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aspect of our societies on a massive scale. This time, we are the threat,
and if we wish to preserve anything like the lives we lead today, we must
change those lives as soon as we can.
As a result, this threat has a very diferent impact on our atitude
toward everyday life. Under the pressure of climate change, the everyday
is at once precious and a threat: it is split at its core. Where the nuclear
led us to affirm ordinary life virtually without reserve, climate change
forces us to imagine how it can be transformed so it will no longer under-
mine itself. This affection for our way of life paradoxically does opposite
things: it at once motivates us to sustain and to change it, to cherish and
transform what we know. Our way of life speaks at once of what we wish
to protect from trauma— and of the trauma it will create. In that case, we
are even today both perpetrators and victims, slowly destroying our lives
and surviving that destruction at the same time. Thus even the relative
clarity of trauma dissolves into a contradictory, paradoxical state that
blends the imposition and endurance of disaster.
The moral clarity of the threat and the necessity of responding to it
are different this time as well. If severe climate change takes place, it will
not happen in a single, annihilating event. An all-out nuclear war truly
would have decimated the conditions for human life; even if a few vic-
tims struggled on briefly, in the end no one would have survived. Climate
change, however, has its impact over decades and centuries. In contrast to
the single event, its pace seems incredibly slow—so slow that we might
decide simply to ignore it. If it seems slow, it is also sure; if we ignore
it, it will destroy what we take for granted. It is thus a truly insidious
threat, almost creepy in its persistent force. But it is also less absolute in
its potential devastation; because it is comparatively slow in human terms
(though not on the evolutionary time scale), we can well imagine that it
would never truly annihilate us, never actually bring our world to an end;
on the contrary, given its pace, we might guess that a good share of the
human race would survive it, though with lives quite different from what
we know today.
This contrast between nuclear war and climate change may explain
why we do not yet take the later very seriously. In the nuclear era, we got
used to an all-or-nothing scenario. Either the world would end, truly and
for good, or it would go on without a hindrance. Climate change doesn't
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