“It’s true,” says the perky physical therapist with a giggle, “my boyfriend and I are moving to Phoenix. We’re really looking forward to it.” Really, responds a crotchety elder in for an attitude adjustment, you’re looking forward to living in a city besieged by a years-long drought, obscured by dust storms not seen since the 1930s, surrounded by wildfires, setting record high temperatures, running out of water, a strong candidate (with Las Vegas and Miami) to be the first US city abandoned because of climate change. [from the Los Angeles Times: “Heat, drought, violent winds turning Phoenix into hell.”] Which part are you looking forward to the most? When did you decide to opt out of the Age of Information?
“Well, yeah,” she says, looking around for an excuse to move on, “I heard they’re having a heat wave.” Did you. Did you hear it’s been going on for 15 years? Did you hear that not far from Phoenix, they’re close to setting the record for the highest temperature ever recorded on the planet? Suddenly, her presence is urgently required across the room.
The first requirement of personal security is not guns, or a black belt in King Dum Cum fighting, but situational awareness. No one capable of rubbing two thoughts together would think of strolling alone in certain high-crime, drug-dealing, drive-by-shooting neighborhoods. (How did they become aware of the reputation of those neighborhoods? The got some information from somewhere.) Yet people are still eagerly moving to Phoenix. And Las Vegas. And Miami. [See Rolling Stone: “Goodbye Miami: By century’s end, rising sea levels will turn the nation’s urban fantasyland into an American Atlantis. But long before the city is completely underwater, chaos will begin.”] Not to mention the seashore and the San Andreas Fault.
Of course we don’t like to think about our own death. Or about the world coming apart. And pushing such thoughts aside in order to have a nice day is not a bad thing. But when refusal to think about bad things translates into wandering out into traffic on busy freeways, jumping out of an airplane without a parachute, swimming with feeding sharks or moving to Phoenix, intervention is appropriate.
For many reasons, the world is becoming a much more hostile place, in some places. The Atlantic coast, the western forests, the High Plains near-deserts, the prairie of Tornado Alley: all are killing more people, more often, than ever before. You could look it up.
The people who happily move to the beach for the water view, the tinder-dry woods to be close to nature, Phoenix to get a tan or Las Vegas to get lucky, however earnestly they project a devil-may-care attitude, are going to be among the first to be taken by the devil. It’s going to be a long emergency. Information can help us get through it. Call it the survival of the awarest.