Has it made your work more consequential?

The Icelandic writer Andri Magnason, who is a good friend of mine, asked a question while we were hiking in Iceland one summer. Amid the disappearing glaciers, he asked: In what year do you think will the last human being you love dearly be alive?

I’m 44. Let’s give me until I’m 84, which is a relatively reasonable ambition. When I’m that age, maybe I’ll have a ten-year old granddaughter who I love. She’s my favorite granddaughter, she’s so charming, so smart, just great. I’d spend a lot of time with her and she’s then going to live until 100, let’s say. So that means that 130 years into the future, my favorite granddaughter is still going to be around and she might talk about things that I talked to her about. I imagine she might tell people once in a while the story about her grandfather. This is the year 2149.

That’s so far into the future—a hundred years further into the future than the last Blade Runner movie. It’s almost outside the charts of science fiction, right? That’s how deep into the future that someone I loved dearly in my life is still going to be around. So our sense of ownership and responsibility for the future reaches much further than we imagined in a very intimate, mammalian way. It’s no longer some kind of abstract, general good-for-society kind of way. No, no, no. People you love are going to be affected by the decisions we take today.

(This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.)

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