Terminator 2: Judgment Day has been one of my favorite movies ever since I first saw it at the age of 11. It’s a perfect movie, and none of the sequels has come close to capturing that lightning in a bottle again.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about a particular scene with Sarah Connor. It’s near the beginning of the movie when she’s still trapped in the mental hospital. Her psychiatrist, Silberman, listens as she shares her vision of the end of the world.
She says, “It’s like a giant strobe light, burning right through my eyes. Somehow I can still see. Fuck. We know the dream’s the same every night, why do I have to — ”
“Please continue,” Silberman says.
“Children look like burnt paper, black, not moving. And then the blast wave hits them…” She starts to get emotional. “…and they fly apart like leaves.” She sobs.
“Dreams of cataclysm, the end of the world, are very common,” he tells her.
Struggling to maintain her composure, she says, “It’s not a dream, you moron, it’s real. I know the date it happens.”
“I’m sure it feels very real to you.”
Now she is visibly angry. “On August 29th, 1997 it’s gonna feel pretty fucking real to you, too. Anybody not wearing 2 million sunblock is gonna have a real bad day, get it? God, you think you’re safe and alive? You’re already dead, everybody — ” she gestures around “ — him, you, you’re dead already! This whole place, everything you see is gone!” she shouts.
Linda Hamilton’s performance during this scene still sends chills down my spine.
Lately, as I contemplate the inevitable destruction of our civilization, this scene keeps coming back to me. Especially the line, “This whole place, everything you see is gone!”
Everything I see is gone. My house, my backyard, my town — all of it will be consumed by the ocean. Last time CO2 levels were this high, sea levels were 20 meters higher than they are today, and my home is only about 3 meters above sea level.
Unless we start to rapidly pull CO2 out of the atmosphere (which doesn’t seem likely), the place where I’m currently sitting will probably be under the ocean by the end of the century. My house won’t get passed down from one generation to the next. Instead, it will be abandoned.
Or maybe before that, it will be incinerated in a nuclear explosion like the one imagined by Sarah Connor. After all, we’ve come extremely close to nuclear warm many times, and now we’re in an ever-escalating cold war with both Russia and China.
Or maybe before that, it will simply be gutted and vandalized by looters searching for food in a post-collapse world. I don’t know exactly how the end of civilization will play out. All I know for sure is that everything I see is gone.
When I go out in public and see people living their lives, sometimes I want to grab them by the shoulders and scream, “The end is coming! It’s almost here!” It’s like there’s a mushroom cloud in the distance and I’m the only one who can see it.
So I empathize with Sarah Connor. I understand the terror she feels and the frustration that nobody believes her. But unlike Sarah Connor, there’s nothing I can do to prevent judgment day. Sure, I can vote, I can reduce my carbon footprint, I can spread the truth about our predicament, but I believe we’re already past the point of no return.
All I can do is try to enjoy my life as much as possible and enrich the lives of those around me. Like a person who’s received a terminal diagnosis, I’m deeply fearful and saddened by what’s coming, but I’m grateful that it’s caused me to wake up and start truly appreciating the beauty of life.