars or so this afternoon to do something that is only occasionally talked about but even then without the urgency that is necessary: moving backward by removing carbon from the atmosphere while simultaneously stopping adding carbon we will permanently destroy the planet.

THERE ARE MANY REASONS this is happening (or not happening) and I will get into these later. For now, the story is (and these are the exact words I used at the Thoreau Society) “we're screwed.” And that means the greatest tragedy in the history of this planet, and for all we know, the greatest in the cosmos.

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