Monday, April 9, 2012

'Extreme weather' could make 'doomsday dating' your best bet

If you find people on Soulmates are poorly prepared for disaster, try hooking up with those serious about surviving an apocalypse
Post Apocalyptic Couple
Has global economic collapse got you looking for survivalist skills in a prospective mate? Photograph: Peter Zelei/Getty Images/Vetta
Alice Bell, Mon 9 Apr 2012 09.00 BST
"Doomsday dating" really does exist: websites designed to match those with particular skills and resources for dealing with disaster, be it nuclear attack, extreme weather or economic collapse. Only in the US, perhaps, but with the petrol panics of last week (not to mention that "well from hell" off the coast of Scotland) maybe we could do with a version for dear old Blighty.
If you prefer fictional romance to the point-and-click experience of internet dating, Daniel Kramb has a book about love and climate change activism out next month, complete with the tagline "They want the burning to stop. She wants hers to begin". He's not the first author to explore the new politics of love in a changing climate either. I've come across the issue in the course of my academic research on children's science literature. Take, for example, Saci Lloyd's Carbon Diaries; a teenager's diary set in a near future where Britain has implemented strict carbon rationing (think Adrian Mole crossed with An Inconvenient Truth).
Alongside having to cope with growing their own food and changing gap-year plans, the young characters explicitly discuss "carbon dating", finding themselves drawn to engineering types who can make, fix, predict and understand things rather than the cool, pretty kids in the band. A warning though: in the end the nerdy boyfriend heartlessly leaves our heroine to study at an energy futures lab in Germany.
I was slightly surprised when a friend pointed out there are three books in Amazon's "Books › Fiction › Erotica › Global Warming & Climate Change" section. I thought there would be more. I'm sure it's a growth area. Maybe readers can think of some possible plots for this emerging sub-genre, though if you could keep the climate sceptic/scientist slash fiction to a minimum, it'd probably keep the Guardian's lawyers calmer.
Love and war is an old trope, of course, and it's not all about the kids either. For a touching treatment of a relationship during a nuclear attack, it's hard to outdo Raymond Briggs's When the Wind Blows. It's a story of a couple building a shelter and dealing with radiation sickness, all the time worrying about their pensions and grandson. For the classic treatment of end-times personal relationships, check out PD James's Children of Men.
The emergence of a discourse on doomsday dating – real or fictional – maybe says something quite depressing about 21st-century attitudes to the future. Romance is often about hope after all, though I appreciate some might argue this is a slightly heteronormative view (or at least the politics of childbirth is worth reflecting upon if digging deeper into this issue). If you want some optimism, there's that icon of postmodernist survivalism, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, who, on a date in one of the later series, is told by her boyfriend that knowing her leads to him puzzling over what the plural for apocalypse is.
Maybe scorched earths, like broken hearts, do heal. Or maybe not. Perhaps the plural for apocalypse is simply the conceit of commercial television wanting to run beyond the previous season's overly dramatic denouement. Perhaps living through disaster by proxy of science fiction has made us too blase about it all. It's easy to giggle at doomsday dating, but arguably it's no laughing matter.
I'm tempted to join Survivalist Singles along with the recently launched New Scientist Connect and do a bit of compare and contrast. For purely scholarly reasons, of course. I'm particularly interested in users' different degrees of optimism and pessimism when it comes to technology, science, political structures and the environment. That wouldn't be very ethical though, so instead I'll throw it out to the wit and wisdom of Comment is free readers. Have you started "carbon dating"? Has global economic collapse got you looking for survivalist skills in a prospective mate? Or is being single in the 21st century depressing enough?

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