Today’s Apocalypse

All the leaves are burned and the sky is gray.

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The wildfires in California make it clear — if it was at all unclear before — that we have passed an inflection point in climate. It’s not some future threat, it is right here, right now, and has been for some time.

Farhad Manjoo tries to seek a way out for California while minimizing the scale of the problems confronting the most populous and wealthy state in the union by calling this just another apocalypse in a series of earlier California apocalypses:

But this time it’s different. The apocalypse now feels more elemental — as if the place is not working in a fundamental way, at the level of geography and climate. And everything we need to do to avoid the end goes against everything we’ve ever done.

The long-term solutions to many of our problems are obvious: To stave off fire and housing costs and so much else, the people of California should live together more densely. We should rely less on cars. And we should be more inclusive in the way we design infrastructure — transportation, the power grid, housing stock — aiming to design for the many rather than for the wealthy few.

Or, as Manjoo suggests in his closing paragraphs, people could start migrating. California is headed for desertification as part of global climate trends. It’s not something that can be fixed by higher-density housing or better transportation at the state level. And even if the world collectively mobilizes onto a war footing to counter climate change, it could be a thousand years to get back to ‘normal’. As Manjoo says,

All the leaves are burned and the sky is gray. California, as it’s currently designed, will not survive the coming climate.

But it’s today’s climate that is burning the leaves, not the coming climate. Today’s winds, today’s fires, today’s apocalypse.

The rust belt beckons, as I suggested in a futures scenario eight years ago called My California Dream: The California Territory. An excerpt:

The violent weather of the ’10s was especially devastating to southern and mountainous areas of California, based on strengthening of El Niño and global climate changes. A drastic increase of typhoon-like storms led to widespread and enormous mudslides (like the ones that buried Glendale and Santa Barbara in 2015), and an increase in summer temperatures by 4º-5ºC led to growing severity of wildfires, culminating in the near destruction of San Diego in 2018 by the Tijuana Fire. The growing heat, erratic summer rainfall, and decreased snowpack of the Cascades led to drought conditions in California for most of the ’10s, contributing to the Bee Famine of 2016.

Because of the economic collapse, federal takeover, drought, and violent weather, over 60% of the population of California emigrated between 2011 and 2020, the great majority of which were resettled in the former ‘Rust Belt’ area of Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, and Pennsylvania and the territory of Haiti as part of the 2017 Resettlement Act, where the government invested heavily in permatechnology and the ‘Foodshed’ agriculture initiative following the Bee Famine of 2016. The Bee Famine was partly caused by the California, Russian, Asian, and South American droughts, but mostly by the total die-off of domestic bees in 2016.

Remember, as bad as things look, it’s going to get worse. A lot worse. And hundreds of millions of people will have to move. Away from the deserts, away from the coastlines, away from the fires

Originally published at

Written by

Founder, Work Futures. Editor, GigaOm. My obsession is the ecology of work, and the anthropology of the future.

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