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Geography to Survive the End of the World

Venue: Online

"What frame of mind were we in, to face extinction and simply shrug it off?" (The Age of Stupid, 2009)

Visions of catastrophic future events (climate-system collapse; pandemics; nuclear war) that undermine the very basis of survival saturate the public sphere. The hands of the Doomsday Clock are poised at a hundred seconds to midnight: the closest they have ever been to civilization-ending apocalypse. Yet through incremental policy responses and in the ongoing ordinary of our everyday lives, we deny and thus perpetuate these terrifying futures. In this lecture, we explore the connections between collapse-based thinking, our emotional responses to environmental futures, and agency – the ability to act and intervene. First, we review how notions of collapse, apocalypse and survival have figured in the history of environmental politics and geographical thinking. Next, we look at overlapping forms of contemporary catastrophe, and consider the argument that our emotional responses to climate emergency are failing to prompt sufficient action. Finally, we look across varied cultural forms to question whether new notions of ‘survival’ are emerging that challenge sustainability, resilience and adaptation as key public discourses on collective environmental futures.

This lecture is a taster session for the MSc Geography programme at Birkbeck, and introduces a new optional module for all MA/MSc programmes, ‘Surviving Catastrophic Times.’ It showcases the programme’s breadth and interdisciplinarity by exploring how research in Geography has approached notions of catastrophe, world-endings and survival.


This event is open to all and is aimed at offer holders and potential applicants for the MSc Geography programme, and current students interested in the new module ‘Surviving Catastrophic Times’.

Contact name:

  • Dr Kezia Barker -

    Dr Kezia Barker is the Director of the MSc Geography programme and a Lecturer in Geography at Birkbeck. Her research considers public identities and practices in relation to environmental and security futures, including biosecurity, health security and within prepping and survivalist subcultures.