Notes & Quotes: The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green

The following are my favorite quotes from John Green's The Anthropocene Reviewed: Essays on a Human-Centered Planet.

  1. My brother, Hank, who started out his professional life as a biochemist, once explained it to me like this: As a person, he told me, your biggest problem is other people. You are vulnerable to people, and reliant upon them. But imagine instead that you are a twenty-first-century river, or desert, or polar bear. Your biggest problem is still people. You are still vulnerable to them, and reliant upon them.
  2. I reread the work of my friend and mentor Amy Krouse Rosenthal, who'd died a few months earlier. She'd once written, "For anyone trying to discern what to do with their life: Pay attention to what you pay attention to. That's pretty much all the info you need."
  3. I'm reminded of something my religion professor Donald Rogan told me once: "Never predict the end of the world. You're almost certain to be wrong, and if you're right, no one will be around to congratulate you."
  4. With a song like a dying balloon and a penchant for attacking humans, the Canada goose is hard to love. But then again, so are most of us.
  5. Like most other energy-intensive innovations, AC primarily benefits people in rich communities, while the consequences of climate change are borne disproportionately by people in impoverished communities.
  6. After the journalist Taylor Lorenz tweeted that office air-conditioning systems are sexist, a blog in the Atlantic wrote, "To think the temperature in a building is sexist is absurd." But it's not absurd. What's absurd is reducing workplace productivity by using precious fossil fuels to excessively cool an office building so that men wearing ornamental jackets will feel more comfortable.
  7. When you have the microphone, what you say matters, even when you're just kidding. It's so easy to take refuge in the "just" of just kidding. It's just a joke. We're just doing it for the memes. But the preposterous and absurd can still shape our understanding of ourselves and one another. And ridiculous cruelty is still cruel.
  8. We live in hope--that life will get better, and more importantly that it will go on, that love will survive even though we will not. And between now and then, we are here because we're here because we're here because we're here.
  9. Kurt Vonnegut wrote that one of the flaws in the human character "is that everybody wants to build and nobody wants to do maintenance."
  10. More land more water are devoted to the cultivation of lawn grass in the United States than to corn and wheat combined.
  11. As the legendary driver Mario Andretti put it, "if everything seems under control, you're just not going fast enough."
  12. Tradition is a way of being with people, not just the people you're observing the traditions with now, but also all those who've ever observed them.
  13. One of the strange things about adulthood is that you are your current self, but you are also all the selves you used to be, the ones you grew out of but can't ever quite get rid of.
  14. On the other side of monotony lies a flow state, a way of being that is just being, a present tense that actually feels present.
  15. When I was a kid, I thought being a parent meant knowing what to say and how to say it. But I have no idea what to say or how to say it. All I can do is shut up and listen. Otherwise, you miss all the good stuff.
  16. Cholera continues to spread and kill not because we lack the tools to understand or treat the disease as we did two hundred years ago, but because each day, as a human community, we decide not to prioritize the health of people living in poverty.
  17. Almost everything turns out to be interesting if you pay the right kind of attention to it.
  18. I've spent so much of my life wondering why I am here, feeling this ache behind my solar plexus that my life isn't for anything, that it doesn't mean anything, that the hurt hurts too much and the joy gives too little. But in the shade of the gingko tree, I'm able to feel, if only in moments, why I am here--that I am here to pay attention. I am here to love and to be loved, and to know and to not know.