When author and environmentalist Bill McKibben wrote The End of Nature in 1989, the world was a very different place. The science behind climate change was not as sophisticated, the public’s understanding of the issue more limited, and the real-world effects of global warming far less obvious to the average person.
Thirty years and more than a degree Celsius of warming later, humanity has yet to seriously deal with the planet’s climate problem. Heat-trapping greenhouse gases continue to build up in the atmosphere, and the U.S. government has failed to take meaningful action to curb them. And in addition to climate change, McKibben now sees two other existential threats facing humanity: artificial intelligence and human genetic engineering. He writes about these issues in his new book, Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?
Scientific American spoke with McKibben, founder of the climate change organization 350.org, about the motivation behind his book, why he believes these problems are so perilous, and how humankind might address its self-created crises.