“The Last of Us” is a near-perfect metaphor for climate change, but it gets it wrong about one thing

Climate change is a very broad and comprehensive topic It is difficult for the human mind to fully comprehend it. Try discussing the catastrophic effects of a 2°C increase in the average global temperature to an uninvested stranger, and you’ll be able to see their eyes roll back in their heads. It’s just a temperature number or graph. What does it have to do with anything? Even many of the climate scientists I spoke to, whose job it is to study global temperature trends, struggle to picture the massive, cascading consequences of this slow-moving disaster. It boggles the mind. and after, Nobody acts fast enough.

Unless wildfires or floods are serious enough to rip across national headlines, the daily effects of Climate change They are not exactly in your face. a heat wave Here, a Crop failure there. These are slow, often isolated changes, and are sometimes referred to in abstract terms such as “Anthropoceneassociated with dates as distant as 2050 — the year in which, if we change nothing about energy policy, greenhouse gas emissions projected To increase by 50 percent of the day. Sure, we’re going in the wrong direction — but that’s almost three decades from now. All of this can be easy to ignore.

So it is remarkable that a piece of art comes that makes the incomprehensible. New HBO drama seriesThe last of usNot just an ingenious adaptation of an innovator video game Cosmos, it’s (almost) a perfect metaphor for climate change. The show helps visualize a hard-to-grasp concept by utilizing an infectious fungal disease without preaching about it – setting it apart from films like ‘do not search,” which used a deadly comet as a surrogate for climate change.

The show trades immersive action for evocative drama and somehow never stumbles upon itself, which is a testament to the show’s creators Craig Mazinfrom “ChernobylFame, and Neil Druckmann, the brains behind the video game. The duo clearly understand the broader implications of the game, he told Mazin recently. Wired“,” I think the thread under it [“The Last of Us”] HE: You don’t want to be too successful for the planet. Mazen added: “I am not a man who is hostile to progress, going back to the Stone Age. But we must organize ourselves, otherwise something will come and organize us against our will.”

The general plot is explored more deeply in Who’s Review Melanie McFarland SalonBut in short, it’s a story about violence and unconditional love in the face of a post-apocalyptic landscape ravaged by a zombie-like fungal outbreak. When this fungus enters the human brain, it resembles Opposite of ‘magic’ mushrooms, because it turns people into violent psychopaths who spread the pathogen further. Talk about a bad trip. It’s a pretty clever take on zombies, in my humble opinion, especially considering there’s an actual mushroom called Ophiocordyceps is one-sided can Turning insects into her little slaves.

Some modern apocalypse cinema avoids completely explaining why the end of the world happens; A good example of this is “The Road,” a book by Cormac McCarthy that was made into a movie. (It’s so common for movie fans to have a name for this trope: “The end of the world is indefiniteLuckily, the TV show “The Last of Us” chimes in with this trend of adaptation, as it vividly demonstrates how global warming is implicated in the collapse of civilization.

In the first five minutes of the show (not really a spoiler — I promise) a mycological expert explained in 1968 that a pathogen like Cordyceps could burst from nature and devastate humanity in a way far worse than a viral pandemic. But the scientist asserts that it will require conditions to warm the planet by a few degrees. What an ominous thing.

Fast forward to 2003, and this exact outbreak would happen. Once, people all over the world are infected with a new fungal disease that takes control of their bodies and forces them to attack the survivors. In less than 24 hours, the world goes from functional to pandemonium, as, in effect, climate change becomes the catalyst for a fungal disease that nearly wipes out humanity.

“The Last of Us” is relevant because many pandemics can be directly related to climate change – but again, it’s not always easy for the general public to make that connection.

That’s a great message to include on a show as popular as “The Last of Us,” which is currently seeing record-breaking and enthusiastic notes From critics and fans. It is not inconceivable that one day humanity will exist in a world similar to Joel and Ellie, the main characters of “The Last of Us”, if we do not take drastic measures to avoid climate change. Experts know that pandemics are directly linked to climate change. The reason has to do with animals: many of the diseases that spread to humans start in other animals, animals that hopefully stay away from humans most of the time. But climate changes can alter animal migration patterns. Likewise, crop failures can prompt humans to seek food from exotic animals that they might not normally eat. Experts believe that it was the hungry humans who had to Resorting to eating bushmeat – you mean wild monkeys and such – how the ancestral virus of HIV passed to humans.

Deforestation can also exacerbate the spread of disease: the more nature humans destroy, the more viruses reside in those environments in search of new hosts. This phenomenon, known as zoonotic transmission, has been occurring since the dawn of agriculture and is only accelerating as climate change worsens.

Hence, “The Last of Us” is relevant because many pandemics can be directly related to climate change – but again, it’s not always easy for the general public to make that connection.

Indeed, public health and ecosystem collapse deeply connected. One such example is the Nipah virus (NiV), a devastating disease with a fatality rate in between 40 to 75 percent. For comparison, SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID, has a fatality rate of 1.1 percent In the United States, NiV is very deadly because it attacks itself in the brain and causes it to swell, resulting in fever, headache, drowsiness, confusion, and mental confusion, which can progress to coma and death. There are no vaccines or treatments and survivors often suffer a lifelong disability or personality changes.

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This virus is so terrifying that it makes SARS-CoV-2 look like a mild cold (Although, in fact, it is not). Nipah virus has not yet been a major problem – focus on Until now — because, fortunately, it finds it difficult to spread from human to human. I just caused it a few hundred deaths so far, but now it is a seasonal disease that can expand its range if we are not careful. Unsurprisingly, the Nipah virus was the inspiration for the 2011 movie “Contagion,” in which an extraordinarily deadly virus kills so many people.

NiV is one of the most visible examples of virus transmission from animals to humans. Scientists believe it originated in fruit bats but spread to pigs and then humans. This chain of dominoes dates back to bad forestry practice in Indonesia in 1997, when the island nation cut down and burned more than 5 million hectares of rainforest, trees already crushed by an El Niño-related drought. The smog from the cancer created “the thickest haze I’ve ever known in Southeast Asia,” according For researchers at the University of Malaya in Malaysia. Bats fleeing this human-caused disaster perched on pigs in Malaysia. Pigs down there ate bat feces, allowing the virus to jump from one mammal to another to us.

The world as we know it will not disappear in an instant – it will be a gradual, pathetic limp into oblivion. In fact, the world as we knew it is already gone.

Similar transmissions are bound to continue as we destroy more animal (and viral) habitats. fact, Three out of four Emerging diseases come from animals. Similarly, the current epidemic may be stimulate Partly by climate change. Like many diseases including NiV, Ebola, SARS-CoV-1, and MERS, SARS-CoV-2 likely originated from bats. As Ed Young of The Atlantic puts it, we live in “pandemic“a period marked by more disease-causing outbreaks.

“Many scientists have argued that climate change will increase the likelihood of pandemics, but a groundbreaking new analysis shows that this troubling future is already here, and it will be difficult to address,” Young explained.

Viruses are not visible to our eyes. Like climate change, this can be easy to ignore. We need compelling art like “The Last of Us” to help make these connections, between the abstract threat and the real violent end of humanity. But unlike the first 30 minutes of the TV show, there will be no “day zero,” no sudden shift from calm to chaos as crowds flee movie theaters or planes fall from the sky.

Rather, our basic lines of regular will Continue to shift slowly, so as not to really notice that it is now unbearably hot all summer or that winter is mostly a feature of the past, freak storms aside. The world as we know it will not disappear in an instant – it will be a gradual, pathetic limp into oblivion. In fact, the world as we knew it is already gone. The climate experts I talk to over and over again confirm that our climate has done just that Previously change. It is not an abstract future scenario. It is the present, but we are still punishment People protesting the usual nonsense.

As glaciers evaporate, they can snow More new pathogens Like bad viruses in the mix. As coral reefs die from rising global temperatures, fish in the open ocean will similarly disappear and billions of people whose primary source of protein comes from fish and other aquatic creatures will either starve or put more pressure on agriculture. If the cultivation of food in fields continues to decline, as is currently the case in places like California San Joaquin Valley, once one of the most fertile regions on Earth, billions of people will starve. like The cost of food continues to rise, will drive more people homeless. It seems that governments are trying to “solve” this problem by Transfer of unhoused persons to institutionswhich looks eerily like the early stages of being forced into a “quarantine zone,” as it does in the show.

While fungi controlling human minds will likely remain complete science fiction, fungal epidemics are a real thing and global temperatures are increasing. Giving fungi more opportunity to spread. “The Last of Us” nailed it. Mushrooms, molds, and other fungi tend to thrive in warmer environments. And poisonous fungi that can infect humans such as Aspergillus smokeIt is becoming “increasingly common,” according to the World Health Organization.

“Despite growing concern, fungal infections receive too little attention and resources, with the result that good data on fungal disease distribution and patterns of antifungal resistance are scarce,” the World Health Organization warned in its first-ever publication. Global effort to classify fungal pathogens By Threat Level, a call to action issued in October 2022. “Thus, it is impossible to estimate its exact burden.”

Another fungal or even viral pandemic is hard to predict, but it won’t look like TV. That’s okay. We need forward-thinking media to shed light on hard-to-understand concepts like climate change and pandemics. It’s called a metaphor, I think. And The Last of Us does a decent job, accelerating the timeline from disaster to post-apocalyptic wasteland to dramatic effect. This is forgivable.

Despite my personal use of the term “post-apocalypse” in this article, it’s not a term that makes sense when applied to TV shows or games like that. The modern meaning of apocalypse as a “catastrophic event” or “imminent end of the present world” is a 19th century invention. The word actually comes from the Greek Apocalypse Which means “to reveal, to reveal, to reveal.” The end of the world is when humanity wakes up and realizes what is happening around it. We are choking our planet to death with our selfish consumption and not enough people realize what that looks like. “The Last of Us” captures what our future could be, but we could choose “post-apocalypse” that’s closest to the original meaning, a balanced ecosystem after a great revelation. Our future doesn’t have to look like Joel and Ellie.

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