A few years in the past, the writer and educational Douglas Rushkoff bought invited to a swanky non-public resort to speak to a bunch of obscenely wealthy hedge fund guys about the way forward for know-how. He thought they have been going to ask him how know-how was going to enhance the world, however they have been much more fascinated with discussing the “Occasion”, their cutesy time period for the collapse of civilisation. “How do I keep authority over my safety drive after the Occasion?” one CEO, who had simply completed constructing an underground bunker system, reportedly requested. The remainder of the dialog, detailed by Rushkoff in a Guardian characteristic, continued in that vein.
That Rushkoff piece was printed in 2018, however I’ve discovered myself serious about it quite a bit over the previous few days. Why? As a result of the Occasion is beginning to really feel imminent. If that sounds alarmist, simply check out the climate. Extreme storms have triggered in depth flooding in Detroit. Canada simply set its highest temperature on document: a village in British Columbia reached 46.1C (115F) on Sunday. The US’s Pacific north-west additionally broke warmth data over the weekend, with Portland, Oregon, reaching 44.4C (112F). Seattle, which isn’t precisely identified for its sunshine, simply had triple-digit temperatures for 3 days straight, breaking one other document. The US Nationwide Climate Service in Washington has known as the present heatwave “historic, harmful, extended and unprecedented”.
I’m unsure that there’s any phrase that has been extra egregiously overused just lately than “unprecedented”. Each day appears to deliver “unprecedented” floods, warmth or wildfires. Certainly it’s time to cease pretending “precedent” means something any extra – because the Oregon Local weather Workplace tweeted in response to the Portland heatwave: “The previous is now not a dependable information for the long run.” Excessive climate is now not distinctive; it has turn into the norm. The local weather disaster just isn’t across the nook, it’s right here. And issues are solely going to worsen.
In fact, you don’t want me or the Oregon Local weather Workplace to let you know all this. That’s what’s most irritating concerning the local weather disaster: none of what’s occurring needs to be a shock to anyone. The local weather disaster just isn’t some huge secret – it hasn’t been for a very long time. You know the way severe it’s; I understand how severe it’s; the 1% who’re constructing bunkers and fretting about the way to management their non-public militias after environmental collapse understand how severe it’s; the billionaires who’re spending their fortunes on getting the hell off Earth and going to house understand how severe it’s. As for the oil firms who’ve helped exacerbate the disaster? They’ve identified how severe it’s for many years. Except just a few decided deniers, politicians are additionally clear that they understand how necessary the local weather disaster is. Joe Biden has known as it an “existential risk” to humanity. And Boris Johnson, the world’s most un-serious man, has urged the world to “get severe” about stopping a local weather disaster.
However lofty rhetoric isn’t sufficient, is it? We want motion: and there’s not almost sufficient of that. In March, Biden promised a $2tn infrastructure plan that may permit “transformational progress in our skill to deal with local weather change”. Since then, nevertheless, he appears to have prioritised compromising with Republicans greater than driving by means of transformational progress and simply got here out with a watered-down bipartisan infrastructure invoice that goes nowhere close to far sufficient with regards to addressing local weather issues. I’ve tried to be optimistic about Biden, however it’s beginning to look as if he’s not going to be the transformative determine so many individuals hoped he’d be. We will’t battle excessive climate with sizzling air, however that’s all politicians appear prepared to provide us.
Arwa Mahdawi is a Guardian columnist