Recently I came across this excellent short video of our likely climate future based on recent IPCC reviews. Produced by Globaia, this visualisation is quite effective in trying to comprehend the impact humanity is having upon the Earth’s climate and ecosystem at a global scale; popularised in the concept of the ‘Anthropocene‘.
In reviewing the current social debate around climate change, I’m often reminded of the similarities between our current climate crisis and popular culture references in books and film. There is a rich vein of dystopian literature and related movies that tap into this zeitgeist of environmental disaster, overpopulation and apocalypse (for a reflection on this see Kathryn Yusoff and Jennifer Gabrys’ article ‘Climate Change and the Imagination’).
So watching this representation of our globe morphing and changing before my eyes I was reminded of the scene from the 1996 film Star Trek First Contact, where the intrepid crew of The Enterprise view a future Earth geo-engineered by the alien cyborg race The Borg. The crew look on in horror as their sensors find the Borg have changed Earth’s atmosphere and raised its temperature to one which better suits their species’ development. A similar theme emerges in H. G. Wells War of the Worlds (and the 2005 film adaptation by Steven Spielberg), where the invading aliens start to adapt the Earth’s ecosystem as part of their colonization of the Earth.
What these fictional accounts tap into is a deeper theme of how our own species homo sapien has been engaged in a very similar activity; adapting and reshaping the atmosphere, biosphere and hydrosphere in ways that better suit our short-term social and economic development (a theme Bill McKibben explores in his book Eaarth). Unfortunately for us, in the process we have also begun to consume the very life-support systems we rely on for our existence. Much like the aliens in The War of the Worlds our technological hubris has neglected the unintended consequences of our own actions and we now face a pretty grim future. Indeed, in recent years geoengineering is seen by advocates as a technological ‘solution’ to the climate crisis (see this recent debate on the subject between Mike Hulme and David Keith). Paraphrasing The Borg – the question then becomes whether ‘resistance (to our catastrophic climate future) is futile’ or whether we have the ability to shift from our current fossil fuel addiction?