WHEN SOMEONE ASKED ME recently, “How are things?” I blurted out, “Everything’s good—for me anyway, if not the world.” If you are in the same boat, please don’t assume that it will remain afloat. And if you believe “Somebody ought to be doing something about this,” then please understand that this somebody had better be you. And me. And us—really we, as subjects, not objects. The problems of this world are a lot closer to our own doorsteps, and a lot further from resolution, than most of us care to realize.
When Kofi Annan (2013) called for a “global grass-roots movement” to tackle climate change, he meant you and me, every time we take out the garbage or exploit some other convenient externality. “Green thinking cannot be the sole responsibility of a few environmentally minded activists, while the rest of us go on living as if there were no tomorrow,” he said. It is not the tar sands that create the pollution, but those of us who drive its consequences, in our cars and our votes.
Let me repeat: Our world is dangerously out of balance and we require radical renewal. People will have to do it. Not “them.” You and me, individually and together. Not by focusing on what they do to us, but by recognizing what we can do for ourselves. And not by having to expend so much energy fighting exploitation as by using our resourcefulness to circumvent that exploitation. Restoring balance in society will have to be our legacy if we are to have any legacy at all. The alternative is the end of our history.