Who shall live, and who shall die?
Who by cell phoning, who by texting,
Who by rage, or by pedal sticking,
Who by climate changing, who by global warming,
Who by capitalism, who by socialism,
Who by sea level rising, who by glaciers melting,
Who by thirst and who by starving,
Who by quake and who by cholera,
Who by jihad, who by drone,
Who by error, who by pilots asleeping,
Who by accident, who by oversight,
Who by ideology, who by ignorance,
Who by poverty, who by political influence,
Who by natural aging, who by disease,
Who by evildoers, who by erring doers of God's will?
I wonder how we, as a society, can know we are headed for disaster in small as well as big things, and yet not take adaptive action. And what role can we, as elders, play? I look forward to your ideas, do comment!
By examining the causes of past failures in Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, Jared Diamond attempts to extrapolate how we might avoid the threat of worldwide environmental collapse. One of the options before us is to know what we face, yet fail to act: will we be "willfully bad?"
The poem is modeled on a prayer in the Jewish New Year and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) liturgy that addresses a list of personal and communal fates. The prayer is framed as a warning: first your fate (personal or communal) is written on New Year, then on Yom Kippur it is sealed. The evil decree can be avoided, Judaism proposes, by "Return or Atonement, Prayer, and Charity or Just Actions." There is enduring value in such a belief, and a measure of hope if the call to action is answered. The environmental challenges faced by humanity are clear: scientists and others have given us warning. We also have clear prescriptions for avoiding social and natural calamity. We have been warned, will we act?