I've never seen Warren Ellis speak, but he does write great essays. I remember reading one of his at Vice.com, after Hurricane Sandy hit New York. It was about the slow, almost absent minded collapse of civilisation.
A team of researchers from Penn State have recently released work showing how they can compare rainfall records on stalagmites in Belize to Mayan political history. They found, in fact, that severe weather events contributed directly to the breakage of the Mayan political machine, and even the collapse of its greatest cities. Which would seem obvious, perhaps, but here we are. Looking at the marks left by rain on stone and mapping them to the end of cities.
I can imagine, in fact, walking through an Old New York, looking at the dark, greedy smears left by floodwaters at high tide on the fronts of brownstones and banks and divining from them the dates when Manhattan died by inches. Wondering which of these eroded tidal lines was the one where people realized that climate change wasn’t a joke or a trick, but the new future, a thousand miles wide and coming for them at a hundred miles an hour.
Every single one of the green, bloated bodies washed up on America’s shore was loved by someone, and cheated out of years by a broken machine.
I'm hoping to find it or something like it in Cunning Plans, a collection of his speeches, and an honest to goddamned steal for one lousy buck. It's ebook only. You can get it from the Beast of Bezos here.
Or here via Smashwords, my prefered choice even though I don't get a piece of the action from them.