ICP #162 | On climate dystopia

On Tuesday, Melbourne’s air quality is the worst in the world. I’m only out in it for a few minutes before I get a headache. Imagine if you had asthma. Imagine if you had children.

Lots of people wear masks now. I haven’t bought one, but I’ve saved the Air Quality Index in my bookmarks so I can check it before going outside. Though you can’t always avoid going outside.

On Wednesday, there is flash flooding in Victoria. The rains come in New South Wales too, though it’s not the respite you might hope. Water washes the ash into the river, killing hundreds of thousands of fish.

On Thursday, I listen to a podcast about the fires while I make coffee and slice strawberries to put on my cereal. I don’t really know why this morning is worse than other mornings, but I can’t stop crying as I listen.

The fires have covered eight times the land of the California fires now, though comparisons feel hollow. Thousands of homes are burned. A billion animals are dead.

A billion. It’s too big to comprehend.

The damage is irreversible. Species are gone. Ecosystems, too. There’s no coming back from this.

And still, the government says they will focus on adaptation, not on reducing carbon emissions. Still, climate change stays out of the political conversation.

Everyone is describing the fires as unprecedented. But unprecedented does not mean unforeseen.

Imagine if you had children.

It feels both frivolous and vital to be making art at a time like this.

My friend and I are writing a play that’s set in the future and is about politics. It feels especially ironic.

It’s not too far in the future, just thirty years. But we need to imagine – we need to describe, to bring to life – what the world will be like then. So we’re torn between hope and dystopia.

Is it our duty to inspire, to galvanise, even to comfort? Can we tell people that change is possible, that better is coming, if we’re not sure we believe it?

Or do we have a responsibility to be realistic, to present a likely outcome? And is it still dystopic, if it’s the truth?



A version of this post was sent by email on the 19th January 2020 as part of Internet Care Package – a weekly memoir project in the form of a newsletter. It also includes links to the best things I’ve found on the internet each week and occasional updates on my theatremaking. This blog is a select archive of those emails. Subscribe to get them right in your inbox.

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