James Cameron's Metaphor of Climate Change as the 21st Century Iceberg to Our Big Oil Titanic, Plus a Shout-out to E.O. Wilson's new book "The Social Conquest of Earth" and the Coen Brothers classic "Barton Fink"

So I’m not exactly a huge fan of James Cameron films, full of over-the-top razzle-dazzle, some great images (such as the Titanic sinking, rising into the air and all the unfortunate passengers plummeting into the water) but enough bad melodrama to sicken multiple cruise liners full of moviegoers (such as in the same film, all that silliness of Billy Zane chasing Leo DiCaprio through the watery halls of the Titanic with a gun, like Snidely Whiplash). His most recent film Sanctum (2011) is something of a howler, and typical of many of his films: great images of underwater caving, silly melodrama about bad, greedy cavers vs. tough, stoic cavers. He’s been in the news recently for his deep-ocean dive to the bottom of the Marianas Trench, the deepest point in the ocean, which he filmed and will become a National Geographic special at some point. But his comparison of climate change to the iceberg that will sink our 21st century Titanic—basically Civilization As We Know It, in which our future is tragically bought and sold by Big Oil—is right on, and can be read, via ThinkProgress.org, here:
“Part of the Titanic parable is of arrogance, of hubris, of the sense that we’re too big to fail. Well, where have we heard that one before? There was this big machine, this human system, that was pushing forward with so much momentum that it couldn’t turn, it couldn’t stop in time to avert a disaster. And that’s what we have right now. Within that human system on board that ship, if you want to make it a microcosm of the world, you have different classes, you’ve got first class, second class, third class. In our world right now you’ve got developed nations, undeveloped nations. You’ve got the starving millions who are going to be the ones most affected by the next iceberg that we hit, which is going to be climate change. We can see that iceberg ahead of us right now, but we can’t turn.
“We can’t turn because of the momentum of the system, the political momentum, the business momentum. There too many people making money out of the system, the way the system works right now and those people frankly have their hands on the levers of power and aren’t ready to let ‘em go. Until they do we will not be able to turn to miss that iceberg and we’re going to hit it, and when we hit it, the rich are still going to be able to get their access to food, to arable land, to water and so on. It’s going to be poor, it’s going to be the steerage that are going to be impacted. It’s the same with Titanic. I think that’s why this story will always fascinate people. Because it’s a perfect little encapsulation of the world, and all social spectra, but until our lives are really put at risk, the moment of truth, we don’t know what we would do. And that’s my final word.”
And although I think Cameron is accurate in this assessment, he’s a lightweight compared to science writer E.O. Wilson, whose new book, The Social Conquest of Earth, has been published this month and is tops on my reading list. It begins with this lofty approach: “There is no grail more elusive or precious in the life of the mind than the key to understanding the human condition.” I love that phrase, “The life of the mind”—particularly when you hear it uttered by “Charlie Meadows” (aka Madman Munch, played by John Goodman) in the great Coen Brothers film Barton Fink (1991), as he’s running down the flaming hallway of the Hotel Earle, shooting his shotgun, yelling, “I’ll show you the life of the mind! I’ll show you the life of the mind!”

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