The Drowned World


In his 1962 SF classic The Drowned World , JG Ballard depicts a disastrous dystopian future in which the world has been overwhelmed by a catastrophic greenhouse effect.

The narrative portrays a societal backwards drift into something more primitive, but somehow better adapted to this new world. Ballard offers a fascinating discussion of genetic memory, of the hard-coding of our response to this disastrous environment by millions of years of evolution.

Recent events in New Orleans strike a strong and resonant chord with those familiar with Ballard’s epic. And yet one wouldn’t have to look to genetic memory to understand the knee-jerk response of those caught in the crisis

US commentators have complained that looters (some may prefer to call these individuals ‘entrepreneurs’ or ‘opportunists’) have a far greater focus of self-interest than a strong sense of community. Hmm . .

Thanks to the US Gun Laws , the availability of guns on your average high street is making matters worse; looters are helping themselves and arming more effectively against the effotrs of the police and other law inforcement agencies. Hmmm . .

Racked with chronic underfunding, public service law enforcement is unable to cope with the crisis, calling instead upon the National Guard. Doh! Many of the local troops are to be found far away in Iraq . Hmmmm . .

“You reap what you sow”, as JG Ballard once said



    September 1, 2005

    I have always loved Ballard’s work and ‘The Drowned World’ in particular. I have to say that in terms of evoking its setting it is unparalleled – you can actually feel the heat and oppressive atmosphere as you read it. It (along with Wells’ ‘The Island of Dr. Moreau) gave me nightmares when I read it …

    Pete Grehan

    September 1, 2005

    Also ironic is that this ???possible??? effect of Global Warming hammered the oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico and sent up the price of oil.

    Perhaps we???ll be seeing shot-outs around filling stations spreading?


    September 1, 2005

    Amidst news of growing problems in the US, how do readers feel
    people in the UK would have reacted?

    My feeling is that there would have been far more of a community
    spirit, especially in the Valley areas in which I myself live.

    And I don’t recall reports of any similar problems during the
    tsunami of lasy year . . .


    September 1, 2005

    I don’t believe that Americans are inherently more violent / less community-spirity (not that I approve of community spirit – it’s a concept I mostly abhor). There might be a chance that Bowling for Columbine was right – that they are indoctrinated with fear through the media, and thus more likely to panic / react disproportionately.

    Presumably the level to which the population is armed is a factor – the Tsunami affected huge areas, mostly poor, more concerned with agriculture / tourism than weapons. In the regions where civil war / rebellions were ongoing (eg Tamil) things did escalate to violence. I suspect that the main reason why looting was not observed as much was that the majority of the affected areas had a low gun / people ratio. Furthermore, the Tsunami drained away again fairly quickly – the flood in New Orleans is not draining, as the city is built below sea level.

    Either way, I’m sure everyone will be glad to hear that lots of heavily armed Iraq veterans are bing flown in, with machine guns and a “shoot to kill” policy to back them up, and a river to wash away all the evidence for what they’ll be up to… Always the logical response. Too much guns and violence in an area? Send in more guns and violent people to try and get control over it, ahead of the bare necessities. Long live the US government. Not.


    September 1, 2005

    Shoot to kill? Sounds like London.

    Kate N

    September 1, 2005

    Hello, I work at Walker & Company Books for young readers, and on behalf of the editors, I am writing to inquire about the rights to the photograph posted at the top of this entry. Walker & Co. is interested in using this photograph for the cover art of a book to be published. Any help or contact information you might have regarding this photograph would be geatly appreciated. Please contact me, Kate, at Thank you.


    September 1, 2005

    hi je suis une fille ki aime le dessin je suis artiste je veux de sois commme pikaso

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