THE BLOG
02/22/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

The Law of Incremental Suck (or Why to Never Give Up)

Crossposted from EcoGeek.org

It seems like every month or so, I get a press release in my inbox saying something like "Scientists Say that The World Will Explode if We Don't Do X by Y." I have some news for you.

1. No one has any idea what will happen if we don't do X by Y
2. That headline was written by a journalist, not by a scientist

Sure, in their models, scientists can see a precise date of when the gulf-stream will shut down or when the albedo effect will take over and global warming will be irreversible. But scientists recognize that models, however sophisticated, are not as sophisticated as the real world. Only a fool would take the date the model spit out and assume that that's the day of reckoning.

Unfortunately, journalists (myself included) are often foolish. Our business is to get people to read things, preferably things that are true. But by the time it goes through three editors, each with a mind on the business, the chances of a headline with more units of sensation per unit of truth get pretty high.

Plus, I think that we, as journalists, have an artificial fascination with deadlines. We think they make the world work because they make us work.

But I'm here to tell you, once and for all, that we need not worry about when the day of reckoning is because every day is a day of reckoning. Every day that the Ford F-150 is the top selling vehicle in America (as it has been for 27 years) is a day of reckoning, and every time someone chooses to pay two cents extra per kilo-watt hour for wind power is a moment of reckoning.

Malcolm Gladwell be damned, there is no defined law for a tipping point.

No matter what we do, global warming will adversely effect our planet, we've seen it already. But the more we do, the less horrible things will get. And if we give up hope, and say that it's all for naught, things will get much much worse.

Success and failure are not absolute, they are defined in increments. The more we do, the better off we'll be. The less we do, the worse off we'll be, and that is the law of incremental suck. Every innovation we discuss here at EcoGeek, every decision you make at home, every graduate who decides to go into clean energy, every investor who thinks of her planet as well as her wallet, every single one will make things a incrementally better for this and future generations.

Some actions (inventing a cheap solar panel) will have a larger effect than others (buying a Prius) of course. But there is no one cure, and there will be no day on which the Earth is saved, just as there will be no day on which it dies. These things are defined in increments, so let's stop worrying about our deadline and get to work writing the story. It's not going to be the happiest or easiest story to write, but it is going to be a good one.