In the Long Run, We’re All Dead
In the thirty years we’ve been familiar with global warming — never mind the more than sixty years since it was first brought to public attention — a common lament has been about disproportionate effects, how wealthy nations would ride it out better than poorer ones, and how the wealthiest among us would ride it out best of all.
We’re starting to wonder about that.
We’re starting to wonder whether the advocates of “mitigation” — itself a loser’s strategy — have any fucking clue what they’re up against.
We’re wondering because Oregon somehow managed to pollute the Northeast last week.
We breathe that stuff, y’know. And it’s not just the dying gasps of majestic Ents forsaking their mortal coil — buildings went up in flames too, including all those good toxic materials inside them.
We asked a high-school friend from Eugene whether he could remember any local event having such a distant effect. Mount St. Helens, he responded after thinking about it. The volcano.
We don’t know you mitigate that.
Nor do we know how you escape that. The forever-wet Northwest might seem a welcome refuge from the worst of the climate’s changes — oh, but there was that extraordinary “heat dome” a few weeks back, baking the region in triple-digits. You don’t find much residential air-conditioning there, because really, who needs it? You also don’t find much infrastructure — roads, utilities — built to withstand that, either.
This keeps up, you’re also not gonna find much water. Northwest civilization survives at the whim of mountain snowpacks, collecting over the winters, draining into rivers during the rest of the year. It’s something you learn growing up there. It’s not something you can rely upon if the mountains warm up.
What about the American southwest? You know that story. Chinatown. Cadillac Desert. It was all built on a dream in the first place. And what the Colorado River can’t supply, the draining aquifers can’t make up, either.
Hey, did you know we grow a lot of our food with that? When’s the next Dust Bowl?
Oh, almost forgot! Out in the American West, we get a lot of our electricity from rivers, too. Whatcha gonna juice all those new air conditioners with, presuming the underprotected powerlines don’t melt?
And that’s a well-managed system. We’re not talking about Texas here.
But hey, who needs water power when we have nukes? Funny story: Guess how they’re cooled? Guess how much harder they are to cool as the weather gets hot?
Plus — this may come as a surprise — nukes don’t run themselves. Nothing does. The trained professionals you need to manage all our fancy industrial hardware, you can’t expect them to keep everything humming smoothly if they can’t eat, drink, or breathe.
Makes us wonder how we even got mitigation fantasies in the first place.
Well, besides the dishonesty of powerful interests who wanted to distract us. Look at what a hassle ozone was!
Best we can figure, it’s how the story first unfolded in the public imagination: Rising oceans. Humans are predominantly coastal critters, and so an easy way to illustrate the coming apocalypse was Manhattan and Miami underwater. And if vast forced migration was the problem — which it still is, one of them, anyway — then it was easy to imagine the well-off simply getting to higher ground first.
You just have to presume everything else remains the same.
There’s a wealth of presumption — a world of presumption — in the idea we can survive global warming (some of us, anyway!) through mitigation. It’s starting to remind us of those other nukes — the missile kind — and the Strangelovian fantasies of survivable nuclear war. That was a world where the living envied the dead. And we fear that’s the world we’re facing now.