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The Age of Eco Surrealism

The Age of Eco Surrealism
  • On June 19, 2008

The latest from Richard Neville’s Journal of a Futurist.

Richard Neville – Journal of a Futurist 19 June 2008

Out West of Sydney where the air is clear and at night you see a billion stars, a long neighbourly Sunday luncheon was underway. A dozen guests; the view over the pink cliffs to the city reveals its brown stripe of polluted air. Toddlers play with crayons, the fire crackles (oh no, carbon emissions!), there is a vase of pink tulips factory grown and imported from across the world. Relaxed and comfortable, and yet as the conversation turns to oil decline, then “peak everything” and then, too much wine for sure, the shadow of Armageddon.

The guests are well informed, the sort that listen to the Science Show and read the broadsheets. To them, having moved West, the range of eco perils hitting the headlines have not come as a surprise. There was a subliminal mood of …”Maybe it’s already too late”, as well as gung ho optimism. Chatter focused on the ways and means of working with the local community to adapt to the “times ahead”: edible gardens, solar greenhouses, long term food storage, public bicycles, co-housing … To my city friends, such talk sounds loopy.

In the din of all this brave green planning, a psychologist suddenly intervened: “You Australians are just playing around with the results of climate change”, she said, “you haven’t mentioned guns or fences…” As a child raised in war wrecked East Germany, she recalled how city dwellers thronged to her rural town and stole anything portable, including vegetables, petrol, oil and bags of coal. “I admire the spirit of this lunch, she snorted, “but you are babies”. She has a point. Creating the resilient, self-sufficient off-the-grid communities we would need to survive if the oil runs out, itself remains a fantasy. Let alone dealing with the rampaging hordes. “You’d have to go a lot further out West than here”, someone said, “if you really wanted to feel safe”. The mood darkened.

The esteemed and cuddly climatologist, Tim Flannery, says the Arctic ice melt is now so rapid that soaring sea levels are inevitable and the best option is to “pump sulphur into the stratosphere”. This would filter the sun’s rays, slow global warming and turn the sky yellow. He agrees the project is risky, but time is scarce. If the world’s toxic emissions ceased at midnight, there remains enough greenhouse gas in the sky to create havoc. As one blogger put it: “Either we’re fucked, or Tim Flannery has gone crazy-ape bonkers”.

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