David Wallace-Wells and the Several Myths of Climate Change
David Wallace-Wells, in his jarring New York Times Bestseller published last month, The Uninhabitable Earth, begins with the terrifying first sentence: “It is worse, much worse, than you think. The slowness of climate change is a fairy tale, perhaps as pernicious as the one that says it isn’t happening at all.” Wallace-Wells then enumerates a host of other fairy tales that, I think, are deeply important for all of us to name and spend time learning and reflecting on.
That is why I wanted to start this week by listing them again, without comment, just for the sake of taking notice of them. Here they are, slightly reworded: the several myths of climate change in the order he includes them in his first paragraph.
Climate change isn’t happening at all.
Climate change is happening slowly. It will have an impact on the lives of future generations; this generation, not so much.
Global warming is an Arctic saga, unfolding remotely.
Climate change is strictly a matter of seal level and coastlines, so it won’t really impact landlocked folks like us.
Climate change is a crisis of the “natural” world, so it won’t really affect me, since I live in the city.
The infrastructure of my community is pretty good, so I am somewhat defended by nature.
We live in a somewhat wealthy area, so we must be shielded against global warming somehow.
Burning fossil fuels is the price we pay for economic growth, and it fuels our technology; as our technology advances, we will be able to engineer our way out of environmental disasters.
Nothing is new under the sun. Humans have experienced catastrophes like this in our history before, so we should feel confident we can get through this one too.
Of course, I think Wallace-Wells wrote the entire book aiming to undoing these myths. The most important thing to know about climate change is the first sentence in his second paragraph: “None of this is true."