In What zombie films tell us about climate change: there's no one happ..., Christopher Shaw does a nice analysis of how the "2°C dangerous limit" story about Climate Change is just a fairy tale bought by journalists and NGOs. It fits the classic story arc of thesis the existing order)-antithesis (the danger)-synthesis (the happy ending), but it's really just a "discourse of control". It's function is to construct Climate Change as

  •  [the] type of problem that does not pose a challenge to the legitimacy of the current order,...
  •  [an] abstraction [that] removes climate politics from our immediate lived experience...
  •  [a symbol not] rooted in the value systems which people use to negotiate life...

 

 

Shaw feels that the Zombie Apocalypse narrative, where zombies take over and there's no happy ending (no synthesis), is the true story of Climate Change. He says people can’t understand without a story, which I concede. And, he thinks that without a dangerous limit there is no story.

… without the idea of a dangerous limit there is simply no climate change story to tell.

 


Christopher Shaw's article, which began with sweeping insight, ends by despairing of a coherent common story that could help everyone make sense of Climate Change, only

... millions of different stories that people in different parts of the world need to tell themselves to be able to find their own way through what is happening and what is yet to come. Who knows what the endings of these different stories will be, but they will be stories that people have made by themselves, rooted in the opportunities and constraints of their own lives, not fantasies foisted on them from afar to serve the interests of people they do not know and will never meet. [emphasis mine]


In other words, isolated remnants of humanity making individual stories rooted only in their own lives, separated from all of the rest of humanity (who are merely people afar that they will never meet or know). Yup, that's all that's left if you're in Zombie Apocalypse.


As a nerd, I think Shaw overlooks more complex narrative possibilities. He never claims that climate scientists buy into the two degree danger story. While we all have primitive brains that "get" simple thesis-antithesis-synthesis stories best, we don't need “a dangerous limit” for the synthesis part of the story to make sense. We can still imagine a sustainable civilization without the black and white, all or nothing, magic cutoff typical of Hollywood disaster stories.

He can’t imagine sharing a network of storylines. We can imagine a stepwise time limited series of choices leading to outcome possibilities, a series of conditional nested loops: If we do this by time x then these loops become possible, if not those worse options do.

It seems nerds will have to fill the vacuum, articulating a more complex Climate Destabilization story for the public that might fit reality.

Tags: Climate Change, Climate Destabilization, Zombie Apocalypse, narrative structure, storytelling

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