4 min read

The Summer of 2023

The Summer of 2023

With the season ended, I think it's worth looking back at this absolute clusterfuck hellhole of a summer, to take the measure of where we're at, what we're doing, and how, as always, we should proceed.

This was the summer of reckoning, the summer a lot of us–I wish I could say all–realized that climate collapse is happening now. Not soon, not imminently, but now. Between droughts, heatwaves, fires, and floods, weather-related (and thus climate-related) disasters have owned headlines. We even had a moment in time during which the collapse of AMOC was talked about in the mainstream. That's a big deal, and worth taking, in a very odd way, as a win. I wrote a few months ago about the normalization of climate change, and I think maybe we can put a pin in that, even as a lot of coverage this summer has minimized the impact. Because though it's not always discussed, climate change has simply become unignorable.

But we are, of course, well beyond the need for awareness. Acknowledging that a disaster is happening because of climate change does absolutely nothing for the victims, nor does it help the victims of the next. Which brings me to my first point.

Nothing Changes

Despite the amount of alarm raised by the events of this summer, our government–and thus the largest single emitter of greenhouse gas–has not made moves to address climate change beyond the election year palaver we got from Biden, like the Climate Corps–which is a good move but utterly insubstantial. He's still got a slate of land approved for drilling, and we're fighting emissions, not unemployment. But growth, business, the danged economy–these are the things that must continue unabated. Despite what happened in Lahaina, despite the overnight growth of hurricanes so far this year, despite immense flooding in Vermont, no emergency has been declared, and I suspect none ever will be. An emergency demands action, and worthwhile action against climate change is transformative–necessarily disruptive. And that can't be allowed to happen.

This isn't news. I wrote a whole thing about how we missed our window of opportunity for intervention and that's not going to change. That isn't to say that action toward the goal of reducing emissions is bad or simply too late–this is the quirk of our apocalypse; it can be made softer. Pressuring governments and corporations, particularly while we have a little wind in our sails, is not a bad idea or wasted effort. However, it cannot be our main objective.

As we begin the era of climate collapse in earnest, there is a certain amount of wreckage baked into our existence. World governments have, by and large, not prepared appropriately for the escalating disasters we face, and until that changes–which would take years if it ever would happen–we're going to suffer for it. Every war, every house built in ignorance of rising seas, every cow raised on alfalfa grown in a desert, is a missed chance at resilience that will have very real consequences.

Said Consequences

On the 10th of September, a cyclone in the Mediterranean struck the coast of Libya, bringing heavy rainfall and flooding to the region. Outside Derna, a city of over 100,000, two dams broke, sending a tremendous amount of water rushing into the city. As of this writing, over 10,000 people are confirmed dead with another 10,000 missing. It was stated by city officials that 1/4 of the city itself was swept out to sea. At the moment, aid is minimal as much of the way into the city has been wiped out, and the Libyan government is limiting access to both aid and media organizations.

I'm not saying that this will happen in the United States. It shouldn't need to happen to get your attention. This is a textbook intersectional disaster, if there is such a textbook. Libya has suffered under war and a divided government for well over a decade, and in the interregnum their infrastructure has also suffered. As our planet is fairly engulfed in conflict, exploitation, and corruption, disasters like this will occur elsewhere, and with a frequency. If the war in Ukraine didn't write this large enough for you; what happens across the globe can affect you here. Every disaster is a tragedy in its own right, but they ripple because of the interconnected nature of our world and our economies. The bell, quite literally, tolls for me and thee.

And in case that's not pessimistic enough for you, I actually am saying this will happen in the United States. Not necessarily soon, but eventually. The World Health Organization estimates that 250,000 people are killed by climate change every year already, and that number will surely and swiftly climb. US infrastructure is not in great shape, and it really only takes a couple overlapping issues before we have a compounding disaster. As is always the case, the people who suffer first will be those always dispossessed in this country: people of color, and people who are poor.

How to Proceed

Your homework this week is closely related to the thing you should be doing all the time: reaching out to folks in order to grow your community so you and your loved ones exist in a more resilient ecosystem. In particular, you should be having urgent conversations with people you know who have paid a modicum of attention to the amount of burning world we've got on our hands lately, and reinforce the impacts we are bound to face sooner rather than later.

Ideally, what happens is you turn everyone you know into a radicalized, community-oriented leftist prepper like yourself. But knowing that's not realistic, it is useful to simply nudge these people in that direction while the events of this summer are still fresh (not that we'll have to wait long for another disaster, but still). If nothing else, talking with folks about the climate collapse keeps the idea in their head, maybe gets them thinking about their future. Where we are now, at this point, even a little political momentum could be worthwhile.