Friday, May 09, 2008

The Long Emergency

In my work, I literally wade through dystopia. For four years, a lot of my intellectual activity has taken place against, and in response to, the apocalyptic backdrop of green political theory.
I remember talking to my sister about this, about what it makes to one’s own person to constantly think about long-term issues such as climate change.

In a way it makes you immune, it widens the gulf between your everyday life and the problems you are working with. Just take this moment. The rain is flushing down the windows, the trees are all green outside and I let time pass as I take in the herbal notes of my Sumatra coffee. It becomes impossible to think that all this is under siege, that there is a pressing urgency if we are to ride through the environmental mayhem and end this century as one common human civilization which acknowledges our fundamental equality.

The odds are definitely stacked the other way, suggesting that James Howard Kunstler is right in saying that there will be a "long emergency" in which oil production peaks, climate change makes farming impossible in many parts of the world, causing massive immigration waves and global economic instability.

Yet, just as these green authors think that their pessimism will work provocatively and inspire environmentally sound action, so do I think that positive visions of the century ahead can inspire political change. As sentient beings, we have come a far way from our savage past, and I am, despite all evidence, optimistic that we will be able to rise above the muck and remain idealists even in the darkest of times.



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