For class we read Oreskes’ & Conway’s The Collapse of Western Civilization: a view from the Future, a science fiction book that examines our current climate crisis from the future, when the social, economic, and environmental consequences have been realized and the human race has somewhat recovered thanks to the overgrowth of a CO2-consuming fungus. I really enjoyed the mode of address and found the story to be haunting and compelling. For my Video for New Media final, I also employed this vision-from-the-future set once the world had been destroyed as a result of climate change, so it was really interesting to see this similar, but much more detailed and scientifically accurate piece. My focus was also a bit different.
That faith in Baconianism and statistics resulted in a failure to act was disturbing because of my own faith in science and reason–I’m not sure I’m willing to concede this is what is to blame. That knowledge isn’t translated into power, and the evidence of a good idea does not translate into policy, does seem particularly salient in this political climate, although I think it has always been more true than not. What I see is an incredibly resistant and entrenched capitalist elite with a disregard for life or convenient disbelief for the consequences of their pursuit of wealth (what will they use their wealth for when the habitability of the planet is destroyed?). The current state of information wars seems almost as important and many times more baffling to me. How do we change the current social/economic structure, which requires the movement of massive amount of capital and (presumably through) pressure on those who hold it, when debate is manipulated?
We also read Kolbert’s Enter the Anthropocene, which examines the geological changes that characterize the Anthropocene, the history of the term, and when might be a valid time to apply it. It was a fascinating examination of the record we know we will leave behind. Because my first topic is “Limits to Growth,” it was thought-provoking to see human population growth characterized as “bacterial.” The potential power in redefining this era is perfectly captured by Crutzen, who hopes the term he coined, Anthropocene, “will be a warning to the world.” It also may be true that this sort of change is significant to scientists but perhaps unnoticed by others, reflects the isolated expertise that The Collapse of Western Civilization presented as a core problem.