Technically, you can escape a burning house

In class last week, we discussed Rebecca Solnit’s piece entitled “By the Way, Your Home Is On Fire.” In her piece, Solnit compares global climate change to an individual’s home being on fire, aiming to illustrate that we are destroying our home. She continues by presenting a solution that would mean divestment from oil companies such as Chevron, ExxonMobil, and BP; getting out as quickly as possible to prevent any further damage. There are, however, a few errors with this analogy. During class we primarily discussed a few of the key problems, and these are the two that stuck with me:

1) I’m not saying it would be easy, but you technically can escape a burning house. You cannot really “escape” the Earth – unless we all move into outer space (Zenon, anyone?)

2) You would have had to light your own house on fire, as humans and their impacts are the believed cause of this drastic climate change being described in the article.

Given these issues with the burning house metaphor, we were asked to create a different metaphor that we felt better suited the situation global climate change has put us in and the divestment solution. My group discussed a number of interesting propositions that went from quick sand, to acid rain, to submarines with holes everywhere that needed to be patched. Personally, I’m not sure that there is a “perfect” metaphor for an issue as large as climate change, but I’m going to do my best. What I got it boiled down to was getting lost anywhere, more specifically in a foreign city or maybe in the woods. You’re with a group of friends, you get separated, and you have no idea where you are. Eventually, maybe, you’d be able to get out of the woods, but not immediately. It’s not as easy as simply finding the closest exit in a burning house. You have to take a moment, figure out the best plan of action, and act on it as quickly as possible to lessen the possible consequences.

Additionally, being lost is a somewhat-working metaphor because you did it to yourself: you got lost all on your own. In this scenario you’ve been wandering by yourself for hours and to no avail. It can maybe be blamed partially on your friends for leaving you, but more than likely it’s your own fault and you have to take responsibility for your error and figure out how to fix it. While I’m sure there are problems with this metaphor, it’s the best I could come up with upon further pondering after class. I’m excited to read what everyone else came up with, and I hope there’s one that’s better than what I just gave!


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