In researching the climate crisis and our civilization’s inability to respond in any coherent, rational form, I’ve been struck by the way literature (both fiction and non-fiction) often provides insight into our demise.
One side activity here has been to collect quotations from literature, film and elsewhere that resonate for me on these issues. In no particular order I’ve listed some of my favourites below (a few of these featured in our book Climate Change, Capitalism and Corporations: Processes of Creative Self-Destruction). Look forward to receiving suggestions for others to include!
“Given this hard math, we need to view the fossil fuel industry in a new light. It has become a rogue industry, reckless like no other force on Earth. It is Public Enemy Number One to the survival of our planetary civilization.” McKibben, Bill (2012) “The Reckoning”, Rolling Stone, 1162, p.52.
“Anyone who believes exponential growth can go on forever in a finite planet is either a madman or an economist.” Attributed to Kenneth Boulding in US Government (1973) Energy Reorganization Act of 1973. Hearings, Ninety-Third Congress, First Session on H.R. 11510. Washington DC, US Govt Printing Office, p.248.
“I remember adapt,” says Toby. “It was another way of saying tough luck. To people you weren’t going to help out.” Atwood, Margaret (2013) MaddAddam, Bloomsbury Publishing, London, p.59
“We’re using up the Earth. It’s almost gone. You can’t live with such fears and keep on whistling. The waiting builds up in you like a tide. You start wanting it to be done with. You find yourself saying to the sky, Just do it. Do your worst. Get it over with.” Atwood, Margaret (2009) The Year of the Flood, Bloomsbury Publishing, London, p.285
“If flying-saucer creatures or angels or whatever were to come here in a hundred years, say, and find us gone like the dinosaurs, what might be a good message for humanity to leave for them, maybe carved in great big letters on a Grand Canyon wall? “Here is this old poop’s suggestion: WE PROBABLY COULD HAVE SAVED OURSELVES, BUT WERE TOO DAMNED LAZY TO TRY VERY HARD…” We might well add this: AND TOO DAMN CHEAP.” Vonnegut, Kurt (1991) Fates Worse Than Death, Berkley Books, New York, p.116
“As the effects of global warming become more and more apparent, will we react by finally fashioning a global response? Or will we retreat into ever narrower and more destructive forms of self‐interest? It may seem impossible to imagine that a technologically advanced society could choose, in essence, to destroy itself, but that is what we are now in the process of doing.” Kolbert, Elizabeth (2006) Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change, Bloomsbury, New York, pp.188-9.
“So anyone who says that we shouldn’t act on climate change because of uncertainty is really inviting you to ride towards a brick wall at 80 km/h because it might not hurt. Are you feeling lucky?” Stephan Lewandowsky (2010) ‘Long Term Certainty’, http://www.skepticalscience.com/Long-Term-Certainty.html
“Everyone deep in their hearts is waiting for the end of the world to come.” Haruki Murakami, 1Q84, p.185
“…it’s not even nature, just something we created out of a witches’ brew of fossil-fuel emissions and deforestation.” Boyle, T.C. (2000) A Friend of the Earth, Penguin, New York, p.103.