The Collapse of Civilization… at the Hands of the Government

If one wanted to understand what Cli-Fi truly is, they would be doing themselves a favor by reading The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future by Noami Oreskes and Erik M. Conway. The futuristic novel, however short, provides the reader with a fascinating story that revolves around both climate change and science fiction, making it the perfect example of a Cli-Fi novel. In a sense, it reminded me of Plant of the Apes film or even The Great Gatsby, where the characters or narrator (Nick Carraway in Gatsby) reflect on past events and explain how those past events led to a doomed future. This is exactly how the narrators in The Collapse of Western Civilization work to create an intriguing history and story.


The novel itself follows a future historian in the year 2349 who reflects and studies past events from what is our present time and conceives theories about why today’s society failed on many fronts to tackle the growing problems that coincide with climate change. The authors, Oreskes and Conway do an incredible job of illustrating many problems that are taking place currently from a futuristic point of view. In a sense, I believe they did this to try and create an image/argument that supports the idea that today’s society needs to spend more time on battling climate change issues on a larger front. One of the most moving quotes of the entire piece sheds light on the notion that today’s society has the capabilities and technologies to alter or change the course of climate change but has failed to do so. The quote is as follows: “To the historian studying this tragic period of human history, the most astounding fact is that the victims knew what was happening and why. Indeed, they chronicled it in detail precisely because they knew that fossil fuel combustion was to blame. Historical analysis also shows that Western civilization had the technological know-how and capability to effect an orderly transition to renewable energy, yet the available technologies were not implemented in time.” (35)


By examining this previous quote, it is obvious that it makes a very valid as well as a scary point. Today’s superpowers such as the United States and China specifically have the technological and financial capacity to elicit change in society but so far have failed to do so. There are many campaigns to move to different renewable energy sources such a solar or waterpower and society has even seen the development of vehicles that run on renewable energy. However, although these campaigns can create change, they are all too minor in nature to create a significant difference in altering climate change on a worldwide scale. Coinciding with this idea is what I personally believe is the best part of the proceeding quote is that the “available technologies were not implemented in time.” As we have all seen, there are numerous renewable energy initiatives on many different levels that are attempting to create change but I think that unless the government addresses the issue more seriously then there will never be any significant advances in the fight against climate change.


This idea of government and the power it has over many facets of society leads to another point that the historian sheds light on. The historian illustrates how the governments never focused time on making any significant campaigns aimed to battle climate change because there was too much financial involvement. What this means is that too many fossil fuel supporters are tied in financially with representatives in government who would never burn a bridges to support a change. Basically, representatives and therefore the government as a whole would never fully support any kind of significant climate change agendas based on the sole fact that representatives would never ruin person relationships with friends involved with ownership and distribution of fossil fuels.


I think as a whole, The Collapse of Western Civilization is a great piece of Cli-Fi literature because it does an incredible job of proving a point about our society and its’ downfalls by focusing on what this society may become in the future. The only problem is, I think this piece and similar pieces need to be broadcast to a larger audience if the authors really want to see any type of significant change. Yet even if they were to broadcast to a larger audience, I feel as though society is doomed because the government controls everything whether people believe it or not and it is the only force that has enough influence or power to change anything in terms of climate change.

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