By some accounts, there have been at least 200 documented, date-specific end-of-world predictions in the last two millennia. Now, having just passed unscathed through the Mayan apocalypse and the fiscal cliff, we're hearing that 2013's solar flares will end the world as we know it.
Wouldn't it be great if this were the year we finally stop narrowly missing Armageddons and using the suffix "-ocalypse" to describe everything from a big snowstorm to an epic pile of dirty laundry? Trouble is, our brains may be irrevocably wired to expect epochal catastrophe at any moment.
Our job is to face up to the challenges presented by the end of the world as we know it, rather than seeing The End of the World altogether. Lots of people are already engaged in this kind of work -- for instance, the urban planners in Singapore and the Netherlands, featured in the New Yorker recently, who are helping coastal urban centers deal with rising water.
There are people who see a problem and get up and go at it, no matter how insurmountable it seems. People like Marcus Eriksen, a Gulf War vet who devoted his life to researching plastic pollution in the oceans. Mr. Eriksen sailed the world in a raft made of plastic bottles, founded 5 Gyres, named after the areas in the ocean where massive islands of plastic are accumulating, and is now documenting Japanese tsunami flotsam.
L.A.-based hedge funder Eyal Aronoff co-founded the Fuel Freedom Foundation to begin the long and slow process of reducing American dependence on petroleum. We can't get rid of our oil addiction overnight or even in the next decades, but we have to start somewhere. Mr. Aronoff's foundation promotes alternatives to gasoline, such as methanol, a renewable, American-made fuel, along with "flex-fuel" cars that could run on methanol or gasoline. Not surprisingly, the oil companies oppose this, but so too do many environmentalists, whose quest for a green world demands instant change, or, apparently, none at all.
Read more at The Bombshell on the New York Observer.