For solitude

Climate change is gradually turning the abundance of space into privilege, at least if it already wasn’t before.

In a warmer world, in which we will surely prize the efficient use of resources, physical isolation will be a luxury.

Not everyone will forswear all the land they have currently to occupy, but the more conscientious among us surely will, and the least privileged already have no choice.

You know Mukesh Ambani’s Antilla. How much land was cleared to build it? How much carbon is released into the atmosphere to power it? And how many people does it house?

The answers are not bound to be efficient, certainly not as much as they ought to be.

Our cities aren’t going to become more liveable – if indeed we’re able to get on that trajectory – by becoming bigger or less populated.

While these are the market’s aspirations, the state should counter-aspire to use its resources more efficiently and effectively.

For example, public transport is the way to go, not larger cars to transport one or two people at a time no matter how green they claim to be.

A more conscientious use of personal space is also the way to go, and Antilla is veritably anti-climatic for the four people it houses.

Notice that it all eventually comes down to our use of land. No matter the relatively infinite supply of solar or wind power, land is a finite resource. We live on it.

And being punctilious about land use, directly or indirectly, means consistently opting for the commons in all endeavours except those that protect our fundamental rights.

This, in final turn, means creating and maintaining a commons that we can all be proud of, and use without reservation or excuse.

How will these changes modify our art? How will human music, film, photography, etc. evolve in a world two degrees warmer?

Climate change may have creeped up on us but its realisation has certainly been marked by inflection: a short period in which the world decides to think and do differently.

In which ideas already known to be good and actions known to be desirable are reevaluated for their energy efficiency.

In which the more the seas rise, the more our endeavours will be penalised for being less efficient in their use of public resources.

Inflection always begets nostalgia. Perhaps our art, a few decades hence, will be shaped by the endurance of memories and marked by reminiscence.

Perhaps our literature will be consumed by the recreation of various togethernesses and our music by the reproduction of complete, and bygone, carelessness.

Perhaps the skeuomorphs our digital prophets retained to bridge the more functional technology of the 21st century with the intimacy of the 20th

will wind their way into our words, songs and images; finally into our memories

To preserve there the knowledge of mountains as beautiful, the seas as deep, the skies as blue, the rain as bliss – and quietly teach us to remember them so

While the world’s foundations crumble beneath us, under the weight of landslides, floods, drought, libertarianism, ignorance and disease.

Perhaps our folktales will valorise the effeminate human, celebrate death, and find wisdom in Carson’s notes as much as Borlaug’s, in Vonnegut’s as much as Le Guin’s.

Perhaps our eschatology will transform into a less destructive fate for the sinful and deem the fallen worthy of salvage if they have communed with the wild.

Perhaps our language will recoup the names of forgotten birds, lose its adjectival distaste for rodents and speak of deserts and the pelagic alike in sylvan tones.

Whatever kind of world it will be, it will have to be a world aspiring for a stronger, more connected and more accessible commons.

But will its new grammar of togetherness forsake the romance of solitude?