Two Apocalyptic Scenarios

Of the eight short essays on global warming from writers around the world collected in the fall quarterly Granta, probably the most thought-provoking, I’m proud to say, comes from novelist James Lasdun of the United States. He writes (in part):

We’re not so far north here in the Catskills, but our first winters here, ten twelve years ago, were on [a] dramatic scale. But in recent years, as if stricken by some sort of performance anxiety, this pugnacious season has started faltering. The snow fails, or it comes in as predicted only to be followed by balmy sunshine that melts all but a few north-facing blobs and rags of it in a day. Or the opposite happens: an out-of-control spasm of frigidity so extreme and sudden the stones crack on the town sidewalk and the birds get flash-frozen on the trees.

We blame this erratic behavior on global warming. Of the two apocalyptic scenarios currently gripping the American psyche, this is the one we choose to subscribe to. Its scientific terms reassure us, although our readiness to invoke it owes as much to blind faith as do the Rapture fantasies of the Christian fundamentalists. Our apocalypse may be more reputably accredited than theirs, but my guess is that the susceptibility to either vision has the same psychological basis: guilt. Precisely because there is still intact wilderness in this country, still visibly in the process of being annihilated, you cannot live here without an overwhelming sense of the destructive nature of your own species. You can explain it in terms of divine purpose or human folly, but you can’t pretend not to be part of it: you drive, you fly, you live in a heated building; one way or another you are implicated. We expect to pay a price. Depending on one’s temperament, this will articulate itself either in terms of the Book of Revelation or the science pages of The New York Times.


Published by Kit Stolz

I'm a freelance reporter and writer based in Ventura County.

4 thoughts on “Two Apocalyptic Scenarios

  1. Guilt doesn’t do anybody any good. Trying to get through life with a light imprint on the world around one is a new idea, but it will soon sweep the world. We’re in for some interesting changes.

    Thanks for all the cool quotes from Granta, by the way.


  2. Okay, I went out and bought it. The Margaret Atwood story is giving me nightmares. As did John Borneman’s account of living through the tsunami.

    I mean that in a good way.

    (Great blog, Kit. I’m really enjoying reading it.)


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