At first glance, the misspelling of our planet’s name may cause a double take, but that was author Bill McKibben’s intention. McKibben emphasizes that the world has become a completely different place, changing in ways that humans have never seen. In fact, it is so unlike the old Earth that McKibben believes it deserves a new name, familiar but fundamentally different: “Eaarth.”
Despite the prolonged presence of humans on the planet, McKibben argues that Eaarth has come to fruition only within the last 50 years of intense development. In this time, carbon dioxide emissions have increased exponentially. As this trend continues, Eaarth is on a destructive path to serious environmental damage: Atmospheric emission levels have already reached 392 parts per million (ppm), well above the 350 ppm threshold that experts deem unsafe. The emissions trend will only persist as modern society continues to develop.
McKibben’s vivid imagery of intense ecological disasters, alarming and credible statistics, and his depiction of societal apathy make his argument credible and alarming. To solve our problem, McKibben proposes a grassroots approach. Instead of large-scale development, we must scale back and repair our planet instead of adding more dangerous parts while adapting to the new planet “Eaarth.” “Maturity is not the opposite of hope,” he writes. “It’s what makes hope possible.”
Although this type of change is necessary for the planet, McKibben’s plan is slightly unrealistic. Most likely, few will adopt the “graceful” change that McKibben prescribes. It remains to be seen whether Eaarth will accept this maturity and take responsibility and action.