Originally published on the Science Writers and Communicators blog.
The year is 2300. You live somewhere in the middle of North America, far from the flooded coastlines. The air is dry, the streets dense with people. You enter a restaurant, and a TV broadcasts the most recent news: New York City has collapsed into the Atlantic Ocean.
This is the future I often imagine when I think about climate change. It’s part of a narrative that has invaded my subconscious; that the future is bleak, and it’s inevitable.
This is the unfortunate bi-product of the moment we’re living in.
If we consider the media as a place that both reflects and shapes our culture, the stories it tells can have a powerful impact on the collective consciousness. Everything we put into it is also pumped out in ways that are impossible to predict.
Lately the trend has been towards stories that reinforce the narrative of the coming apocalypse–“Climate Change: do more now or risk catastrophe,” reads one headline from The Guardian.
But as we continue to think about climate change, and about how we talk about climate change, we have some serious questions to consider. What does it mean for news to cover climate disasters while also holding out hope for a brighter future? How do we ground our stories about climate in a world that is already overloaded with information? How do we engage audiences without losing them in the sheer size of it all?
Maybe we’re not ready to address these questions yet; society needs to enter the realm of action before the conversation can go in any other direction.
But we might get there sooner than we think.
Assuming our institutions respond to the alarm, our conversations could change rather quickly. In as little as 30 years, we could be in a space where we celebrate our climate victories. We could revere green CEOs as much as we do current tech giants; we might compete with our neighbours over who has the biggest solar panel; and we could look back with regret at the time where we barely avoided catastrophe.
This is a version of the future that is not impossible; the world has changed a lot in the past 30 years. The same can happen in the next 30.
It may seem unlikely now. But in the face of catastrophe, we can only hope.