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Field Notes from a Catastrophe

Another book that reiterates The Long Emergency‘s telling of the abrupt Younger Dryas climate change. Elizabeth Kolbert writes that 12,800 years ago the warming from the last Ice Age suddenly chilled for another 1,200 years. Then in a decade the temperature rose by 10 degrees plus. When the system switches, it switches fast.

Just before all this sea levels had been rising by one foot per decade. Catastrophic it wasn’t at the time but it would be for our coastal communities if repeated now.

Here’s an interesting argument from later in the book: a director of the Carbon Mitigation Initiative equates the business of paying to reduce emissions with paying to abolishing slavery. The slavers back then stated that doing so would raise the price of cotton, and it did. Sounds familiar? My interpretation: doing anything will cost money and those who use that as a counter-argument have the same mindset as the anti-abolitionists.

Not part of Kolbert’s argument at all but something that occurs to me now: if civilisation is shattered by environmental catastrophe, what are the survivors likely to do with those who promoted it? Would they get the same treatment as war criminals? Or worse, given that their actions would have been the more disastrous? Something to temper the pro-industrial argument at the very least.

Anyway, I digress. A well written tome that will change nothing, such is our entrenched position. What we need is a book that sees past the dieback and delivers a blueprint for that.

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