Meet a Man Who Thinks About Climate Disaster Nonstop

Peter Kalmus wonders if it's his personal hell
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 27, 2021 3:53 PM CST
What It's Like to Think About Climate Disaster Nonstop
   (Getty Images)

You're someone who is pretty good about keeping your recyclables from ending up in the garbage can. Peter Kalmus is in a very different league. And, perhaps, trapped in a "personal hell"—one in which "I have to spend my entire life desperately trying to convince everyone NOT TO DESTROY THE F---ING EARTH?" Or so he tweeted in October. In a lengthy piece for ProPublica, Elizabeth Weil delves into what it's like to truly believe that climate disaster is nigh. He's a scientist with an astrophysics PhD from Columbia who left that field and moved into earth science "because he just couldn't stop obsessing." So what does that obsessing look like? For one, Weil recounts how after the 2006 birth of his first child, there was a blessing for the baby in which friends vocalized their wishes for the child.

Kalmus voiced this hope: "that his son didn’t get shot at in climate-induced barbarity and that he did not starve." It also looks like organizing protests that aren't attended, putting an end to his own air travel ("It feels like the plane is flying on ground-up babies to me," he says of the emissions), cutting emissions further by growing vegetables, sourcing unsellable food from Trader Joe's, and transitioning to a composting toilet. His wife Sharon struggled at times, especially when it came to the 1985 biodiesel Mercedes that regularly broke down in the cold. As Weil puts it, Sharon "commiserated with a friend who was married to a priest. How do you have an equal marriage with a man who’s trying to save the world?" Then came a giant fight as Kalmus and his family had to evacuate their home due to California's Bobcat fire. (Read the full story for what happened next.)

Stories to sink your teeth into.
Get our roundup of longform stories every Saturday.
Sign up
We use cookies. By Clicking "OK" or any content on this site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. Read more in our privacy policy.
Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.