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New Climate Debate: How to Adapt to the End of the World

Researchers are thinking about social collapse and how to prepare for it. 

A home damaged by Hurricane Maria stands abandoned in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico, on Sept. 17, 2018. 

A home damaged by Hurricane Maria stands abandoned in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico, on Sept. 17, 2018. 

Photographer: Xavier Garcia/Bloomberg
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At the end of 2016, before Puerto Rico’s power grid collapsed, wildfires reached the Arctic, and a large swath of North Carolina was submerged under floodwaters, Jonathan Gosling published an academic paper asking what might have seemed like a shrill question: How should we prepare for the consequences of planetary climate catastrophe?

“If some of the more extreme scenarios of ecocrisis turn out to be accurate, we in the West will be forced to confront such transformations,” wrote Gosling, an anthropologist who’d just retired from the University of Exeter in England.