A person or people subject to overwhelming forces of human-made climate change, the solutions for which lie elsewhere in a dispersed field of actors who must participate differently for the crisis to end. In a sense we are all climate hostages, held subject to the violent erruptions of environmental changes of our own making. As with all hostage crises, force directed towards a person or people will only end if actions are taken elsewhere by others. There is a triangulated contract between captor, hostage, and the ultimate target of the action. This complex negotiation is all the more difficult in the case of climate hostages. Nature may ‘speak’, but it does not speak human. The timescales on which geological responses are deciphered and reacted to by humans are deeply out of sync. Thus, bracketing the problem that climate may lack intentions and interests, this is a hostage crisis unfolding on terms we do not understand, with woefully long delays between demands and resolutions. Willing to go great lengths to gain the advantage in this prisoner’s dilemma, we betray our solidarities. Thus, ultimately, it is nonsense to claim that we are all climate hostages. Political agreements, national borders, global distribution of environmental threat, and the very infrastructures of our daily lives are retooled to distribute risk and depredation unevenly. As some parts of the world (the Sahel, the Fertile Crescent, for example) begin to live through ‘anthropocenic conflicts’, conflicts the contours of which could not be imagined without the background pressures of climate change, other parts of the world shore up their borders to make certain the damage stays localised.

SEE ALSO: Elongated Governance; Climate Debt.

Defined by Manuel Schwab