We are the only species capable of modifying our climate. Just let that sink in. We’re messing with the entire planet. We’re tampering with one of the fundamental natural aspects of the earth as if it were nothing. I mean, we’re all going to die, right? Climate change doesn’t seem like such a bad way to go: the rise in temperature will make some strange infectious virus kill us all, the economy will collapse and we’ll run out of food and water, the political tensions will become unbearable, some suicidal terrorist group will act up, and we’ll basically die in an environment incompatible with human life.
But we might have a chance.
Although there is no terminal horizon to our climate crisis now, we do have time to enjoy some good dystopian entertainment. In such books and movies, we’re pitted against monsters, aliens, natural disasters, giant robots, genetically modified dinosaurs… and somehow manage to survive. Our fears are manifested in creatures, monsters, or situations that imply that we’re tampering with nature at a greater, more abstract scale. And as always, our entertainment manages to mirror the time and culture we’re immersed in with precision and critique. Climate change is terrifying and makes me think that we’re a time-bound species on Earth. We can live under certain conditions that by chance emerged on Earth and just as they emerged, they can disappear. We’re making all of these changes happen and affect our environment and just don’t think about how fragile we are. What’s also more surprising about the scale of our impact is that long after we die, the effects of our actions here will leave geological scars on earth.
Even though part of dealing with extreme weather events is denial, paralysis and overall losing faith, instead of intimidating us and describing what dangers we’ll face, it should inspire us to change (or move to change). Just as the protagonists of our favorite movies accept their fears and overcome them, so can we. Thinking about climate change and even naming it “climate change” already reflects not only a change in the weather, but also a change in the way we think about change. We’re already realizing that this is a multidisciplinary issue that is challenging all of our faculties and everything we thought we knew about the world. We’re becoming more careful about overstepping nature’s boundaries and our involvement with it, and becoming more sensitive about overstepping human boundaries as well.
We need to save us from ourselves. There’s not much we can do about a climatic event, but we can do something about the way we react to it. Although we can’t adopt an idealistic and naïve perspective about saving the world, we shouldn’t fall to the cynical opposite either. If not, what hope for humanity is there?