Have you noticed how the climate change discussion has changed?
I first heard the biologist and broadcaster David Suzuki talk about global warming at least 20 years ago. In his old testament prophet fashion he used to warn that we had ten years to alter our ways, or the trend was going to be irreversible. Of course more than ten years have passed and the agreements nations made to reduce the probability of radical climate change have seldom been honoured. A glaciologist friend, Garry Clarke, recently finished a report which demonstrates that most glaciers will be gone in a hundred years. Amazingly, deniers persist despite all the dramatic evidence to the contrary.
Depressing, eh? But wait. Lately I've been seeing more discourse on how best to live through the calamities sparked by global warming, the floods, the droughts, the heat waves. My nephew Jeremy Hays, for one, wrote about the importance of social capital in a Huffington Post article
The observations he makes about self-sufficiency and neighbours relying on neighbours may ultimately be more useful than the practical suggestions included in a somewhat tongue-in-cheek article in The Guardian.
Wondering how the imminent, potentially catastrophic scenarios are being reflected in literature, I scanned Wikipedia for apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction and found a huge list, organized by year, and featuring more films, TV shows and games as the numbers move towards then past the millennium. Among the novels listed are classics by some great writers, including those who were my favourites when I was reading sci-fi, i.e. Arthur C. Clarke, Robert Heinlein, John Wyndham. But also writers better known for realism, like Walker Percy and Margaret Atwood. Not all the literary apocalypses have been generated by eco disasters; some have been precipitated by war or technical failure. There has to be an entire sub-genre inspired by visions of a nuclear holocaust. I remember Jonathan Schell's "A Republic of Insects and Grass," though that is non-fiction. Now a new sub-genre, "cli-fi," as writers react to potentially bizarre worlds created by momentous transformations in the usual. The hope is that literature may be able to convince those skeptics whose eyes scientists have not been able to open.
The effects of nuclear war are immediate; global warming occurs more gradually, and people respond accordingly. At the opposite end of the spectrum from optimistic activists like my nephew, there are those who are not sure why their lives are different and wonder how they can cope. I read about a new kind of sadness, called "solastalgia," which describes people who feel homesick even when they are home because the place around them has changed so much. The researcher who coined the word was studying the effects of long-term drought on people in eastern Australia. The same term has been applied to Inuit in Canada's north.
That such studies exist, dismaying though their discoveries can be, suggests that we have accepted the inevitable and are now thinking of ways to adapt. Seems it's not too early to be making plans for an apocalypse that is well underway.