In his elegiac memoir, “The World of Yesterday,” which he wrote while in exile from the Nazis, the Austrian writer Stefan Zweig observed that most people cannot comprehend the prospect of catastrophic changes in their situation. Things can get incrementally worse for a long time without prompting a reaction. Once catastrophe strikes, it is too late to act.

Dramatic changes are occurring in our times, too, and we must hope that it is not yet too late to address them. Unfortunately, sufficiently urgent, coordinated and decisive action will likely be difficult to mobilize when most of us — like the proverbial slowly boiling frog — perceive change to be incremental. So, it is worth asking what we might be facing if the worst happens.

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