It’s About Time

words by william defebaugh

photograph by Joe Lingeman

 

Every Friday, Atmos editor-in-chief William Defebaugh reflects on the week in climate and culture, sharing stories of insight and inspiration.

words by william defebaugh

photograph by Joe Lingeman

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“When I thought about what I was going to do with the rest of my life, I wanted to be able on my deathbed to look my three grandchildren in the eye and say that I did everything within my power to give them a healthy life and a nondegraded place to live,” said Governor Jay Inslee of Washington earlier this year as part of his promise to make climate crisis the main focus of his campaign as a Democratic candidate for the 2020 election.

 

Inslee had a chance to speak on the topic at the first Democratic debate last night—but not for long. Climate policy received more airtime than it did in all of the 2016 debates combined, and yet it still only amounted to a total of seven minutes out of the two hours, with just four candidates given a chance to speak on the issue (Elizabeth Warren, a frontrunner for the party nomination, was not one of them). The amount of time spent on climate is perplexing, considering more than half the country now believes climate change to be a major concern.

 

The irony of the debate being held in a sinking city was not lost on moderator Rachel Maddow: “We are here in Miami experiencing serious flooding on sunny days as a result of sea level rise and parts of Miami Beach and the Keys could be underwater in our lifetimes. Does your plan save Miami?” she asked Inslee. The irony doesn’t end there, though; the debates are coming at a time when Europe is facing a dangerous heatwave that has set new temperatures records, and Arctic sea ice is melting ahead of schedule, according to satellite data. The clock is ticking.

 

Why time scarcity hasn’t had a larger impact on climate policy remains a mystery, considering it drives almost everything else in America, from how we work and even how we eat. It’s what instigated the creation of Soylent—the “meal in a bottle” that conceivably allows people to get their nutrition on the go, without having to take the time to prepare a meal or sit down and eat it. (For Atmos Volume 01, we asked poet Rindon Johnson to give the Soylent diet a try—to mixed results.)

 

Efficiency and time management have governed the advancement of American industry for some time now: the urge to produce more, and faster. There are more than nine million dairy cows in the U.S.—and a recent study has foundthat more than 99% of them can be traced back to just two bulls, both born in the Sixties. While these Holsteins cows produce a high volume of milk, ultimately, the population will suffer in the long run due to in-breeding and a lack of genetic diversity.

 

This week, the fashion industry was leading the headlines in terms of positive efforts related to sustainability, with Burberry pledging to become carbon neutral, and Prada announcing a new line of bags made from Econyl, a regenerated nylon material. Meanwhile, fans of HBO’s Big Little Lies were met on Sunday with an episode that seemed to address the impacts of climate change on future generations at every turn. When politics fail to advance an environmental agenda as fast as we need them to, the responsibility falls to those in other positions of power.

 

“The most precious resource we all have is time,” Steve Jobs famously said. The question is, how will we use it?

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