I grew up fed on a diet of Star Trek, both original and Next Generation, Isaac Asimov and Arthur C Clarke. My science fiction was for the most part idealistic; as humans our ingenuity could solve all problems even the ones we created ourselves. I discovered Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy in university and again idealism won out; Mars was transformed, a multicultural society created and humanity even was freed from the limitations of heavy earth gravity. Things didn’t always run smoothly in these future societies of course (otherwise there’d be no story to tell) but the premise was always that the future was full of hope.
In school climate change was an interesting idea but a distant almost impossible conclusion. We’d figure it out before we got there,the same way we’d never run out of oil yet. Learning about climate cycles in university allowed a few deniers to shout but also emphasised the new scale of man-made change.
And then I got distracted by marriage and babies, comforted that the experts would work to solve the problems. But having read This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein that doesn’t appear to be the case at all.
Instead of attempting to solve problems in a holistic, sustainable fashion, it seems the problems have snowballed growing through neglect and often times intent.
This is a world where environmental organisations run oil wells in nature reserves, where human health is sacrificed for market needs, where green technologies are defeated by free trade agreements, where environmental organisations work hand in hand with commercial enterprise and rather than influencing them end up becoming commercial enterprises themselves. After centuries of raping and pillaging native lands we now rely on their treaties to protect us from oil pipelines and tar sands. And somehow once again the natives are thrown out to face the ‘authorities’ and risk their lives.
Here in Turkey the only sign of environmentalism is the numerous wind farms that have sprung up everywhere and the rooftop solar water heating systems. There are protests about mines but mainly against those in the hands of those opposing the government. There are groups in the Black Sea fighting against the rash of hydroelectric power stations and mining and roads across the high yaylas. But I see no sign that climate change features in any government policy.
In spite of Klein’s promise that the reader will reach the end of the book feeling hopeful about our prospects for the future I can’t say I am . This may be due to the circumstances here in Turkey and around the world (a topic for another day) but it’s also worth noting that the forces opposing climate change are scattered and scrappy. In every aspect markets and free trade agreements and capitalism are stronger, dominant and crushing. It is an uphill struggle to convince everyone to make the changes necessary to face the challenges ahead.