It’s easy to forget that 2020 gave us not just the pandemic, but also the West Coast’s worst fire season, as well as the most active Atlantic hurricane season on record. And, while we were otherwise distracted, 2020 also offered up near-record lows in Arctic sea ice, possible evidence of significant methane release from Arctic permafrost and the Arctic Ocean, huge wildfires in both the Amazon and the Arctic, shattered heat records (2020 rivaled 2016 for the hottest year on record), bleached coral reefs, the collapse of the last fully intact ice shelf in the Canadian Arctic, and increasing odds that the global climate system has passed the point where feedback dynamics take over and the window of possibility for preventing catastrophe closes.
The next 20 years will be a period of deep uncertainty and tremendous risk, no matter what. We don’t get to choose what challenges we’ll face, but we do get to decide how we face them. The first thing we need to do is let go of the idea that life will ever be normal again — elsewhere, I’ve called this “learning how to die.” Beyond that, we need stop living through social media and start connecting with the people around us, since those are the people we’ll need to depend on the next time disaster strikes. And disaster will strike, you can be sure of that, so we must begin preparing today for the next shock to the social order, and the next, and the next.
None of this will matter, though, if our preparations don’t include imagining a new way of life beyond this one, after the end of fossil-fueled capitalism: not a new normal, but a new ethos adapted to the chaotic world we’ve created.
The full column is below. It is worth reading.
Climate change is upending the world as we know it, and coping with it demands widespread, radical action.