What to do when the world is on fire

Just because we’ve lost the war on climate change doesn’t mean we’ve lost our humanity.

Jonathan Franzen wants us to prepare for the climate apocalypse not by wishful thinking or policy directives or whatever. Franzen wants us to be realists to avoid a dystopian hellscape where only the rich and armed survive.

All-out war on climate change made sense only as long as it was winnable.

Once you accept that we’ve lost it, other kinds of action take on greater meaning. Preparing for fires and floods and refugees is a directly pertinent example.

But the impending catastrophe heightens the urgency of almost any world-improving action. In times of increasing chaos, people seek protection in tribalism and armed force, rather than in the rule of law, and our best defense against this kind of dystopia is to maintain functioning democracies, functioning legal systems, functioning communities.

In this respect, any movement toward a more just and civil society can now be considered a meaningful climate action. Securing fair elections is a climate action. Combatting extreme wealth inequality is a climate action. Shutting down the hate machines on social media is a climate action.

Instituting humane immigration policy, advocating for racial and gender equality, promoting respect for laws and their enforcement, supporting a free and independent press, ridding the country of assault weapons—these are all meaningful climate actions.

To survive rising temperatures, every system, whether of the natural world or of the human world, will need to be as strong and healthy as we can make it.

Free short story every week. No spam, ever.