Thursday, September 08, 2005

Drowned City

The unnatural disaster of New Orleans is a preview of the 21st century, where global warming ushers in severe storms and rising sea levels. Coastal cities in many parts of the world will likewise be evacuated, rebuilt, and then once again evacuated. Ultimately, the hierarchical systems that maintain "order" will fail, as suggested by events in New Orleans. Civilization will revert to the combination of both spontaneous cooperation and barbaric violence revealed today.

This submerging world ahead was envisioned by J. G. Ballard in his early novel of 1962 The Drowned World. Ballard thinks far beyond the mere mechanics of how global warming will have altered geography. The particular interest in his works in the psychodrama and social conflict that ensue after cities are ruined.

"The bulk of the city had long since vanished, and only the steel-supported buildings of the central commercial and financial areas had survived the encroaching flood waters. The brick houses and single-storey factories of the suburbs had disappeared completely below the drifting tides of silt. Where these broke surface giant forests reared up into the burning dull-green sky, smothering the former wheatfields of temperate Europe and North America. Impenetrable Mato Grossos sometimes three hundred feet high, they were a nightmare world of competing organic forms returning rapidly to their Paleozoic past, and the only avenues of transit for the United Nations military units were through the lagoon systems that had superimposed themselves on the former cities. But even these were now being clogged with silt and then submerged."

-- J. G. Ballard The Drowned World, pg 19 & 21.


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