books climate change

Haunted by climate change

Two books I’ve read over the past few weeks draw on the same metaphors for climate change. Both The Great Derangement, by Amitav Ghosh, and The Progress of this Storm by Andreas Malm use the language of haunting.

Writing about freakish weather, Ghosh observes that “the events set in motion by global warming have a more intimate connection with humans than did the climactic phenomena of the past. This is because we have all contributed in some measure, great or small, to their making. They are the mysterious work of our own hands returning to haunt us in unthinkable shapes and forms.”

Malm spells it out in more detail. Disrupted weather “is never made in the present. Global warming is a result of actions in the past… The storm of climate change draws its force from countless acts of combustion over, to be exact, the past two centuries.”

“The nature that is knocking on the door of the postmodern condition – occasionally breaking it down, crashing through glass, sweeping away screens, even in its heartlands – is something of spectral creature, for it is carried forward by a human past… The more society has intruded and intrudes on nature, the more nature invades society with a haunted army whose early incursions are now felt.”

It’s a striking metaphor for climate change. We are living with the consequences of 200 years of fossil fuels, the CO2 mounting up in the atmosphere, changing the chemistry of the sky. Climate change comes out of this energy legacy, nature catching up with us.

Seen this way, it reinforces to me the importance of taking a long term view. What we do today has consequences for nature that may not reveal themselves for some time. Future generations will live with the consequences of our actions, or our inactions. Let’s all agree to try not to haunt our grandchildren, shall we?

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