Crises, Past and Present

Annie Dillard:

We have no chance of being here when the sun burns out. There must be something heroic about our time, something that lifts it above all those other times. Plague? Funny weather? Dire things are happening. In fact, we are witnessing a mass extinction of animals: According to Oxford’s Robert M. May, most of the birds and mammals we know will be gone in four hundred years. But there have been other such mass extinctions, scores of millions of years apart. People have made great strides toward obliterating other people, too, but that has been the human effort all along, and our cohort has only broadened the means, as have people in every other century. Why are we watching the news, reading the news, keeping up with the news? Only to enforce our fancy – probably a necessary lie – that these are crucial times, and we are in on them. Newly revealed, and we are in the know: crazy people, bunches of them. New diseases, shifts in power, floods!

For the Time Being, p. 31 (published in 1999).