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  • Writer's pictureTom Paine

There is No Planet B

Even a stone statue of Guanyin cannot hold back real tears

Ever since a life-changing year spent in Taiwan in 1976-7, I have been drawn to Guanyin, the Chinese goddess of compassion. I wonder how she is doing these days.  And how she is feeling these days.  Here is what I imagine, using AI on Shutterstock.

Nothing should matter more than the fact that, as José Mariá Figueres put it in the World Economic Forum in 2003, there is no Planet B.  Colonizing Mars is a joke, and sending flights there just fuels the energy crisis, and Elon’s Musky Ego.

What does the Bible say? When I was four or five, Dad used to read to me at bedtime not the Bible, but The Story of Noah’s Ark, illustrated by E. Boyd Smith, the first book he had ever owned, dating from 1905. I remember one illustration particularly (below). As Noah is focused on constructing the ark, some onlookers are jeering at him. What a fool Noah is to them, to make such a dire prediction about a stupid flood and prepare for it with such overkill. Though I did not know what to call them at the time, I can now call them antediluvian nay-sayers, deniers, skeptics.

Noah, of course, was prophetic. There is a second coming in store, of a not very rapturous kind. Being prepared for sea level rise is a safer bet than denial, yet denial is alive and shrill among us. Some of today’s climate change skeptics may not take their Old Testament literally, and others might do just that, but neither group of skeptics is taking to heart the second coming of the Ark that now needs to be constructed. For that is what our low-lying coastlines will have to become, by other means, to cope with high seas—more frequent, more violent storms on top of sea level rise.

Now in the age of AI generated imagery, the sky is the limit.  Much of it will be put to nefarious use, to inflame hatred, and incite violence, so we must be wary. But there will always be a welcome place for such imagery to instill empathy and spread motivation to take action against truly existential threats that affect us all, believers and non believers alike. 


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