US Environmental History: Inviting Doomsday

US Environmental History: Inviting Doomsday

US Environmental History: Inviting Doomsday

US Environmental History: Inviting Doomsday

Synopsis

Environmental issues in the USA are more important now than ever before. The devastation inflicted by Hurricane Katrina, growing evidence of global warming, and a struggling national energy supply highlight the unfolding crisis. Environmental fears translate into US automobile giants plying consumers with 'fuel efficient' cars in the 'MPG Lounge' of sales. Politicians talk of energy independence and getting tough on polluters. Fears gravitate around a fast-approaching doomsday scenario, an environmental endgame, of wholesale collapse, unless something is done. Yet fears of doomsday are nothing new. John Wills shows how the current environmental crisis is firmly rooted in the past. As well as explaining how today's problems are manifestations of older systems of economics, culture and politics, he also argues that America has already witnessed a range of 'doomsday scenarios,' both real and imagined. He identifies and explores a cast of 'doomsday landscapes' that includes the Battle of the Wilderness in Virginia, the Santa Barbara Oil Spill, the 'Fable for Tomorrow' town featured in Rachel Carson's Silent Spring (1962), and Nevada's Doom Towns 1 and 2 blown apart by atomic testing in the 1950s. He reflects on contemporary ruminations over whether nature as a category endures given both the rising contamination of the US landscape and consumer proclivity for celebrating fake mementos of the outdoors (such as plastic lawn flamingos and artificial plants). And mostsignificantly, he poses the question of whether Americans have been inviting doomsday through their long-term environmental actions.

Excerpt

I was listening to the broadcast and I was
wondering what is exactly that’s gonna start in Hollywood.
charlie frost. It’s the apocalypse. End of days. The Judgment
Day, the end of the world, my friend.

2012 (2009)

In 2009, Hollywood provided a sneak preview of ‘the apocalypse. End of Days’. With Western interpretations of the Mayan prophecy serving as inspiration, the blockbuster movie 2012, directed by Roland Emmerich, mapped out the contours of the forthcoming Judgement Day. As predicted in the ancient Mayan calendar, the world would end on 21 December 2012. The film’s tag line read simply, ‘We were warned’.

2012 homed in on the trials and tribulations of failed novelist and unlikely action hero Jackson Curtis (John Cusack) and his desperate attempts to circumvent Armageddon. With the warming of the Earth’s core triggering the falling apart of the United States, with whole landscapes disappearing, Curtis and his dysfunctional family attempt escape by commandeering limousine, Winnebago, and private jet. Watching over his crumbling capitalist empire, reflecting on his role as the very last commander-in-chief, President Thomas Wilson (Danny Glover) speaks to the nation: ‘My fellow Americans. This will be the last time I address you. As you know, catastrophe has struck our nation…has struck the world. I wish I

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