Two of my brothers took their own lives; the third perished at a young age in repetition of our mother's early death of cancer. I might not call their cancers virtual suicide--but it certainly wasn't life-affirming. Not surprisingly, I myself have struggled periodically with thoughts of doing myself in. The most recent of these episodes occurred a few years ago when I was struck with what seemed an irremediable health problem. At the time, life seemed an endless chain of listless days of languor.

These days I write about climate change and the dire prospects for the immediate future in the American West and Southwest, but now I am more determined than ever to keep myself alive as a support system for others. 

"I read your column with amazement," writes a reader and personal acquaintance from Cheyenne on my most recent piece. "I'd love to learn more . . . " This column consisted of a personal essay meant to provide variety on the unbearable theme of humanity's harsh days ahead. Unfortunately, the editor composed a dorky title. It was a reminiscence brought about by an unexpected lovely dream. 

Soon I'll compose a column that discusses observations by Richard Dawkins, the well-known British evolutionary biologist. In The Ancestor's Tale he writes that humanity is "little more than the fancy froth on the surface of bacterial life." Bacteria existed long before the arrival of plants and animals and they will continue long after we are gone. When humanity has managed to destroy the resources that allow big animals like us to survive, which may be sooner than we want to admit, life will continue at the microbial level. A coldly comforting thought.