We live in an era where catastrophe looms large in the political imagination. On the one side we find hellacious visions of climate crisis and ecological collapse, on the other, grim warnings of social disintegration through plummeting birth rates, mass immigration and crime. Popular culture’s vivid post-apocalyptic worlds, from Cormac McCarthy’s The Road to Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale, increasingly echo in political discourse, most memorably in Donald Trump’s 2016 inauguration speech on the theme of “American Carnage.” For more imaginative doom-mongers there are various technological dystopias to contemplate, whether AI run amok, a digital surveillance state, or simply the replacement of physical experience with virtual surrogates. Then, in 2020, the eruption of a global pandemic allowed catastrophe to cross from the silver screen to the news studio, as much of the world sat transfixed by a profusion of statistics, graphs and harrowing reports of sickness and death.[…]

Disaster Junkies — Wessie du Toit