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Floodland

By Paul Watson on .

the islands of Great Britain and Ireland at current sea level, at a 40m rise in sea level, and at a 60m rise in sea level

The images above are taken from flood.firetree.net and show the islands of Great Britain and Ireland at current sea level, at a 40m rise in sea level, and at a 60m rise in sea level, dramatically changing the shape of the islands as well as significantly reducing their land mass.

Even a modest 5m rise in sea level would completely reshape the low-lying land between Cambridge and York, flood a large part of London, and lose most of the Somerset Levels and various pieces of the south coast amongst other coastal regions. The scientifically predicted sea level rises due to climate change vary a lot depending on the modelling algorithms being used so it’s not possible to be completely certain how much they will rise, only that the vast majority of scientific thinking says they will.

These thoughts, as you’ve probably guessed, have been brought on by the flooding in London in the last few days, as well as the continuing news about the climate emergency, and also a lot of the fiction I’ve been reading recently.

I mentioned Richard Cowper’s White Bird of Kinship trilogy (published in the late 70s and early 80s) at the beginning of last year in my blogpost Post-apocalyptic pastoral and post-industrial set in Britain and France a thousand years in the future. As with any fantasy book of that period, it comes with a map which is strikingly similar to the images above - perhaps unsurprisingly as I’m guessing that it’s mainly a matter of getting a contour map of Great Britain and Ireland and erasing any land beneath a certain height.

Uncredited interior map from the 1979 Pan edition of The Road to Corlay, the first book in the White Bird of Kinship trilogy

Other recent reads have been Ben Smith’s Doggerland, Ursula K. Le Guin’s Always Coming Home, This Fragile Earth by Susannah Wise, the anthology Glass and Gardens: Solarpunk Winters, and most recently The High House by Jessie Greengrass. They all exist in different places on the spectrum between hope and despair, but they all acknowledge that dramatic social change caused by climate change is now inevitable.

Reading about it in fiction might seem deliberately depressing when it’s already on the news, and it can be, but by imagining possible futures we can start thinking about future ways to live.