The Heat is On

Apocalyptic Rhetoric and Climate Change


  • Catherine Keller



climate change, global warming, Bill McKibbin


1998 was the warmest year since reliable records have been kept, according to studies by both NASA and the World Metereological Association. This marks the 20th consecutive year with an above normal global surface temperature. The fourth angel poured his bowl on the sun, and it was allowed to scorch men with fire; men were scorched by the fierce heat, and they cursed the name of God (Rev. 16.8). ‘Nothing is going to happen.’ ‘I know nothing’s going to happen, you know nothing’s going to happen. But at some level we ought to think about it anyway, just in case.’ I Somehow, amid the warm fuss and bustle of the everyday, I had mislaid the climate crisis. I’m not sure how I lost something so big. Talk about the weather had never quite regained the innocence it lost over a decade ago, when I read Bill McKibbin’s The End of Nature, warning in tones of prophetic urgency about the consequences of our denial of the climate change underway. But I had fallen back to safe small-talk kind of weather, its changes day by day, neighborly news: it’s the topic we all share, and share willingly, the topos (‘place’) of all topics. It is the only topic that ever works with the kindly, melancholic doorman. His heavily accented English drops toward sorrow-ing silence on any other subject. But on the vicissitudes of weather—whether we should wear our hats, get home before the storm, walk in the park—he brightens and risks a bit of interchange. Why would I want to burden this delicate zone of human co-creatureliness with warnings about warming?






How to Cite

Keller, C. (1999). The Heat is On: Apocalyptic Rhetoric and Climate Change. Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, 4(1).