Future Truth Stranger than Science Fiction
Check out this three-part series of Climate Wars narrated by the venerable Gwynne Dyer on CBC Radio : http://www.cbc.ca/ideas/features/climate-wars/index.html (hat tip to Kirsten W) (WARNING: Requires 3 x 50 minutes of semi-attentive listening, so plan/multitask as necessary.)
THE BIG PICTURE
Dyer examines the geopolitics of climate change, and looks at some of the remedies being proposed for global warming, changes to our energy supply system, and emerging ideas of geoengineering. Some of the most compelling bits are where he paints an image of political and social conflicts in the near future, based scenarios that the U.S. military and various government think tanks have been considering, in terms of potential effects of climate change.
These scenarios compare nicely with David Brin’s prescient science fiction novel, Earth. In addition to the kudos Brin got for predicting the WWW, flash mobs and the like (and Brin humbly dismissed those as ideas that were “latent — almost obvious” when he started writing the book in 1987), it seems like Earth will be proven all the more predictive if the not-too-distant-scary-future scenarios featured in Climate Wars start coming true.
The big, easy prediction in Earth relates to the massive displacements of people (“climate refugees“) all around the world… including within United States, and especially, the Big Easy. Gwynne Dyer describes a future where anyone immediately to one’s south becomes a potential source of mass migration and/or conflict — Central Americans to Mexicans, Mexicans to Americans, Americans to Canadians, Algerians to Spanish, Spanish to French, Southern French to Northern French, Chinese to Siberian Russians, etc. etc., not to mention the whole coastline-cities and river-fed-communities problem (which could flood or dry up, respectively).
Another element of the Earth story that is mentioned in Climate Wars is around the problem of cheap, ubiquitous, powerful technology. Anyone, including a destabilized government or individual, can quickly do a lot of environmental damage… especially if they are trying to “fix” part of some other environment problem.
These are all large scale future scenarios that are hard to appreciate as potential realities. More than anything else, they seem like scenes from a large budget Hollywood movie.
Even when real natural disasters do occur, they get so well-reported on by the media that they feel like a kind of fiction (cf. http://xkcd.com/611/ …hey i just learned about caltrops) . So, unless one is impacted directly, it’s hard to internalize the possibilities presented by all these climate change scenarios.
BRINGING IT DOWN TO A MORE INTIMATE SCALE
One prediction/scenario handled nicely by Brin, but not within the scope of Climate Wars, is the life of a young generation living among an aging population, and the inter-generational relationships between them. You’ve got us — the spoiled brats of peak oil civilization — and then you’ve got our kids/grandkids — the people who will have to clean up after our party.
On this scale, I think it’s definitely possible to grasp the changes happening within our world. What changes do you see happening, in terms of people’s values orientations, their work ethic, their sense of entitlement, and so on? Is there a difference between you and your parents? Is there a difference between you and your kids / their kids?
I’m not a fan of giving labels to generations — many of the Gen X / Gen Y stereotypes are just plain false, self-obsessed Baby Boomer propaganda (oops, there I go giving a label) — and the reality of generational differences is of course very much a family-by-family, person-by-person situation. Still, macro trends in the economy and environment will create some overall patterns of difference between generations (though not the ones that you often hear about).
It’s through these differences that we can get a better sense of those macro forces and the changes that we will need to make — within ourselves and within the education of our children — to better survive, thrive and contribute in the future.
Two more links:
Post Carbon Cities — Planning resources for creating more self-sufficient communities
Permaculture— If the municipal scale is too big for you, bring it down to the level of your own backyard. Bonus: These olde time skills are portable and transferable. When the world grain export market evaporates, everyone will wish they had an Amish neighbor…why shouldn’t that be you?