Saturday, July 19, 2014

‘The Collapse of Western Civilization’ — A View From the Year 2393

Book cover for “The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View From The Future.”  Click to visit.
How would a historian in 2393 write about this century if we continue self-destructively ignoring climate science — and as a result modern civilization as we know it had collapsed 300 years earlier?

That’s the question answered by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway in their excellent and unique new entry in the emerging Climate-Fiction genre, The Collapse of Western Civilization:  A View From The Future

This is not CliFi like the nihilistic movie “Snowpiercer” or the book version of “The Hunger Games,” with their epic fights to the death and absorbing human drama.

Even so, Oreskes and Conway don’t spare the apocalypse:  “the human populations of Australia and Africa, of course, were wiped out.”  But they aren’t trying to portray the impact of the climate apocalypse on individuals.

Part history, part science fiction, the book grapples with what I expect will be the greatest puzzle to the countless future generations who will suffer terribly — and needlessly — for our greed and myopia:  to the historian studying this tragic period of human history, the most astounding fact is that the victims knew what was happening and why.  Indeed, they chronicled it in detail precisely because they knew that fossil fuel combustion was to blame.  Historical analysis also shows that Western civilization had the technological know-how and capability to effect an orderly transition to renewable energy, yet the available technologies were not implemented in time.

So why didn’t knowledge lead to action — or, rather, to the relatively low-cost actions that could have averted centuries of misery?  The authors offer several reasons.  They blame a rigid adherence to “free-market fundamentalism” — the notion that the market will solve all problems and that government can’t play a positive role.  They blame scientists for being too reticent to spell out the dangers clearly.

‘The Collapse of Western Civilization’ — A View From the Year 2393

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