What Game of Thrones Is REALLY About: Climate Change
By Ronni H.
April 23, 2019
Nightwalkers, incest, blood, and dragons. The hit HBO series Game of Thrones has made history since its debut in 2011, and with the show’s eighth and final season concluding over the course of the next four weeks, it’s time to talk about what the show is ACTUALLY about: climate change. For those of you that—for some insane reason—haven’t seen the show, this may not be a big deal to you (but trust me, you’ll still want to hear this), for those that are currently watching it but not yet caught up, you may want to keep scrolling so I don’t give anything away (but come back and read this when you’re done), and for those avid fans out there, you may be skeptical, so let me break it down.
Climate change has been talked about by scientists, intellectuals, and globally conscious citizens for decades, but it’s only recently that we have—on a global level—begun to understand the true implications and inevitable fatality of global warming. Many people predict that the human race won’t survive the next century, all because of our anthropogenic impact on the environment. For a long time, many people privileged enough to not be directly impacted by the effects of climate change have said that it’s a myth, it isn’t real, scientists are lying to scare people, it’s a scheme so that money won’t be used on other projects, etc. But the people who are currently experiencing the effects of climate change—homes and communities being swallowed by the ocean due to rising sea levels; drastic weather including hurricanes, snow, rainfall; warmer temperatures affecting water quality and pollution—are the ones who know the reality of global warming. What started off as a small community of people has continued to grow as individuals and communities tell their stories, share the facts, and show how we are killing our world.
While all of this is occurring, many people’s attention has been focused on the Mueller investigation, Russia, North Korea, the latest daily scandal emerging from the White House and whatever other issue is headlining that day. But all of these scandals, power plays, and politics are completely irrelevant because it doesn’t matter who ends up on top if we are all going to die when the world implodes because of global warming. The United States Government (and we are not the only ones) has been pushing climate action aside as a low priority on our list of things to do, when it really should be the one and only thing we are focusing on. And here’s where Game of Thrones holds its parallel: it doesn’t matter who ends up on the Iron Throne because the Night King and White Walkers are going to take over Westeros and kill everybody and everything.
Since the pilot of Game of Thrones the phrase “Winter is Coming”—first uttered by lord Eddard Stark of Winterfell (RIP)—has been used to talk about the deadly winter that everyone, even in King’s Landing, needs to be preparing for. The Northerners, including those of the Night's Watch and the Wildlings beyond the wall, have had no interest in the shenanigans that the Lannister, Baratheons, Targaryens, and Starks have been partaking in to obtain control of the Iron Throne because they understand what actually matters: preparing for the winter that will kill humanity and doing everything in their power to stop that from happening.
Throughout the seasons, we have seen the slow progression of characters, big and small, jumping on Jon Snow’s bandwagon to focus their attention on the wall and the White Walkers. But the person who holds the most power in Westeros, Cersei on the Iron Throne, has still neglected to spend money and resources to fight the war that needs to be fought. Stubborn, ignorant, and drunk on power, she refuses to listen to facts and intelligent people and simply decides not to see the very obvious current effects and the inevitable outcome if she doesn’t help. Sound like anyone familiar?
It seems like a connecting thread between the people in the Sci-Fi land and in the real world is that we don’t tend to address problems until they are deadly. From the beginning of the show, many people—especially the rural farmers or other small characters who die almost immediately after being introduced—have been saying that “Winter is Coming,” that there is a problem that we can’t see, that people don’t believe in, that isn’t affecting us now, but will be dire in our future. But there were wars to fight, power to obtain, people to kill, money to splurge and now we are left with an extremely daunting future, one that is said to be irreversible.
But as the characters brace themselves for the winter that has come, I say we take some notes from Jon Snow: 1. Inform everyone, even your enemies, about the issue at hand; 2. Work together, gather all different kinds of people to join into your cause: Northerners, Wildlings, Nights Watchmen, people from the Iron Islands and from King’s Landing, and even get some Dothraki, former slaves, and dragons from across the sea; and 3. Don’t sleep with your aunt.
My point is that Game of Thrones has a whole other level of intelligence buried under the cinematic genius and complicated storyline that I believe includes a social justice message about climate change. So don’t let the Night King and the White Walkers take over—let’s follow Jon Snow, the true heir to the Iron Throne, and stop global warming.
(But I guess it all depends on how the final season of Game of Thrones ends; however it turns out, we’re probably all doomed.)