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Our world is changing. Rising seas, spiking temperatures, and extreme weather imperil global infrastructure, crops, and water supplies. Conflict, famine, plagues, and riots menace from every quarter. From war-stricken Baghdad to the melting Arctic, human-caused climate change poses a danger not only to political and economic stability but to civilization itself...and to what it means to be human. Our greatest enemy, it turns out, is ourselves. The warmer, wetter, more chaotic world we now live in - the Anthropocene - demands a radical new vision of human life.
In this bracing response to climate change, Roy Scranton combines memoir, reportage, philosophy, and Zen wisdom to explore what it means to be human in a rapidly evolving world, taking listeners on a journey through street protests, the latest findings of earth scientists, a historic UN summit, millennia of geological history, and the persistent vitality of ancient literature. Expanding on his influential New York Times essay (the number-one most-emailed article the day it appeared, and selected for Best American Science and Nature Writing 2014), Scranton responds to the existential problem of global warming by arguing that in order to survive, we must come to terms with our mortality.
Plato argued that to philosophize is to learn to die. If that's true, says Scranton, then we have entered humanity's most philosophical age - for this is precisely the problem of the Anthropocene. The trouble now is that we must learn to die not as individuals but as a civilization.
Roy Scranton has published in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Rolling Stone, Boston Review, and Theory and Event and has been interviewed on NPR's Fresh Air, among other media.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Lulu on 12-05-16
A Lot to Reflect On
Very thought provoking book. It did not take quite the path I had hoped. But I recommend it heartily just the same.
This book deals with the topic of humanity coming to grasp with what might be the end of our civilization. An end that we have essentially brought on ourselves. There is nothing optimistic or hopeful in this book. The author sees no way out of the mess we have made of our planet and clearly believes that it is far too late to affect meaningful change and all of the "solutions" we have come up with to address the poisoning of our planet are too little, too late. He quickly dismisses most of the solutions that even now the eternal optimists among us promote - solar, wind and hyrdo power.
He shines light on many of the hypocritical events activists use to garner attention to their cause, and quickly explains why demonstrations, sit-ins, marches, etc. have absolutely no effect on the society they want to touch.
The author seems to have gone through the stages of grief and is now at the point of acceptance and asks the reader to join him there. Once we have accepted the inevitable, he believes, we can start discussing how humanity could and should work through the next steps, how we prepare, what and who we look to for guidance (not necessarily scientist, he thinks it is too late for them, but philosophers.) It is as if he wants civilization to think about how we can grow old gracefully and accept our fate without losing our humanity. Only once we get to this point, can we figure out if there is a path forward for at least some of us, so we can have some influence on the next civilization this planet creates.
It has been several days since read this and I find myself thinking about the book frequently. Very powerful.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
By Susie on 06-28-16
Grief Counseling for Civilization
In this existential meditation, Roy Scranton is not setting out to get you to go solar, or ride your bike to work. He's trying to convince you to accept that global warming is changing the world and that life as we know it is unsustainable. That humanity's greatest threat is "not terrorism, not WMDs but the machine of civilization breaking down," and the sooner we collectively accept this and the better we can cope and adapt.
With the prognosis as it is, a book like this is long overdue. A grief counselor for humanity. Scranton writes of serving in the military, "to survive as a soldier I had to learn to accept the inevitability of my own death, for humanity to to survive in the Anthropocene, we need to learn to live with and through the end of our civilization." The only way forward is acceptance.
This is a rich and deep philosophy and necessary for thinking and sensitive people.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful