Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore

Natural disasters

The fear of a degeneration of the conditions of the Earth, the green planet of the Solar System constantly threatened by the self-destructive intervention of mankind, is the premise for a wide range of media narratives that denounce the approaching of a fatal point of no return for our ecosystem.
The devastating consequences of nuclear catastrophes, global warming and unrestricted industrialization are widely described in films, TV series and videogames inspired both by real events (such as the Chernobyl disaster, the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the American nuclear experiments in the Bikini Atoll) and by ideas that can be traced back to classical literature. The theme of Nature as a destructive power that reclaims its space in the world can be found in the dark environmental prophecy of Dialogo della Natura e di un islandese (Dialogue of Nature and an Icelander, 1824) by Giacomo Leopardi, as well as in American (A Descent into the Maelstrom by Edgar Allan Poe, 1841) and European classics (The Last Man on Earth by Mary Shelley, 1826), up to the more recent ecocritical works of George Rippery Stewart (Storm, 1941; Earth Abides, 1947) or On the Beach (1957) by Nevil Shute, a novel that depicts the consequences of a Third World War unleashed by small nuclear-weapon states such as Albania and Egypt.
Other titles worth mentioning are The Sheep Look Up (1972) by John Brunner, Oryx and Crake (2003) by Canadian novelist Margaret Atwood, The Road (2006) by Cormac McCarthy, from which the 2009 film of the same name was based on, and, more recently, the Italian novel Qualcosa là fuori (Something out there, 2016) by Bruno Arpaia, which is set in a devastated future world where all people moved to Northern Europe, the only area in the world where climate is still suitable for human settlements. Television series too have brought into their narratives apocalyptic futures, such as new medieval times without electricity (Revolution), alien invasions (Falling Skies, Colony), and nuclear holocausts (The 100, Jericho), sometimes even using comic tones (The Last Man on Earth).