The recent long-read article by David Wallace-Wells in New York Magazine has sent the eco-webs into a tizzy. “The Uninhabitable Earth” is a cheery look at “Famine, economic collapse, a sun that cooks us: What climate change could wreak — sooner than you think.” Cheery, that is, if you are an atrophy fan with a penchant for apocalyptic and dystopian fiction and a bunker beneath your house. In short, this is the worst-case scenario, written to scare the reader. Instead of gnashing our teeth and wailing about the future climate, we here at the Low Technology Institute are putting our shoulder to the wheel to develop human-scale solutions for a post-fossil-fuel world, and we’d like you to join us.
If you haven’t read the piece, you can essentially watch the following clip from HBO’s Newsroom to get the same idea:
Wallace-Wells identifies seven areas of danger: heat death, end of food, climate plagues, unbreathable air, perpetual war, permanent economic collapse, and poisoned oceans. While what he says is backed up by climate science, it is a catch all of worst-case scenarios. Unfortunately for many, though, enough of these things will come to pass, especially if we continue chugging along on the same track. Some of us, though, have decided to get off at the next station.
He states that “no plausible program of emissions reductions alone can prevent climate disaster.” This depends, however, on what we expect our lives to look like in the future. If one expects a continuation of today’s trends in consumption and a relatively benign environment, s/he will be disappointed and indeed the “diminished” future with a drastically altered environment will be a disaster. If one takes history in the longue durée, however, it is clear that adaptable, local solutions survive when global-scale economic and social networks falter. Embracing that change and taking proactive steps now is one way to mitigate both the physical effects of a changing climate and the psychological dread of the future.
The reaction to this has been “overheated” (sorry, couldn’t resist). Many articles call attention to varying interpretations of the extent of future climate damage (not that climate change is happening, human-caused, and dangerous, just its magnitude). Others argue that scaring people is counterproductive (see articles linked at the bottom of the post).
Join Us and Do Something Proactive
Wallace-Wells even exhorts the experts: “No matter how well-informed you are, you are surely not alarmed enough.” I’ve been through my own dark place surrounding this topic. I wrote a book about the collapse of large, complex societies through time. Out of this realization came the kernel of the idea for the Low Technology Institute. We’re looking forward with a realistic idea of localized subsistence practices that are achievable in most of the dire climate scenarios.
The institute researches human-scale, DIY solutions for subsistence in a fossil-fuel-free future. From growing and preserving food to creating a comfortable living environment, all of our findings and data are free and open to the public. We host educational events and workshops to raise awareness and share skills necessary for community self-sufficiency. As our activities are not designed to generate revenue and we operate on a nonprofit basis as a registered 501(c)(3) organization, we depend on grants and membership revenue to keep our doors open and the hamsters running in the wheels. If Wallace-Wells’s article knotted your stomach, come check out an upcoming workshop, read our blog posts, subscribe to the podcast, and become a member of the Low Technology Institute. Membership carries tangible benefits, outlined here, but also a little peace of mind that you are supporting an organization working right now on solutions for what comes next.
Stop scaring people about climate change. It doesn’t work – Grist
No, New York Mag: Climate change won’t make the Earth uninhabitable by 2100 – Mashable
How New York Mag’s Climate Disaster Porn Gets it Painfully Wrong – Medium
What you can do if that scary New York mag climate article drove you to act – Grist
Are We as Doomed as That New York Magazine Article Says? – Atlantic
Scientists challenge magazine story about ‘uninhabitable Earth’ – Washington Post
Alarmism Is the Argument We Need to Fight Climate Change – Slate
We aren’t doomed by climate change. Right now we are choosing to be doomed – Think Progress
The Power and Peril of “Climate Disaster Porn” – New Republic