If You’re Counting on Climate Migration to Save You, Think Again
I am a refugee.
I don’t look like one. I’m not crowded into a cramped camp in a no man’s land sandwiched between border checkpoints.
I have means, so it looks like I merely moved; but make no mistake — I moved with the thought of improving my odds of survival over the next two, five, maybe ten years.
As soon as I did it, I realized the utter futility of my strategy. Its inadequacy is betrayed by the extremes that surround me. I’m safe for now, but if I go a short distance in any direction from my new spot, I will encounter the spiraling unpredictability that is the only thing we can count on in coming years.
Within one day’s drive, I can find record-breaking floods that are disrupting supply chains. It’s such a sterile term, “supply chain,” but what we’re really talking about is food: food for humans, food for animals…that produce food for humans. There’s talk of starving livestock, which should be producing more alarm than it is. When cattle start dying in the fields, will the drumbeat of concern finally start ringing in our ears?
Within another one day’s drive, I can find exceptional drought and the scars of record-breaking wildfires. That most certainly didn’t rouse us out of our somnambulant response to climate chaos. Last time I checked, people are still moving to Phoenix. The Colorado is gasping its last, and yet people are moving to a place wholly dependent on the diversion of water from the sputtering spigot of the Hoover.
My movement seems to make more sense, but it’s just luck that makes it safer for now. The jet stream wriggles a few degrees this way or that, and I’ll either be drowning or drying. The extremes are the new normal, and to pretend you can find immunity through individual action is pure folly.
I don’t belabor the point to say things are hopeless. They’re not. We’re a smart species. We can wake up tomorrow and start putting things to right, but not if we continue to believe we can each save ourselves, as we’ve been conditioned to believe. We are not Billy Zane dressing in women’s clothing to steal a spot in a life boat. We are all on the bridge; we are all captains of this boat, and we need to slow it down so we can steer around the iceberg (before it melts anyway).
On this particular ship, there is not just a shortage of lifeboats — there are no lifeboats, just one big ship to sail. We have to realize that the only path out of this is cooperation. We will only save ourselves by saving all of our selves. All the things we’re good at, like shopping, will leave us laughably short of the finish line. Buying better air conditioning won’t be enough when power grids fail. Moving towards the poles won’t do much when the stable weather we think we’re moving to is replaced with increasingly unpredictable extremes.
The correct strategy is simple. We just don’t want to hear it. We are too afraid…of what exactly? Afraid to give up the creature comforts to which we’ve become accustomed, even if many of them are unnecessary and counter-productive to a happy life? Well, I am not afraid to outline the strategy, which is this:
- Block the sun. It seems inevitable at this point that we’ll have to reduce solar radiation. This is not a solution in and of itself — you’re attacking the symptom and not the disease. This might buy us more time, but that is all. (Also, is this anything more than wishful thinking? I know everyone’s talking about it, but people also talk about nuclear fusion, which isn’t anywhere close to fruition. I’ve started to wonder if this is yet another way we’re deceiving ourselves into not panicking, when we should act on the panic. The panic is justified.)
- Use less stuff. This starts with using less space. It continues with driving fewer miles. It ends with fewer hobbies, less FOMO, and therefore less food and fewer toxic gadgets.
- Create more time. Part of what necessitates all the waste is the fact that we’re all running around like mad, due to feelings of inadequacy and due to economic pressures. Instead of the drudgery of pretending to be a world famous model on the socials, let’s leave time for reusing packaging to do things like bring food home from the store. By not budgeting time for basic tasks we like to pretend don’t matter, we create the time pressure that justifies modern time-saving devices and disposable packaging.
It’s time to stop pretending.
As a final parting shot, imagine the real refugees — the folks desperate to cross into the US to escape floods in Central America. They might cross the border into the American Southwest, only to find themselves in a place with no water.