Planet Zoo by Anthony Doerr

(Read the original article here)

Here’s a metaphor: We’re in a car. The road is foggy and we’re cruising along at a good clip. A few signs on the shoulder warn there’s a cliff ahead, but the radio is on, we have places to be, and it’s not entirely clear who put up those signs anyway.

Some of us might slow down. A few might stop. One or two of us might put the kids in the backseat to work sewing parachutes.

But most of us keep going. Ultimately, we figure either:

  1. The cliff isn’t really there
  2. The cliff won’t be nearly as big as those signs make it look
  3. The cliff is so far away, our kids will be driving by the time we get there
  4. We’ll manage to skid to a stop right at the edge, or
  5. Shit, we’ll sail right off and hope our kids are virtuosos with parachute silk.

Reduce emissions, curb emissions, stop emissions. We—and by we I mean me, my friends, my older brothers, everyone I know under 45—we are the first generation that cannot claim we did not know. Silent Spring was published 10 years before I was born. At elementary school assemblies I was among the little curly-headed ciphers who read cheerful environmental tips into the microphone: “Don’t let the faucet run while brushing your teeth!” Freshman year in college we were handed Bill McKibben’s The End of NatureDuring my sophomore year, 1992, 1,500 scientists, including more than half the living Nobel laureates, admonished in their Warning to Humanity“A great change in our stewardship of the earth and the life on it is required if vast human misery is to be avoided and our global home on this planet is not to be irretrievably mutilated.”

So what have we done? Not much. From 1992 to 2007, global CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels rose 38 percent. Emissions in 2008 rose a full 2 percent despite a global economic slump. Honeybees are dying by the billions1, amphibians by the millions, and shallow Caribbean reefs are mostly dead already.2 Our soil isdisappearing faster than ever beforehalf of all mammals are in decline, and a recent climate change model predicts that the Arctic could have ice-free summers by 2013. Unchecked, carbon emissions from China alone will probably match the current global level by 2030.

“The god thou servest,” Marlowe wrote in Dr. Faustus, almost 400 years before the invention of internet shopping, “is thine own appetite.” Was he wrong? How significantly have you reduced your own emissions since you first heard the phrase “climate change?” By a tenth? A quarter? A half? That’s better than I’m doing. The shirt I’m wearing was shipped here from Thailand. The Twinkie I just ate had 37 ingredients in it. I biked to work through 91-degree heat this morning but back at my house the air conditioner is grinding away, keeping all three bedrooms a pleasant 74 degrees.

My computer is on; my desk lamp is glowing. The vent on the wall is blowing a steady, soothing stream of cool air onto my shoes.

And now, in our lifetimes, we’re learning that perhaps this period is untenable, and like billions of species before us, we are not immune to extinction.

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4 thoughts on “Planet Zoo by Anthony Doerr

  1. At first while reading this article I was confused about the paragraph that talked about the cliff because i couldn’t figure out how it was relevant to the article, but now i understand what it means. I believe that this is a reference to how we are basically destroying the environment and the cliff will be when we’ve basically killed our ecosystem “Some of us might slow down. A few might stop. One or two of us might put the kids in the backseat to work sewing parachutes.
    But most of us keep going. Ultimately, we figure either: The cliff isn’t really there. The cliff won’t be nearly as big as those signs make it look. The cliff is so far away, our kids will be driving by the time we get there. We’ll manage to skid to a stop right at the edge, or Shit, we’ll sail right off and hope our kids are virtuosos with parachute silk.” So “Some of us might slow down.” means that some of us will try to stop being as harmful to the planet. While “A few might stop.” basically means that a few of us will stop being harmful to the earth entirely. Then “One or two of us might put the kids in the backseat to work sewing parachutes.” means that people will start having their kids act more kindly to the environment in hope that it will be better in the future. Then they say that most people keep going meaning that people just keep doing what they where already doing, harming the planet. The people who think that figure “The cliff isn’t really there.” Climate change isn’t real. “The cliff won’t be nearly as big as those signs make it look.” People are making it a bigger deal then it actually is. “The cliff is so far away, our kids will be driving by the time we get there.” They wont be there to have to deal with it. “We’ll manage to skid to a stop right at the edge, or Shit, we’ll sail right off and hope our kids are virtuosos with parachute silk.” They’re hoping that their kids will be able to handle it. I don’t think that’s fair, I feel that everyone should do their part in helping this world be the best that it can be even if that’s just making subtle changes. And i know that it says “I biked to work through 91-degree heat this morning but back at my house the air conditioner is grinding away, keeping all three bedrooms a pleasant 74 degrees.” as if that’s a bad thing but at least they can say that they did something to try and help as some people cant say the same. People are used to polluting and doing things that are bad for the environment not because they are trying to harm their planet but because its convenient and they do not realize they are doing anything wrong. I feel that as long as people realize that, yes we are approaching a cliff and they start to make changes then we will be fine.

  2. After reading the article, “Planet Zoo” by Anthony Doerr, I started thinking about how much the global CO2 emissions have risen over the past 30 years. From people burning fossil fuels, global CO2 emissions had risen 38 percent from years 1992 to 2007. Despite a global economic slump, in 2008, global CO2 emissions rose by another 2 percent. It is endangering our planet and everything that inhabits it. Honeybees have been dying by the billions, amphibians like frogs, salamanders, and so much more are dying by the millions. Most shallow Caribbean reefs are pretty much dead already. A lot more terrible things are happening in the world like the soil disappearing at alarming rates, or at least half of all mammals on earth are in a decline.
    I know I am not doing much about the problem at all, and I am trying to make myself more aware of that. I turn my faucet off when not using it, and I try not to waste anything that anyone else around the world could use. The ozone layer is thinning out more and more every year because there is too much CO2 in the atmosphere. As the ozone thins out, it lets more heat through the atmosphere, which is causing climate temperatures to rise, weather patterns to shift, and seasonal temperatures to change. Winters are not as hot and there isn’t as much precipitation, while summers are even hotter than they used to be.
    What are scientists and geoengineers going to do about this? It is extremely dangerous, and what we do can impact out future strongly. If we do nothing, the ozone layer will keep thinning, and the world will get hotter and hotter. The weather patterns will continue to shift, which will cause more natural disasters to occur. There are more wildfires happening because there isn’t as much precipitation as there used to be. If we do something about it, like plant a lot more trees globally to suck the carbon out of the air and release more oxygen into the air, it could help reduce some of our CO2 levels. We need to do something soon, or us humans will go extinct.

  3. After reading this article I began to wonder what I have been doing to hurt or heal the environment, I also began wondering how and why there are people on this dying planet who still refuse the fact that we are killing our only home even though there is plenty scientific proof to back it up.I liked this quote from the article ” Some of us might slow down. A few might stop. One or two of us might put the kids in the backseat to work sewing parachutes.But most of us keep going. Ultimately, we figure either:The cliff isn’t really there, The cliff won’t be nearly as big as those signs make it look, The cliff is so far away, our kids will be driving by the time we get there” this part talks about a few interesting things such as how by the time that it becomes a real problem it will be the youth of today’s problem to deal with.It also talks about some of the people will attempt to stop and realize that it’s dangerous.It’s scary how fast things are going downhill there’s pollution, war, disease, melting ice caps and dying species etc.Global warming is affecting everyday life in many different ways “Food prices are rising as climate change makes it trickier to maintain the specific conditions crops need to thrive” and it doesn’t stop there, the number of wildfires is increasing quickly.In 1919 one of the biggest Canadian fire broke out due to drought and covered over 5,000,000 acres later after that there was a fire in Manitoba that measured over 8,100,000 acres.Since those years the number of fires increased and a majority of fires covered at least 30 000 acres, that’s the size of 7/10 of Washington which is the 18th biggest state in the united states out of fifty.They have all been caused by exceptionally hot days and the number of those continues to rise with the upcoming years if we don’t do anything.

  4. In my opinion, this article is completely true, people in the early 1900’s worked so hard to discover ways for things to be easier for us today, we don’t work as hard, we have little ambition, and few of us care how we got to this point in evolution. Most people don’t believe that there is a crisis with our earths climate (there is no cliff), they believe that it is only natural for our earth to change for the worse (it is only a bump in the road). People need to get their heads out of the holes in the ground that were dug out for us, and we need to change our course of action to renewable energy sources. Comfort isn’t always a great thing, though I cant say that I don’t love the air conditioning on a hot day, feeling it as I enter the house after walking home from school in the scorching heat. The cliff has been a threat in the back of every persons mind since all of the books, articles, documentaries, etc… have been written about the end of the world, our ecosystem crashing, overpopulation, pollution levels rising above charts. Some people say; make the chart bigger, others say how can I react if I can’t see the height of this “drastic” change, I say, how can I make it better? Around my house we aren’t allowed to use the dryer, dishwasher, or laundry machine without need and purpose, most of the time we hang our clothes, eat from our own garden, collect rain water, and are very cautious of our lights and electrical outlets being on too long. We have slowed down on this road approaching the cliff, encouraging the driver behind us to also slow down.

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