Science Fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson has written a powerful meditation on what the pandemic heralds for the future of civilization in The New Yorker.
Possibly, in a few months, we’ll return to some version of the old normal. But this spring won’t be forgotten. When later shocks strike global civilization, we’ll remember how we behaved this time, and how it worked. It’s not that the coronavirus is a dress rehearsal—it’s too deadly for that. But it is the first of many calamities that will likely unfold throughout this century. Now, when they come, we’ll be familiar with how they feel.
What shocks might be coming? Everyone knows everything. Remember when Cape Town almost ran out of water? It’s very likely that there will be more water shortages. And food shortages, electricity outages, devastating storms, droughts, floods. These are easy calls. They’re baked into the situation we’ve already created, in part by ignoring warnings that scientists have been issuing since the nineteen-sixties. Some shocks will be local, others regional, but many will be global, because, as this crisis shows, we are interconnected as a biosphere and a civilization.
Kim Stanley Robinson has spoken at Long Now on three occasions:
- “Learning from Le Guin,” November 13, 02018.
- “Adapting to Sea Level Rise: The Science of New York 2140,“ May 9, 02017.
- “How Climate Will Evolve Government and Society,” May 10, 02016.