Bruce Sterling: Climate Change Is Now A ‘Melancholy And Tiresome Reality’

Bruce Sterling, the science-fiction author and futurist whose book Distraction foreshadowed the Occupy Wall Street movement, spoke about the “melancholy and tiresome reality” of climate change at the 2011 Art + Environment Conference in Reno, Nevada this October. Sterling described the catastrophic drought and wildfires that have consumed his home state of Texas. He went on to explain how we now live in the Anthropocene, a term first coined in 2000 by Paul Cruetzen to describe a new geologic era in which the predominant factor on the Earth’s surface is human activity. Sterling’s 30-minute talk is a must-watch tour-de-force of sober acceptance of the world we have created, and what the future holds:

A few quotations from Sterling’s speech:

Climate change has lost all its sci-fi tinge in my lifetime and is now a melancholy and tiresome reality.


There hasn’t been a year when I haven’t written about climate change. It’s one of the most obvious things to predict.

It’s just kind of a blunt reality that the fossil-fuel enterprise has done a regulatory capture of the entire planet, and we’re involved in a war for oil, and it’s the curse of oil, and it’s a war for a curse that’s endless and happening. You know, it gets boring running around being a Cassandra. Starting Earth Day in 1970 was a pretty late start considering the multicentury scope of this problem.

I will pass the rest of my lifetime in the shadow of climate change. It’s not about warning people in 2011, or trying to avert or defuse a misfortune. The wolf is beyond the door. The wolf is in the living room. This is the anthropocenic condition. This is how we live. This is force majeure. It’s here. It’s very obvious.

There are no national forests. You cannot protect a forest with a nation. There are forests that protect nations.

The global climate crisis is the climate crisis and it’s global because the globe is an externality. “Don’t pollute you, don’t pollute me, pollute that fellow behind me.” Just throw that into the atmosphere because the atmosphere is somebody else’s problem.

The thing that encourages me or sort of offers daylight is there’s no pro-climate crisis party. There’s no government that actually likes the idea of wrecking the climate. It doesn’t really benefit anybody. It really is an externality. It’s just something that’s entropic.

He closed with a stirring defense of the role of art, to confront the hard truths of the human condition in ways that other enterprises cannot do.

(HT Boing Boing)