This is ‘Not Doomed Yet,’ The Atlantic’s weekly newsletter about global warming. It lives here in the science section; you can also get it in your inbox:
Piers Sellars is the acting director of NASA’s Earth Sciences division; he was also recently diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer.
“This diagnosis puts me in an interesting position,” he writes in a remarkable Op-Ed:
I’ve spent much of my professional life thinking about the science of climate change, which is best viewed through a multidecadal lens. At some level I was sure that, even at my present age of 60, I would live to see the most critical part of the problem, and its possible solutions, play out in my lifetime. Now that my personal horizon has been steeply foreshortened, I was forced to decide how to spend my remaining time. Was continuing to think about climate change worth the bother?
So it continues. Many people seemed to get it lodged in their brains over the weekend. Something about it—that Sellars has to keep one eye on the dire, local emergency, while managing fear and regret; while working steadily on the unquestionable, multi-decadal one—seems very 2016.
It also ends with a rhetorical turn so good that, like, I’m now certain Sellars must be excellent at telling off people who cut him in line at the grocery store. I won’t ruin it.
Relatedly, James Bridle finds a new way to talk about space travel and humanitarianism with his Flag for No Nations.
I’ve been reading recently about the 2011 famine in the Horn of Africa, a disaster that experts could see coming and did too little to mitigate. Ultimately at least 50,000, and possibly more than 100,000 people, died, more than half of them children. The complete experience of a person, his probing curiosity, her private admirations: This was needlessly destroyed forever, tens of thousands of times, only four years ago.