These days, I see how optimistic and positive disaster and apocalypse movies were. Remember how, when those giant asteroids or alien space ships headed directly for Earth, everyone rallied and acted as one while our leaders led? We’re in a movie like that now, except that there’s not a lot of rallying or much leading above the grassroots level.
The movie is called "Climate Change," and you can tell its plot in a number of ways. In one, the alien monsters taking over the planet are called corporations, while the leaders who should be protecting us from their depredations are already subjugated and doing their bidding. Think of Chevron, Exxon, Shell, and the coal companies as gigantic entities that don’t need clean water, or food, and don’t care much if you do (as you can see from the filthy wreckage in their extraction zones and their spin against the science of our survival).
My recent research into conventional disasters suggests that climate change, despite its unconventional scale, is unfolding in ways familiar from the aftermaths of numerous hurricanes and earthquakes: the ruling elites too often "lead" by creating a second wave of destruction, while the rest of us pick up the pieces and do our best to do what’s necessary. This is a movie whose crisis is upon us and whose resolution is out of sight, but if we are to be saved, I’ll put my money on the small characters mitigating the crisis and getting us through the rough times to come.
The Day the Earth Got Stood Up
Last December, the Copenhagen Climate Summit gave the heads of state supposedly negotiating a future climate-change treaty a clear-cut choice between short-term profits for the few and the long-term survival of practically everyone and everything. As I’m sure you’ll recall, they chose the former. You, the summer ice of the Arctic, about half the species on Earth, the shorelines of quite a few places, the glaciers of Glacier National Park, the birds in the trees, the marmots on the mountains, and the long-term future of just about everything were sold out for the sake of the market status quo, not by all the world’s nations, but by the most powerful among them.
Not all of the elected leaders failed us. President Evo Morales of Bolivia called a people’s summit on climate change which is going on right now, and the most threatened countries did a heroic job of facing up to the world’s most powerful ones — tiny Tuvalu, soon to go beneath the waves, told off China, for example. Thanks to their stand and so their insubordination, Bolivia and Ecuador both lost their shot at State Department funding meant for poor countries which need to prepare for future climate-change disasters.
Bill McKibben offers another compelling plot for this horror movie in his new book, Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet. Its premise is not that something terrible came to Earth — after all we were the ones, over the last 200 years, who sent all those billions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere — but that we ourselves have landed on a strange, dangerous, unfamiliar new planet he calls Eaarth. Think Forbidden Planet without Robby the Robot; think The Tempest with neither Ariel nor Prospero.