The overarching project of my life has been making myself safe. But what is the point if everyone else is drowning and burning and starving?
I am descended from people who factor a flat tyre into a drive to the airport. I own a personal, portable water filter, just in case. I am someone who patrols her boundaries. I am a list writer, a timetable checker.
The overarching project of my life has been making myself safe. No alarms; no surprises. It has become legend in my family that, at age 11, I ruined a holiday by demanding we move out of our accommodation at the foot of what everyone told me was a dormant volcano, because I thought it was too dangerous. (The volcano did erupt, on my 35th birthday.)
Nothing had changed by age 44, when I published a personal guide to surviving climate change, which was essentially a list of everything I was afraid of and all the ways I planned to stop those things happening to me. By age 49 my plans had come to fruition. I had left inner-city Melbourne and moved to the Huon Valley in the south of Tasmania.
I’m not the only one who has thought it worthwhile making huge changes to their life in an effort to stay safe. There are the awful white-supremacist preppers, of course, and the billionaire tech magnates with their horrible luxury New Zealand bunkers. The self-sufficiency guru Michael Mobbs caused a ruckus in 2019 when he announced he was selling up his Sydney home to escape the coming societal collapse; he planned to shift to Bermagui, which he thought would be safer. (On 23 January 2020, residents of Bermagui were told the Badja Road fire was heading in their direction and it was too late to leave; to seek shelter as the fire approaches; to protect themselves from the heat of the fire.)
Since Greta Thunberg started making headlines, since the IPCC declared we have only 12 years left to get our act together, since the UN’s biodiversity body warned last year of imminent ecosystem collapse, people of run-of-the-mill, middle-class privilege, friends and relatives of mine, have been quietly approaching me, asking, “Where will I be safe? How can I keep my children safe?”
When my co-author and I wrote our handbook, we tried to answer this question. The answer was: nowhere. There is no where that will make you safe, there is only a when: when you become rich enough to build your children a bunker village with its own food and water and oxygen; even less probably when we decide to redistribute society’s benefits so that being rich is not a pre-condition for being safe.
Read more: The Guardian