I have a 6-year-old son. A couple of weeks ago, he got spooked while we were watching The Day After Tomorrow. In fact, during the scene that depicted the tornados in Los Angeles, he ran out of the living room and hid.

He returned shortly, after peeking around the corner to make sure the tornadoes were gone. He sat down next to me on the couch and stayed close. Then, he looked up at me with fear showing in his eyes and said “Is it real, Daddy?”

I paused the movie and put my arms around him.


“No,” I said. “It’s not real. It’s just a movie.”

It was a pat answer. Something we’ve all said to our kids. I didn’t think much of it at first, but I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn’t get it out of my mind. I realized I had lied.

It wasn’t a lie of commission but one of omission. The stuff in The Day After Tomorrow isn’t real – yet. But it’s coming. I left that part out. Scenarios like the ones featured in The Day After Tomorrow are coming, and maybe even in his lifetime. Global warming is changing international weather patterns, and mounting evidence suggests that there’ll be more hurricanes, flooding, and tornadoes. And they’ll be stronger and more destructive.

Last month, Science magazine reported on research indicating that ocean levels may rise as much as three feet by the year 2100, as polar ice begins to melt due to increasing Earth temperatures. That means New Orleans and Miami will be under water. That means relocating New Orleans would be a better idea than rebuilding it. That means the beaches here in Texas may get a lot closer to the Metroplex.

Just three days prior to that, the United Nations also released a report stating that our species has now achieved the distinction of serving as the chief catalyst for the worst catalog of global extinctions since the dinosaurs disappeared 65 million years ago. There are now 6.5 billion of us, and we’re destroying every habitat we inhabit at a breakneck pace through overpopulation, exploitation, air pollution, water pollution, deforestation, global warming, etc.

We like to think it’s not happening here, but when is the last time you saw a horny toad? When I was growing up, they were all over the place. The Fort Worth area was one of their natural habitats. Now, except as a mascot for TCU, they’re gone.

Will I live long enough to be forced to apologize to my son for lying? Will I live long enough to share in the hell he and his children are going to inherit?

The times we live in are characterized by a ferocious will toward ignorance. We detest bad news. We don’t trust our politicians. We despise the media for not telling us what we want to hear. We just want to watch American Idol. And shop. And play fantasy football and golf. And listen to our iPods. And let someone else worry about the consequences.

We want the future to be as far away for us as it was for our parents. We desperately want to think highly of ourselves and be happy with the status quo. We want a life without consequences.

Never gonna happen. Somewhere down the line someone will have to pay for our complacence, our lack of discipline, our total disregard for the repercussions of our lack of conscience and fortitude. That someone will likely be my son or my son’s son. They’ll pay for our sins.

I am haunted by my son’s question. We’re consuming ourselves into oblivion. Hamlet’s “quintessence of dust” has emerged to be a quintessential leveler. The meek are not inheriting the earth so much as destroying it.

Is it real?

Fifteen years ago the famous French ecologist Jacques Cousteau said that we were turning more and more toward “needless consumption” and that our species’ only hope might be the diseases or plagues that could curb the destructive trend of human overpopulation.

Is it real?

Earlier this year, world-renowned British scientist James Lovelock predicted that we’ve already passed the point of no return and that before this century ends, billions will die and the few surviving human breeding pairs will flee to the Arctic – the only place the climate will remain tolerable.

Is it real?

It’s real every time we start at the sports pages instead of the news sections in the newspaper. It’s real every time we elect narrow-minded simpletons who deny that global warming exists. It’s real every day we continue to let multi-national corporations increase their profit margins at the expense of the planet and its people. It’s real every time we go to the gas pump. It’s real every minute of every hour of every day that you and I continue to just hope things won’t get any worse instead of taking responsibility for the impending problems and committing ourselves to remedial action.

Is it real?

Yes. If it wasn’t real, I wouldn’t have to lie to my son.

E. R. Bills is a Fort Worth construction worker and freelance writer.