Margaret Atwood Imagines the Future Post-Oil

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There are stories in the news all the time about climate change these days. the most recent one, in case you missed it, is how sea levels will likely rise more and faster than previously thought. If you are considering buying beachfront property you might want to rethink that.

But while these stories are shocking and worrisome, for the most part people go on their merry way because they don’t live on the coast or in drought burdened California or any other “threatened” place. Not in my backyard, not my problem. Except it is. If we think the migrant issues in the Mediterranean are bad now, it is only going to get worse. But worse still is so abstract it is hard to imagine. That’s where writers like Margaret Atwood can help.

In 2009 she wrote a piece on climate change for the German newspaper Die Zeit. Now, Atwood has updated the article and the online magazine Matter has reprinted it as It’s Not Climate Change it’s Everything Change. In the article Atwood imagines three possible scenarios, a utopian one, a worst-case one, and a somewhere in between one. They are nothing more than short sketches but it is very easy for the imagination to fill in the details of what if.

And while I would love to be able to go down the road of the utopian scenario, realistically, it is too late for that one to happen. So we are looking at the possibility of worst-case or something short of that. But if anyone thinks the not worst possible outcome scenario is not that bad, you’re wrong. And if you think that daily life as we know it will be pretty much the same in twenty or thirty years, you’re wrong about that too.

The essay isn’t a huge downer though, in typical Atwood fashion, she injects some dark humor into it:

The present governor of Florida, Rick Scott, is said to have issued a memo to all government of Florida employees forbidding them to use the terms “climate change” and “global warming,” because he doesn’t believe in them (though Scott has denied this to the press). I myself would like to disbelieve in gravitational forces, because then I could fly, and also in viruses, because then I would never get colds. Makes sense: you can’t see viruses or gravity, and seeing is believing, and when you’ve got your head stuck in the sand you can’t see a thing, right?

Oh, she is so good!

What Atwood’s essay drives home most, however, is that no matter what future scenario comes to pass, everything is going to change. It will be changing in our lifetime. It will happen whether we want it to or not.

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