This blog will deal with climate change, societal collapse, and writing – as in “creative” writing. If you believe what the scientists say – and don’t repress your knowledge of what they say (a big if) – then you must entertain the likelihood that the world is going to be a very different place in a very short time from now: so different, in fact, that it may change the way we view both the future and the past.
If you don’t believe it, I don’t have a lot to offer you: your reality is not my reality (tho do consider looking at the resources at the end of this post). Most people believe it but don’t want to. So, in between the blog entries, I’ll offer a little digest of recent weather and climate news around the globe called "Poem of Our Climate." It may or may not be a real poem, but it's the poem we have coming to us.
The title “Writing Out of Time” means a number of things. Like everyone, I am writing from within time, within history. This is my medium and my milieu. If I think someone will read it, that person will do so in the future – after, that is, I have written it. So it is, in a sense, a message in a bottle to the future. “Writing Out of Time” may also suggest that I am trying to free myself from that medium/milieu, via writing – that I am actively trying to awaken from the nightmare of history, to paraphrase Stephen Dedalus. That is the fantasy, I suppose – not unrelated to the fantasy of having a reader, which is a fantasy of the future.
It also suggests “running out of time,” which we are. Have you noticed how we always have “ten years to save the earth”? I remember hearing Helen Caldicott say that in 1993. They upped it to 12 years in the recent IPCC report. Even invoking Xeno’s paradox, I don’t think I can parse that mathematically. Indeed, according to that report and a lot of others, this particular genie is out of the bottle. The globe is warming and will continue to do so, even if we all start living like the Amish tomorrow (without as many kids). The only question is what will happen when.
There is something about writing for art’s sake at the present moment that feels a little like fiddling while Rome burns. It will not prolong our lives or confront the catastrophe we face. Perhaps it will serve other functions (more on this later). But I'm not convinced it's what an emergency requires. When George Oppen returned to the US from Paris in the Great Depression, he did not write poems about destitution, as did many so-called “Proletarian” poets; he became a labor organizer, and only much later returned to poetry.
Perhaps writing can help us understand our situation – not just scientifically (there are plenty of people doing that) – but ethically, even ontologically. Even if you don’t foresee the breakdown of civil society within the next decade or two, things are trending in that direction, and there is little evidence that they will change. Whether you’re writing escapist movie scripts or dystopian fiction, one has to assume the worst.
But really, you don’t. We don't. The human brain is very adept at pushing unbearable thoughts to a liminal space beyond the reach of the conscious mind; and human society is very adept at quashing any talk of such things. Relax. Everything is under control. Go along and get along.
Unless you can't.
Something like that is the theme of this blog.
If you want to get a sense of how climate change will impact the earth, the IPCC report is a good place to start. If you are in the United States, see the government's Annual Climate Assessment, and look at the section for your region. Also, here's a summary of the World Bank's recent report on climate change and migration - definitely gets one's attention.
If you're more of a book person, Dahr Jamail's The End of Ice is very approachable. He starts from his experience as a mountaineer and goes on to recount numerous conversations with people around the globe - including those pesky climate scientists - to slowly assemble the case that we're in seriously deep caca. Or you could turn to David Wallace-Wells' The Uninhabitable Earth, if you prefer buttloads of depressing and scary statistics. Part 1 claims that geoengineering and carbon sequestration might save us; but Part 2 pretty much discredits that as a viable option. Do I detect the fine hand of an agent or publicist at work?
I'm a writer & teacher in Lawrence, Kansas who actually believes the scientists. I wrote a book of poems called Of Some Sky that seems to have something to do with all this.