Climate Change Changes Everything

I read with some interest last year when the blogging platform Medium announced that it was relaunching Matter, the long-form journalism publication it had acquired the previous year.

Matter was founded by Jim Giles (formerly of Nature, The Atlantic, The Economist, and New Scientist and former GigaOm European reporter Bobbie Johnson. As they noted on their about page during the relaunch

Matter is a publication about the worlds we live in now: the big, weird, changing world outside and the sometimes too small, often too noisy, occasionally still surprising world online. It was born as a Kickstarter-backed publication in 2012 and was acquired by Medium in 2013; it’s already been the home to a series of award-winning in-depth features. Now we’re relaunching as… something more.

Giles and Johnson stayed with the publication as senior editors, and Mark Lotto (formerly of GQ and the New York Times), joined the editorial team.

climate-change-melting-globe-615x345While I’ve been following Matter since it’s relaunch and enjoying much of what I’ve found there, this week I was excited to see a piece by Margaret Atwood titled, “It’s Not Climate Change, It’s Everything.” Here Atwood reflects on a 2009 piece she wrote for the German newspaper Die Zeit, and looks at how the conversations about our addiction to oil have and haven’t changed: 

It’s interesting to look back on what I wrote about oil in 2009, and to reflect on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years. Much of what most people took for granted back then is no longer universally accepted, including the idea that we could just go on and on the way we were living then, with no consequences. There was already some alarm back then, but those voicing it were seen as extreme. Now their concerns have moved to the center of the conversation.

Atwood’s essay is a must read, of course, and it’s accompanied by short climate fiction or cli-fi by Bruce Sterling, one of the founders of the cyberpunk movement in sci-fi fiction, and Paolo Bacigalupi whose novel The Water Knife I read earlier this summer.

I’m somewhat obsessed with climate change as you can see here, here, here, and here and elsewhere; I’m also increasingly interested in cli-fi. So I find these pieces in Matter, collected under the tag, climate futures, particularly relevant. To quote Atwood

The shift towards the warmer end of the thermometer that was once predicted to happen much later, when the generations now alive had had lots of fun and made lots of money and gobbled up lots of resources and burned lots of fossil fuels and then died, are happening much sooner than anticipated back then. In fact, they’re happening now.

Just a few years ago I thought I might not see any dramatic effects of climate change in my lifetime; now I hope people and politicians who reject the scientific evidence will do something soon so I don’t have to decide whether I want to try to survive the famine and drought and battle for shelter in my old age or throw in the (very hot) towel.

BTW, Bacigalupi will deliver the second annual Imagination and Climate Futures lecture on September 17th at Desert U; he’s slated to talk about The Water Knife and the future of the Colorado River.

In The Sixth Extinction, Elizabeth Kolbert personal narratives  and scientific analysis to trace our relatively new understanding of concept of extinction and our awakening to our role in it. I was intrigued to learn that extinction is a relatively new idea in the scientific community, and that well into the 18th century, scientists found it impossible to accept the idea that species had once lived on earth but had been subsequently lost; they simply could not envision a planetary force powerful enough to wipe out forms of life that were common in prior ages. It’s a disturbing and powerful read.

In the same way, many today find it impossible not only to imagine that we’re in the midst of a six extinction, but also that we’re responsible for destroying our planet’s ecology.  Atwood and the others whose work can be found here can well imagine it.

If others don’t join them soon, even those of us alive today will come to regret it.

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2 Responses to Climate Change Changes Everything

  1. Doc says:

    Thanks for all these references. Can’t believe Desert U is hip enough to bring Bacigalupi on board.

  2. Katherine H says:

    I’m surprised about Bacigalupi, too. They also had Atwood for this series, but I missed her. I have no idea why, and I am now kicking myself.

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