The Washington Post

Friday rant: Live spelled backwards edition

I don’t like the word ‘evil’ much. People use it a lot, but it’s slippery in definition. I’ve asked people who have used it to define the categorical difference between ‘evil’ and ‘bad in the extreme.’ Different answers arrive. I guess the best of them is “bad in the extreme committed with an unusual attitude of deliberateness or deliberate indifference.’ But that just pushes the problem over to the word ‘unusual.’

But I’m going to try the word ‘evil’ out anyway today. It is used, not so much as a philosophical construction anyway, it is used to get people to focus. Climate change is an area on which we, collectively, have determined not to focus. With the recent news about the destroyed temperature record in the US in 2012, it seems like this might be the time. The word ‘foolish’ is no longer sufficient. You can debate and debate weather stats all day long, and many of you love to. But this is, and always has been an argument about probabilities. The evidence keeps pushing the probability of lethal climate change higher. And higher. And higher. And still, our response: nothing. As though the probability was zero.

It’s also clear by now what that change entails. Wildfires. Massive storms. Floods. Drought and its implications. In short, people dying. Some likely have already, many more likely to come. The stupid, stupid jokes about enjoying extra balminess make sense only if you take the word balmy to mean crazy. But today I’m taking it to mean evil. It’s one thing to let yourself be gulled by others who keep trying to confuse the issue, the same way people used to try to confuse the tobacco/cancer issue. Maybe that makes you innocent and maybe it doesn’t. But there are people who know full well the probabilities involved in this subject and choose, out of deliberateness or deliberate indifference, to ignore or even actively work against the prudent steps that the probabilities now dictate. And deaths, many, many unnecessary deaths are going to be the probable result. That’s evil.

Tom Toles is the editorial cartoonist for The Post and writes the Tom Toles blog. See all of his cartoons here.


Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments
Most Read


Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Your Three. Videos curated for you.
Play Videos
Don’t be ‘that’ sports parent | On Parenting
Miss Manners: The technology's changed, but the rules are the same
A flood of refugees from Syria but only a trickle to America
Play Videos
John Lewis, 'Marv the Barb' and the politics of barber shops
Kids share best advice from mom
Using Fitbit to help kids lose weight
Play Videos
This man's job is binge-watching for Netflix
Transgender swimmer now on Harvard men's team
Portland's most important meal of the day
Play Videos
5 ways to raise girls to be leaders
How much can one woman eat?
The signature drink of New Orleans