This tweet from Anni Nasheed, former-President of the Maldives – a country progressively drowning under rising sea levels – was revelatory:
Climate change is now affecting us here in Britain and for similar reasons: our houses, rail lines, agriculture, roads and other infrastructure were built for a different era: the Holocene. We have developed our entire way of living, culture, landscapes and livelihoods for a different climatic era. But humans have utterly changed the global stage set. We are now living in the Anthropocene (a human-changed era), and the new ‘normal’ is of uncertain and extreme weather. Imagine if dinosaurs from the Jurassic or Triassic were brought to today’s world – they would immediately find it cooler, and the landscape, vegetation and animal species would be different. We are undergoing a change just as profound.
Just like Nasheed and his fellow Maldivians, like Bangladeshis and the people of New Orleans, Britons will have to adapt to the new conditions. We have to decide which places to protect through physical barriers, ecosystem or river-basin management changes, which places to abandon or relocate, and new infrastructure will have to be designed and built for the Anthropocene. Importantly, we need to make these decisions collectively, as we adapt socially to the conditions of this new era. Reactionary right-wing tabloid Daily Mail has responded to the current disaster with a petition calling for British foreign aid to be redirected to UK flood victims. In response, 38 Degrees has launched its own petition calling instead for fossil-fuel subsidies to be redirected to help the flood relief (there is a logical connection between the new climate and emissions from fossil fuels, after all). Meanwhile, British Sikhs, more used to rallying to support disaster victims in the developing world, have travelled from the Midlands to Somerset to bail out homes there. This is the new normal.