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I recently played an indie sci-fi game on the PS5 titled Deliver Us The Moon. It was alright. I rather liked the story, and most of the methods that the game uses to deliver that story. It's very similar to Tacoma in terms of how it tells its story, but with a greater emphasis on player-driven problem-solving and puzzles. It's biggest problem, however, is the surprisingly poor performance and frequent technical problems. Even on the PS5, this borderline walking sim was barely able to keep a steady framerate, and I experienced multiple hard crashes.

That being said, I still recommend it for gamers who happen to be fans of hard science fiction, because our options in that particular sub-genre are fairly limited. We have butt-loads of fantasy sci-fi games about space marines shooting aliens or robots, or about dog-fighting in outer space. You know, you're Mass Effects, Halos, Dead Spaces, StarCrafts, Colony Wars, and so on (remember Colony Wars? Man that would be an excellent candidate for a reboot on modern consoles, especially if it includes full VR support!). These are the games that are "sci-fi" in the same way that Star Wars or Transformers or pretty much any comic book movie are "sci-fi" movies.

But as far as the video game equivalents of harder sci-fi movies like 2001: A Space Odyssey or Arrival or Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the well is considerably drier, and most of what we do have is relegated to smaller indie titles. Don't get me wrong, we have some great options! Games like Soma and Outer Wilds are some of my favorite games ever.

So when I see a hard sci-fi game like Deliver Us The Moon pop up on a gaming storefront, I try to make an effort to play it. There's plenty of total flops in this sub-genre, but there's also some real gems. And I think that if Deliver Us The Moon could have its performance stabilized, it might qualify as one of those gems. But this video isn't a review of Deliver Us The Moon. I have a full written review on my personal blog at www.MegaBearsFan.net, if you want to read it. Instead, I want take a few minutes to dive into one particular aspect of the story and premise of Deliver Us The Moon that just kind of grinds my gears. It's a problem that I've seen repeated multiple games and movies that try to address this particular socio-political topic, and I worry that it might be doing more harm than good to the public's perception of this issue.

A big issue that I have with Deliver Us The Moon is its near-future depiction of apocalyptic climate change.

This essay was released early to Patrons in video format.

Now, before I go any further, I want to disclaim that even though I'm about to be critical of media depictions of climate change, I am not a nut-job climate-change-denier. I consider climate change to be one of, if not the most important political issue, and I am constantly frustrated by our politicians' unwillingness to take meaningful action. I'm one of those people who nags others to turn off the lights when they're not in a room, and who carpools whenever possible and walks to the grocery store in order to avoid burning more gasoline than I have to (and also to get some exercise). I also work in the utility industry doing software for energy conservation and efficiency. So I take energy conservation and climate change very seriously -- both personally and professionally.

Near-future climate apocalypse

On the one hand, I appreciate games like Deliver Us The Moon for taking climate change seriously as an existential threat to civilization, just as I appreciate a game like Civilization VI turning climate change into basically the end-game final boss -- or at least trying to; Civ VI's depiction of climate change is also somewhat hit-or-miss. Anyway, the problem that I have with Deliver Us The Moon isn't the simple fact that it is about climate change, or the fact that it presents an apocalyptic climate future; my problem is that it depicts this climate apocalypses as something that happens in the near future -- the very near future.

Deliver Us The Moon depicts a total environmental collapse happening within 20-ish years.

The events of Deliver Us The Moon take place in 2059 -- a mere 36 years from now, but the story actually begins in the 2030's when overpopulation accelerates climate change and apparently turns the whole Earth into a droughted, withered dustbowl of Steinbeck-ian proportions. And this is despite the fact that an international corporation managed to discover and exploit a source of limitless clean energy on the moon, and beam it back to Earth to supply almost all of humanity's energy needs. So according to Deliver Us The Moon, we supposedly completely stopped burning fossil fuels for electricity in the 2030's and replaced them with abundant, clean moon energy, but we still turned the Earth into a hot dustball! If this story took place closer to 2159, instead of 2059, it would be a lot more credible -- or heck, even just 2099 would be a big improvement. But as dire as our real-world climate prospects are, even the most dire of those climate projections (that I'm aware of) do not say that the 2-ish degree raise in global temperature that researchers project by the end of this century will result in the whole Earth turning into a hot, dry, ball of dust in any of our lifetimes.

If the developers of Deliver Us The Moon do have some research that they based their game on, I would be curious to read it. And if it does turn out that this apocalyptic near future is grounded in real climate projections (I seriously hope it isn't), then I'll take back everything I say about Deliver Us The Moon. Though everything I say about real-life climate change, and the general message of sensationalization and exaggeration being detrimental to the public discourse, would still remain true and relevant. Also, to be completely fair to Deliver Us The Moon, I think that the primary problem at the center of the game isn't so much climate change as a result of the greenhouse effect, but rather as a result of desertification from deforestation and consumption of all the water and other resources. But again, those things aren't likely to be as apocalyptic as the game suggests either -- at least not in the next 10 to 30 years. So I feel that my central point still stands.

Deliver Us The Moon may exaggerate climate change, while Civilization VI doesn't go far enough.

Tipping points are rapidly approaching

Yes, there will be lots of drought and desertification. I live in Las Vegas. I am very aware of the impacts of drought. The entire Pacific Southwest is at risk of running out of clean drinking water by the end of this century (if not sooner), to the point that the city of Pheonix has put a moratorium on new construction. And yes, there will be sea-level rise from melting polar ice that will threaten to submerge coastal communities. There will also be stronger and more destructive storms, including monsoon floods and hurricanes. We're starting to see these things now. These disasters are killing people, and they are causing billions of dollars in property and economic damage around the world that is going to increase the cost of living for you and everyone else, on top of normal inflation. Scientists have been warning us about it for over 50 years, and it isn't some projected, hypothetical, future problem that will affect our grandchildren any more. This is happening now! We are the children and grandchildren who were being warned! And the budding field of attribution science is even able to give us estimates of the probability that a particular weather event is directly tied to climate change.

The entire Pacific Southwest is in danger of running out of drinking water by the end of this century.

But the reason that the 2030s and 2050 are held up as critical deadlines for climate action is not because that is when the Earth will turn into a greenhouse hot box. Rather, if our current emission and warming trends continue at their current pace, we'll cross critical climate tipping points sometime between the 2030's and 2050.

By that time, if we don't take strong action now, the oceans will have captured as much carbon as they're capable of holding, glacier and ice cap melt will reduce the albedo (or reflectivity) of the Earth's surface, and arctic tundra permafrost melt will start releasing billions of tons of trapped carbon and methane in addition to all the carbon and methane that humans are producing from industrial and agricultural activities. These positive feedback loops will lead to rapid warming in the following decades, and there will be little-to-nothing that we could do at that point to stop it, short of some miracle technology that allows us to pull massive quantities of carbon dioxide and methane out of the atmosphere.

The irony of science denialism

It is important to tell stories about climate change, its severity, and the impact it is having on us both now and in the future. But when story-tellers exaggerate the effects of climate change in popular media, I think it may actually have a negative effect on the public's perception of climate change. It gives people false expectations about what the effects of climate change actually are, and when those effects do not come to pass, it feeds into the skepticism that 5 decades of corporate and political propaganda have laid down as groundwork. People play a game like Deliver Us The Moon, or they watch a movie like The Day After Tomorrow, or even real-life news reports that falsely link rising sea levels or extreme weather to climate change, and they ignorantly think that what they see in these games and movies and news stories is what scientists claim will happen. And then when supposed "predictions" don't happen, they jump to the conclusion that the scientists were wrong, and the whole thing is a hoax.

One of the sad ironies of this whole situation is that research scientists have actually tended more towards being conservative with their predictions instead of alarmist. They've done this because of the exact same fears that I'm talking about in this video: that if they make aggressive predictions, and those predictions turn out to be wrong, the general public won't believe the more conservative predictions either. This may have actually lead to less urgency by the public, while the consequences of climate change have been simultaneously happening sooner than expected.

Worse yet, mis-information, dis-information, and alarmist depictions of climate change in places other than the peer-reviewed scientific literature, ended up eroding enough of the public confidence and understanding of the science that we ended up with the same problem: a large enough portion of the public thinking that the fears are overblown, and resisting even the easiest and most practical mitigation strategies.

The public's memory is short, and the public is exceptionally scientifically illiterate. I mean, we still have large communities of people who believe the moon landing is fake, that vaccines cause autism and caner and turn people gay or trans, and that the fucking Earth is flat! Yes, there is a thriving flat-Earther community in the year 2023.

There is a living and growing community of flat Earthers and anti-vaxxers.

Climate-change deniers will insist that climate change is a hoax, and they'll cite all kinds of myths and mis-conceptions about the topic. And they'll attribute those myths to climate researchers, even though the myths are either completely made up, or they are something that the person saw in a movie, or read in a story, or heard in an interview on the news with someone who doesn't do climate change research. They'll insist that climate researchers said that we would never have snow again, and then every year when there's a blizzard somewhere in January, they'll say "Ha! Gotcha! So much for 'global warming'!". They'll say global warming is a lie because it snowed somewhere in January, then they'll turn around and ignore or deny the record-breaking heat that is recorded almost every summer.

Or they'll see some fluff humanities piece on the nightly news or on the internet about some island in the pacific being inundated by rising sea levels. But because they are news reporters, and not trained geologists or climatologists, the news story will erroneously link the rising waters to climate change, even though it's actually caused by the island itself being an atoll that is slowly sinking into the sea. The news outlet will never correct its error, and its viewers will erroneously assume that scientists (not an ill-informed news anchor) lied about the ocean levels rising.

Science deniers often cite popular media instead of peer-reviewed research.

We FIXED acid rain and the ozone hole!

Hell, I've even started recently seeing social media posts from absolutely un-informed idiots saying "Why don't we ever hear about acid rain or the hole in the ozone layer anymore?", implying that scientists lied about acid rain and the ozone layer hole, and that both were hoaxes, as if that's some kind of genius "GOTCHA!".

And like ... oh my god, this one is so easy. I shouldn't have to say this, but I will, because people actually believe this nonsense. The reason that you don't hear about acid rain or the hole in the ozone layer anymore is because we fixed both of those!

The specific chemicals that caused acid rain and the that damaged the ozone layer were identified by researchers in the 70's and 80's, and governments around the world banned their use. International government regulation, under pressure from the public, solved both of those problems! Acid rain does still happen in parts of the world where the sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides that cause it are still being used in industrial applications. And there is still a hole in the ozone layer, but it is slowly closing now that the aerosols from hairspray and whatnot that were causing the hole have been internationally banned. The hole is expected to return to 1980's levels by the middle of this century (so within the next 20 or so years). That is why you don't hear any alarmism about acid rain or the hole in the ozone layer anymore. Because we fixed it!

The reason nobody is panicking about acid rain or the ozone hole anymore is
because international regulation fixed the problem!.

And we can do the same with anthropogenic climate change, if we would just have the public pressure and political will to more strictly regulate carbon dioxide emissions from electricity production and transportation, and methane emissions from agricultural use. But the reason that we were able to regulate the oxides and aerosols that caused acid rain and ozone holes, but we can't seem to regulate carbon emissions is because the unfortunate reality is that Big Oil is a lot wealthier and more powerful than Big Hairspray, and has the money to spend on decades of pubic dis-information campaigns to fight any climate-based regulation of their industries.

Fossil Fuels and tobacco

Even though the top executives at these companies know that they are causing human-induced climate change. But they don't do anything about it because changing their entire business model would be very expensive and costly for the corporations, and shareholders don't want them to do it because it would cut into their profits. So they just hope that the government will force them to do it in order to save face with their share holders, while still lobbying against government action because they also want to keep pumping up the stock prices. Or that some other company will do it first and see if it tanks that other company's stock prices, and then if it doesn't, they can just follow the trend and also save face with share-holders. It's a textbook tragedy of the commons.

Oil companies hired the same PR firm that tobacco companies used in the 1950's to fight against the regulation of cigarettes after scientists discovered that cigarette smoking was causing lung cancer. Oil companies hired that same company to fight regulation of fossil fuels, and the primary strategy for both tobacco and oil wasn't to try to prove that their products weren't harmful; instead, they simply tried to sew enough public doubt in the credibility of the science so that the general public would not pressure politicians to regulate each industry.

It didn't work out for tobacco companies, in large part because the effects of cigarettes was much more obvious, even for lay people. Now that people weren't dying in their 30's or 40's from pneumonia or tuberculosis or polio (thanks to vaccines and antibiotics), they were living longer and dying of cancer. And smokers were specifically inclined to die of lung cancer. Smokers and their families and friends were able to see first-hand what smoking did, and so they accepted the conclusions of scientists, despite the millions of dollars tobacco companies were throwing into propaganda campaigns to try to discredit the research.

Oil companies hired the same PR firm that
tobacco companies used to fight regulation.

But climate change is different than smoking. It's effects are slower and more subtle, and they occur at global scales that are far outside the scope of most people's daily lives. People weren't seeing its effects first-hand, or even when they were, it was impossible to confidently link those effects to climate change. Weather varies a lot in local places and times. People don't notice the global temperature rising because even though it's un-precedentedly hot in one part of the world, it can still be very cold in another part.

We can show people before and after pictures of melting glaciers and snow caps, but even if they don't come up with some lie or myth about how glaciers and snowcaps aren't really melting (they are!), they might still shrug it off because it doesn't affect their lives the way that watching a loved-one die of lung cancer would affect their lives.

Scientists can say that hurricanes are getting stronger and more damaging, but people living in Florida who have their homes destroyed by a hurricane every 10 years or so can still just shrug it off and say "We've always had hurricanes". It's not a new, scary phenomena the way that acid rain was in the 70's and 80's. Even though insurance companies are increasingly refusing to issue hurricane insurance because of how much more damage is being done, and how much more expensive it is to repair or replace.

Hurricanes in Floriday are not a new phenomena.

So when someone plays a video game or watches a movie that shows some crazy-exagerated climate change disaster happening 10 or 20 years from now, and then when 10 or 20 years pass, and things aren't as bad as the game or movie suggested it would be, it feeds into this myth that climate change just isn't that big of a deal. And it encourages people to continue to kick the can down the road and not fight for out politicians and corporations to actually do something about it. Instead, it creates a culture in which the entire human race is the metaphorical frog in a pot of water, being slowly boiled to death as the heat is gradually turned up, but not putting up a fight because it's happening so slowly that we don't notice.

Be responsible with your depictions of climate change

So here is my personal plea to story-tellers: by all means, tell your stories about the dire consequences of climate change. But do your research and don't blow the effects of climate change out of proportion. Because that may be dangerous and irresponsible, and may do more harm than good to your intended message.

And to everyone else, if you are able, try to cut down on your energy and gasoline usage whenever possible and practical. We, at the individual level can't do much to fight this problem by changing our own habits, because a real solution requires structural change at high levels. But if our governments and corporations won't do it, then it falls on us to do what little we can. And if millions -- or hundreds of millions -- of us do care enough to be a little more responsible and a little less wasteful, maybe we actually can make a difference.

Throughout this essay and it's accompanying video, you may have seen links and clips from a YouTube channel called potholer54. The author of this channel is Peter Hadfield, a former geologist and newspaper columnist who does regular debunks of myths and lies about science. Potholer's channel is an exceptional resource for debunking false claims about scientific topics ranging from climate change, to the COVID pandemic, to evolutionary biology, and yes, even flat-Eartherism.

Peter Hadfield (Potholer54) is an excellent resource for debunks of climate change myths.

His usual method is to try to track down the origin of the myth or lie and look at any sources that they cited, then explain how the original myth-creator either didn't understand their source or flat-out lied about it. And he does so in a charming and often humorous way. I highly recommend his channel to all of my viewers.

Potholer doesn't take donations from Patreon, because he prefers that his supporters donate to a charitable organization called Health In Harmony which provides healthcare and other resources to villagers at the edge of a nature preserve in Borneo, in exchange for the villagers not cutting down the trees and helping to maintain the forest and ecosystem. I encourage my viewers to take a look at this charity, and consider making a donation yourself. I have. Not only does it help to save lives and improve the quality of life of these villagers, but the tropical trees that they preserve help to capture and sequester carbon from the air and ever-so-slightly mitigate the effects of global warming.

Unlike Potholer54, however, I am paying for the maintenance of a server for my blog and also ongoing licenses for the software that I use to edit videos. So I do have a Patreon page to help offset those costs. If you enjoy this content, I hope you'll consider making a contribution via Patreon so that I can continue to make high-quality content.

Patreon

Even though Patreon recently removed goals from its site, I do still intend to make charitable contributions each time I hit a funding goal. When I hit a funding goal, I'll post a poll with some charities or non-profits supporting causes that are important to me, and my Patrons will be able to chose which of those causes I will donate the money to. The first goal is at $10 a month, so I only need a few new Patrons to get there. In addition, Patrons get early access to new content, previews of select upcoming projects, and Patrons at higher tiers have voting privileges to vote on future topics for content. If you are not a Patron, and you're watching this, then the next video essay (about the upcoming Silent Hill 2 remake) is already available to Patrons, and likely will be for a few weeks. I may also add additional Patron perks as my support base grows.

Thanks to all my Patrons, past, present, and future. I appreciate your support.

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A gamer's thoughts

Welcome to Mega Bears Fan's blog, and thanks for visiting! This blog is mostly dedicated to game reviews, strategies, and analysis of my favorite games. I also talk about my other interests, like football, science and technology, movies, and so on. Feel free to read more about the blog.

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