My doctor doesn’t think I’m going to die today–Updated

A couple of days ago at Daily Kos, a thoughtful, commeter, WarrenS asked a question in a comment on one of my diaries.


How do you hold out hope when the news is this awful? Can you? I dread the time when I have to explain to my daughter just how badly the grownups screwed this up.

I didn’t answer the question at that time because I didn’t have the strength. Now, I’ve decided to try and answer it by reposting an updated version of a diary that I wrote in November of 2007.

My diaries, as those of you who are regular readers know, often contain depressing information about how temperatures and sea levels are rising, how sea ice and glaciers are melting and shrinking, how deserts are growing and heat waves becoming longer and hotter meaning that agriculture is becoming less and less possible in many places, how extreme weather is becoming more common and more intense, how oceans are becoming acidified, how species are going extinct, ecosystems are being rendered uninhabitable for the creatures that live in them, and how famine and diseases are spreading.

When I write about solutions I often focus on how people and governments are mostly oblivious to what is happening and to how little time we have left to act boldly and forcefully to effect the radical change that the scientists tell us is necessary. I agree absolutely with what what Steven Chu, the new Secretary of Energy told the LA Times in an interview a couple of days ago.

I don’t think the American public has gripped in its gut what could happen.

I understand that such news can depress. At times it depresses me but, more than anything else, it has filled my life with meaning. I have a mission. Before I die, I want to have some sense that this beautiful planet that has provided the context for my life, will have some chance of enduring. I want to die with hope, believing that my teenage son and his children and your children and their children will live in a world that is reasonably hospitable to human beings.

I don’t know how that can happen if people will not face the reality of what is taking place in the world. So, I continue to sound the alarm, even though I know that most of what I write is discounted as alarmist or simply ignored as too uncomfortable to deal with.

What follows is a post that I published on Daily Kos on November 12, 2007. It was an early attempt to explain my motivation in writing about Climaticide. At the end of the original post you’ll find a NOTE with an Update

My doctor doesn’t think I’m going to die today [published November 12, 2007

A day or two ago he wasn’t so sure.

Just about a year ago I was diagnosed with Mantle Cell Lymphoma (MCL), a very aggressive but relatively uncommon form of cancer (it affects only a few thousand people a year). This last year has been hard: months of chemotherapy followed by a very harsh, experimental form of radiation treatment and finally an autologous [using one’s own cells that are harvested and then reintroduced] stem-cell transplant [PDF]. I’ve survived so far because I’ve had many great doctors and nurses and the support of my wife (herself a nurse practitioner), the wisest, smartest and kindest human being I have ever known. Even so, the average life expectancy for someone with my disease is only six years although that is up from three years a decade ago.

I’m in the hospital now because I have an acute intestinal infection. [See NOTE at end] One of the consequences of my stem-cell transplant is that, for at least a year, things that won’t even make you sick can kill me. A year from my transplant date I will get all my childhood immunizations again as all my acquired immunity was wiped out when my immune system was “reborn”.

So, you may be wondering, is this a diary about health care? No, this is a diary about global warming.

Before I came down with MCL I’d never been in a hospital except to visit ill family members and friends. I spent hours in the gym working out, went on long hikes in the mountains and desert, bicycled and kayaked and ate a mostly organic, vegetarian diet. To say that I was surprised to discover that I had cancer would be the grossest of understatements.

My initial response to learning that my life was likely to be shorter than I had expected was, not surprisingly, rather selfish. I thought about the time that I would lose with my family and friends, of the traveling that I would not get to do, of the books that I would not get to read.

But something else happened too: the world became more poignant to me. I’d always thought of myself as a caring, empathetic, compassionate person, but now I found suffering, cruelty, and abuse to be intolerable regardless of the form it took. Debeaked hens crammed into tiny cages and stacked in factory-farm warehouses, infants shaken to death by their parents because they wouldn’t stop crying, genocide in Darfur, my countrymen in Appalachia and on the Gulf Coast treated as if they lived in a Third World Country, Iraqis bombed by us and by Al Qaeda… It was all too much. I was feeling the world’s pain.

And I realized, pardon my presumption here, that I didn’t want to die with the world in such terrible shape, which, finally, brings me to global warming. Of all the insanities that bedevil human beings on this planet none is greater than global warming. Only all out nuclear war poses as grave a danger to the planet and human civilization. Ironically, the former, if we fail to check it, may lead to the latter–a two-for-one sale at the Armageddon store, if you like.

I’m not confident that we are going to survive this. I’m positive that we won’t survive unscathed because the harm has already begun and we still haven’t done anything to reduce CO2 emissions. And here’s the question that keeps haunting me: If we won’t stop genocide in Darfur or provide universal health coverage in the United States, two horrible but much simpler cruelties, why should any one think that we will deal adequately with global warming? We are already way behind and likely to fall farther behind because we have waited so long to begin and because the necessary sense of urgency is still not there. Witness the hearings in DC on S 2191, Joe Lieberman and John Warner’s trillion dollar giveaway to the nation’s biggest polluters. This is not a measure to stop global warming, it is simply “green” pork barrel politics. Business as usual in drag.

The changes required of us are enormous. A little biofuel and a few CFLs aren’t going to do it. We can no longer live as we have and we have only been able to live as we have because we have borrowed so much from the future. We are way over the limit on our Gaia Visa card and the penalties and fees are going to be enormous. We can’t declare bankruptcy either, because in this case bankruptcy equals death.

I love the earth. I have delighted in it for 53 years and I hope to live here for a while longer. My doctor has told me that I’m not going to die today and I’m glad. But if I have to die anytime soon it will be a lot easier if I can go knowing that we have truly accepted reality and are making the radical changes in how we live that are required. If we take the necessary measures to stop global warming and to live sustainably the world that our children and grandchildren will live in will be unrecognizably different from our own. And if we don’t take those necessary measures the world that our children and grandchildren will live in will also be unrecognizably different from our own.

NOTE: [Actually, as it turned out, things were much worse than that–after weeks in the hospital, my doctors finally discovered that I had acute myeloid leukemia (AML) an extremely aggressive form of leukemia that people often get as a result of the chemotherapy and radiation that they received as treatment for an earlier form of cancer, in my case, lymphoma. The doctors hadn’t been able to figure out what was wrong with me because treatment related AML, if it shows up up at all, normally appears about 5 years after transplant; in my case it only took 5 months. Since the AML diagnosis, I have had a second transplant, this time an allogeneic one (using a donor’s cell’s) PDF), which failed, and experimental chemotherapy treatment that also failed. I am currently on palliative care (care which is designed to keep the leukemia at bay for as long as possible, but which offers no possibility of remission.) Obviously, this is not the outcome we had hoped for, and there are times when I am frightened, but most of all I feel even more urgently the need to write and get the word out about Climaticide. You see, I am running out of time, but so are all of you. It will be such a shame if you do not act, because you still have a chance. Please do not let it slip away, for all your sakes and for mine–JR.]

Crossposted at Daily Kos