Monuments to our folly
John Kerry — who, it should be noted, would one day rise to become US secretary of state and help to negotiate the Paris climate accords — ended his Vietnam speech with these words by excoriating the leaders who couldn’t bring themselves to put an end to the war: “These men have left all the casualties and retreated behind a pious shield of public rectitude. They’ve left the real stuff of their reputations bleaching behind them in the sun.”
That sun has grown hotter in the last decades, thanks to all the coal and gas and oil we’ve burned. It’s not too much to ask that the carnage stop here and now — to understand that the small strip of Hambach Forest still standing should be left as a monument to our folly — but also to our ability to shift course and do the right thing.
In this most important war for the planet’s future, it’s clearly sacred ground.
Bill McKibben is Schumann Distinguished Scholar in environmental studies at Middlebury College in Vermont, co-founder of the global climate campaign 350.org, and author of the forthcoming book Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?