Elizabeth Kolbert (1961 – ) is a staff writer at THE NEW YORKER, author of Field Notes From a Catastrophe: Man, Nature and Climate Change and The Sixth Extinction which appeared in 2014.
Rabbi Abraham Heschel (1907-1972) is the author of The Prophets. Heschel writes, “The prophet’s ear…is attuned to a cry imperceptible to others.” (p.7)
Kolbert and Sylvia Earle (1935 – ) are two wise prophets who are hearing the cry of our ocean, now threatened by global “plastification” and rising acidity threatening both marine and human life. Most of seven billion people today are oblivious to an oceanic takeover by carbon dioxide, plastic pollution and not least, jellyfish.
Kolbert, the Scientist, wrote in The Sixth Extinction: “Roughly one-third of CO2 that humans have so far pumped into the air has been absorbed by the oceans. This comes as a stunning 150 billion metric tons. By burning through coal and oil deposits, humans are putting carbon back into the air that has been sequestered for tens; in most cases, hundreds of millions of years. In the process we are running geologic history not only in reverse but at warp speed.” Kolbert then quotes Penn State Geologist Lee Kump: “continuing along this path for much longer…is likely to leave a legacy of the Anthropocene (human induced geologic period) as one of the most notable, if not cataclysmic events in the history of our planet.” (p.124) Rachel Carson, Sylvia Earle and Kolbert are perceiving something about the ocean that is “dying to tell us something.” (Segment of STUNG! by Lisa Gershwin, a study of spreading jellyfish in an unhealthy ocean.)
Verylyn Klinkenborg reviewed The Sixth Extinction (NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS, March 20,2014): “Near the end of her previous book, Field Notes From a Catastrophe, Kolbert wrote, “It may seem impossible to imagine that a technologically advanced society could choose, in essence, to destroy itself, but that is what we are now in the process of doing.” She is talking about pouring carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.”
That is why NASA scientist James Hansen resigned from his government job to plead with elected officials not to excavate and burn tar sands oil. The highly polluting oil from Alberta, Canada and possibly from Utah will stoke our carbon threat to a dangerously higher level.
Heschel observes that prophets (Carson, Earle, Kolbert) “begin with a message of doom but conclude with a message of hope.” (p.12)
There is still hope that we will leave carbon in the ground and transform our economy into one based upon renewable energy…soon. Tar sands oil for Keystone XL is going towards ecological disaster.