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The end of the world

Apocalypse, not Now

New York is wiped out in Deep Impact (1998)

I don’t know about you, says Hugo Rifkind in The Times, but I’m getting “apocalypse fatigue”. Obviously the largest of the “many horsemen thundering towards us” are climate change and nuclear war. But then there are the “smaller ponymen and donkeymen trotting along behind”. Fuel shortages that’ll leave us shivering in the dark this winter. The new monkeypox virus, or some other dire-sounding “zoonotic malady” – goose leprosy, say, or badger piles. “Oh, and the fish are all dying. And the songbirds are all getting eaten by cats. And we’re about to stop having trains.” There are just so many apocalypses to choose from.

I wonder whether “all this generalised anxiety is starting to make us a bit weird” – and whether, more importantly, it’s stopping us actually “addressing all the things the anxiety is supposed to be about”. This isn’t to say “everything is fine”. Soaring energy and food prices are obviously worth worrying about. But they’re not apocalyptically bad. We’ll manage. Sure, nuclear apocalypse would be tough to come back from. But even climate change – the big one! – would likely at worst just mean large swathes of the world miserably relocating. “And yes, I know it’s a hell of a thing to put ‘just’ in that sentence, but that’s the point.” Humanity and civilisation are inherently resilient. “Fatalism is delicious” – but it’s also “lazy as hell, making us shriek and snark when we could, problem by problem, be saving the world”.