Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Classic Climate Change Fiction
You realize that all this stuff about “save the earth” and “stop destroying the planet” is a bunch of bunk, right? We can pollute the air all we want and it won’t hurt the planet one bit. It would hurt US, of course. The human tragedy could be nearly beyond imagining. But the planet will be just fine.
I said “nearly beyond imagining,” because it has been imagined. Check out this news story about the Revelation-style WOE that is going to fall on us if we screw up the global climate. Temperatures rise, millions migrate, world war erupts, warns Lord Nicholas Stern, a British environmental bigwig. I wonder what Stern was reading back in 1962. Perhaps it was The Long Winter by John Christopher.
There are only a few authors that scare me. I’m frightened of them because they’ve proven that they can rattle me and leave me disturbed for life. (Neil Gaiman - see “Sandman: 24 Hours.” Mervyn Peake - see the original “Captain Slaughterboard.” And John Christopher -- see “The Long Winter” among others.)
Christopher was thinking of a temperature drop, not a rise. But the effects are the same. This civilization we’ve built will crumble into chaos if out thermostat gets out of whack.
There’s also an interesting racial overtone in “The Long Winter.” Basically, he asks what if all the white people had to flee Europe and the U.S. for the tropics. How would they be treated when they showed up as huddled masses desperate for food and shelter.
Imagine, if the climate changed and made Mexico the land of plenty and America unlivable -- would you want to be treated the way that illegal Mexican immigrants are currently treated in the U.S.?
I told you it wasn’t going to be pleasant. If you've got the nerve for this book expect a raw look at race -- but from a different angle than we're used to. (You may also encounter some ethnic terms which are long out of use.)
This book has a place next to 1984 and Brave New World. Perhaps it should even replace them. It shows that our civilization is not an omnipotent Big Brother, but a house of cards that cannot stand a global shock, such as a relatively minor temperature fluctuation.