At twenty-five, I weighed 190 pounds. Horrified, I fasted forty days over four months while walking two hours a day and lost fifty pounds, which I kept off for another fifteen years. A success story by almost any measure.
This is where we as a civilization were decades ago as scientists who understood greenhouse gases and the corporate leaders who suppressed their research. The planet’s “weight,” or temperature, might have been managed at that point and kept under control. Even then, it would have taken a great deal of work, but it was possible.
After I turned forty, the number on my bathroom scale slowly began rising. While I preferred weighing 140, seeing 142 wasn’t really a big deal, so I accepted it. I wasn’t a kid anymore. Gaining a couple of pounds was natural.
As politicians, as corporate leaders, as voters, we began hearing that we should manage global temperature, but it didn’t feel that hot, so we decided to worry about it later.
Before long, I weighed 145 pounds. That was still a healthier weight than most of my friends. I still looked good, could still pick up a cute guy when I wanted. Dad bods were “in.” Life was great.
A couple of months later, I realized I weighed 147 pounds. But that was only two measly pounds above a perfectly acceptable 145. I’d lost my buffer but was still doing okay. I was sure no one else even noticed.
Denial is a normal human reaction.
As politicians, corporate leaders, and voters, we began noticing a few exceptionally strong storms, some troubling droughts, began recognizing that aquifers were shrinking, but if a crop failed in this state, we could always buy replacement yields from that state. It was annoying, but there was no real need to worry.
By the time I reached 180 pounds, course correction was already too daunting to attempt. Sure, I hadn’t regained all the weight back, but losing forty pounds a second time was going to require an inordinate amount of dedication and effort, and I had a life to live. I was flying to New York and San Francisco and Paris and Rome. Losing weight would have to wait.
Then my husband got cancer, and all my energy went into taking care of him while working my regular job. Naturally, the weight continued to creep up.
We don’t make great decisions when we’re stressed.
After my husband died, a hurricane struck and I had to start my life over thousands of miles away. Finding an apartment, getting furniture, starting a new job, and trying to make friends consumed every bit of excess energy. I had no reserves for a weight loss regimen.
Internationally, we’ve had to deal with wars and invasions and rebellions. We’ve had to deal with recessions and monopolies and real estate bubbles. We’ve had earthquakes and tsunamis and pandemics and Reality TV.
I developed diabetes and tried to cut down on carbs, but that meant increasing fats. The pounds kept piling on. My doctor warned me about heart attacks and strokes. I changed jobs, was laid off, found another job, quit, was unemployed, found yet another job, struggled to pay bills, and slowly got back on my feet.
When I reached 244 pounds, more than a hundred pounds over the weight I’d been when I stopped being careful, I realized I was powerless to make any meaningful change on my own. I needed help. An extreme intervention.
Globally, we’re losing entire cities to wildfires, seeing towns wiped off the map in flash floods and mudslides, watching entire states, regions, and countries become deserts. We lose forests to pine beetles, coral reefs to rising acidity, suffer from the spread of mosquito-borne disease.
If we don’t do something, the planet is going to suffer a heat stroke. Society will suffocate like a climate migrant in the back of a tractor-trailer.
After purchasing some compression socks and a larger pair of pants, I consulted with my physician and was soon enrolled in a bariatric program, planning for a gastric bypass.
That’s major surgery, with serious, lifelong consequences, a risk of internal bleeding, a risk of additional surgery, even a risk of death. But I’d waited so long to address the problem that now only drastic action offered any chance at all of success.
Even “success” would never mean returning to 140 pounds. I’ll be lucky to reach 180 after two or three years. I’ll never live a normal life, never eat a normal meal, never have a birthday when I can relax and eat so much as a thin slice of cheesecake followed by a single scoop of ice cream.
Never. Not even once. No matter the occasion. It won’t physically be possible.
Humans can adapt when we must.
As politicians, as corporate leaders, as activists and advocates, as voters, as human beings, we have some serious decisions to make. Do we accept our planet’s temperature obesity and the elevated risk of its disability and death without a fight?
Or do we fight?
The choice isn’t only between a lower quality of life or death. There’s also a third possibility—a lower quality of life and death.
In a best-case scenario, we’re talking mitigation, survival. We’ve waited too long to fully recover. Thriving is no longer on the table. But that doesn’t mean we don’t still have options.
A gastric bypass for the Earth, combined with a healthy diet and appropriate medication, involves an immediate ban on all fracking and all new fossil fuel projects. It involves promoting public transportation over private vehicles, developing more efficient ways to harness and store wind, solar, wave, thermal, and other energy sources. It probably involves even more controversial measures, like a two-child limit or mass relocation away from doomed cities and regions.
It almost certainly means accepting that capitalism exacerbates rather than alleviates our problems.
Bypass surgery isn’t fun. No one pretends it is. It won’t make us “happy.”
Or…we can see just how obese it’s possible to become. Some people, after all, have surprisingly good blood pressure even when they weigh 600 pounds.
We can visualize such a future, put an obese filter instead of a cat filter on all our video conference calls. Instead of looking at the world through rose-colored glasses, we can see a future—a present—where every individual weighs as much as an entire family.
If that sounds like a horror movie, it’s nothing compared to what awaits us if we don’t act.
The Earth’s climate needs a gastric bypass. Let’s accept reality, do an intervention, and get prepped for surgery.