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The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future Kindle Edition

3.8 out of 5 stars 285 customer reviews

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Length: 106 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled

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Editorial Reviews

Review

A much-needed antidote to the "AGENDA 21" nonsense promulgated by Glenn Beck and the far right, Oreskes and Conway provide us with a glimpse of the dystopian future we may ACTUALLY face should we fail to heed the warning of the world's scientists regarding the looming climate change crisis.

(Michael E. Mann, director, Penn State Earth System Science Center, and author of The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines)

Oreskes and Conway's startling and all-too-plausible history of the century to come is in the spirit of George Orwell and Aldous Huxley and all the writers who have turned to prophecy in the attempt to ward off an oncoming disaster. Witty in its details and disturbing in its plausibility, this is an account of the Long Emergency we're entering that you will not soon forget.

(Kim Stanley Robinson, author of Shaman, 2312, Science In the Capital, and the Mars trilogy)

A chilling view of what our history could be. Ignore it and it becomes more likely. Read this book, heed its warning, and perhaps we can avoid its dire predictions.

(Timothy Wirth, vice chairman, United Nations Foundation, and former U.S. Senator and Member, U.S. House of Representatives)

Regret, Oreskes and Conway argue, is an equal-opportunity employer. Yes, climate change will be a nightmare for environmentalists. But global warming also threatens free marketeers, because unabated, it guarantees big government intervention. And that's the great service of this short but brilliant parable: it creates bipartisan empathy for our future selves. From that gift, perhaps we can summon the will to act today.

(Auden Schendler, Vice President, Sustainability, Aspen Skiing Company)

Provocative and grimly fascinating, The Collapse of Western Civilization offers a glimpse into a future that, with farsighted leadership, still might be avoided. It should be required reading for anyone who works―or hopes to―in Washington.

(Elizabeth Kolbert, author of The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History)

The scenario portrayed in this valuable little book is scarily possible. It would be apt if readers took action to keep it from, you know, happening.

(Bill McKibben, founder 350.org)

Packed with salient science, smart speculation and flashes of mordant humour.

(Nature)

This science-historical fantasy is thought-provoking, but is it prescient?

(Scientific American)

[A] must-read... What is science fiction today will someday be the history of real, live people ― billions of them. Kudos to Oreskes and Conway for finding a creative way to talk about the immoral choice we are making today and how those billions of people will suffer for it.

(Climate Progress Blog)

Though short, Collapse provides a detailed examination of how we've failed our environment ― and a call to action to save what's left.

(Discover)

The authors' creative attack, ahead of the 2014 U.S. midterm elections, on those who today deny climate change and advocate a hands-off approach by government, is what makes this work a must-read in the politics of climate change. Its gift -- the real reason why everyone should read it -- is that it gives us an opportunity to imagine the world as our grandchildren will encounter it.

(Haaretz)

... Oreskes and Conway have carved out a new space for historians to use their knowledge of alternative pasts to help imagine alternative futures.

(Public Books)

A gripping and deeply disturbing account… Based on sound scholarship and yet unafraid to speak boldly, this book provides a welcome moment of clarity amid the cacophony of climate change literature.All Things Environmental

(All Things Environmental)

Excellent… The Collapse of Western Civilization is a very readable and effective way of communicating the catastrophic implications of where we are heading under the climate crisis.

(Climate, People & Organizations)

Oreskes and Conway do justice to the full seriousness of climate change. That seems to me prime among the many values of their book… For all its dispassion the book is a call to arms.

(Hot Topic)

Oreskes and Conway's book contains potent, thoughtful analysis...

(Huffington Post)

The Collapse of Western Civilization illustrates the potential dangers from climate change, which can help readers think more clearly about the risk management choices society faces. The book may also encourage scientists to reflect on their role in society. If it helps scientists engage more effectively with the public by focusing on the key strengths of science, the book could help improve a flawed political system and enhance the potential for all branches of science to further benefit society.

(Paul A. T. Higgins Issues in Science and Technology)

Book Description

A haunting, provocative work of science-based fiction that imagines a world devastated by climate change.


Product Details

  • File Size: 297 KB
  • Print Length: 106 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press (June 24, 2014)
  • Publication Date: June 24, 2014
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00K33E4J2
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #80,600 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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A pair of fine historians with strong science backgrounds have written a disturbing short book/extended essay. As a lifelong fan of speculative fiction, I've read many stories of world-scale disasters. Their future dystopia seems all too plausible, if the USA continues to stall instead of leading. A country settled by people willing to invest in the future for their descendants, whose Founders included two fine scientists and educators of the time (Franklin and Jefferson), invested broadly in education and research and willing to spend 35 years building the Interstate Highway system ... ought to be able to do better, and if we can, the worst can be avoided.

The Netherlands does water planning on century scales, good to emulate. They're building more floating homes.

Oreskes and Conway correctly identify the biggest challenge as political rejection of science. Ironically, this was affirmed again after the book was done, just a few weeks ago, as the US House of Representatives wanted to stop the Pentagon from using the National Climate Assessment or IPCC reports in its plans. Do they really think it's a good idea to keep the Navy from thinking about #4 Norfolk/San Diego, #3 Pacific island bases, #2 Arctic geopolitics, or #1 fact that Karachi, PK is at sea level? That's tike telling the Cold War military to ignore radiation effects as nonexistent. Politicians may specify rejection of strong, inconvenient science, but the laws of physics do not care.

We have so far avoided the 1950s/1960s most worrisome doom, nuclear war, known to have immediate dire consequences. The challenge of limiting climate change damage to a level survivable by modern civilization** is the longer-than-election-cycle lag time from action (or its lack) until the results.
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Format: Paperback
This book should be read by anyone interested in the future of our civilization during the lifetime of our children and grand-children. It should be read by scientists who are trying to warn us of the coming catastrophe from climate change. It should be read - but won't be - by the politicians and the economic top 1% who are unable to comprehend, or simply don't care, that they will be the major cause of almost unimaginable suffering to humanity, all for the sake of living the high-life for a decade or two.

Oreskes and Conway are very perceptive historians who bring a strong understanding of science to their writing.

The book is written from the imaginary perspective of an historian from 2393 discussing the reasons for the collapse of Western civilization during the 21st century. I found the style of writing to be compelling. The book isn't describing a wildly speculative possible future (apart from compressing time by assuming a rate of sea-level rise that is at the extreme upper end of predictions) - it has strong elements of inevitability unless humanity takes dramatic action.

The study of history is terribly important. Thinking about what future historians will say about our current epoch gives an excellent perspective. Oreskes and Conway have important lessons for us on the inevitable failure of the free market, as well as issues with how physical scientists should reconsider their addiction to the 95% confidence limit and how they should show more appreciation for the biological and social sciences.

The book concludes with a Lexicon of Archaic Terms, a very interesting interview with the authors, and extensive notes. The illustrations show the effect of many metres of sea level rise on familiar coastlines.
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Format: Paperback
This short book is a report by a future Chinese academic on the collapse of civilization in the 21st century, caused by global warming and pollution. It purports to recount the disaster with perspective that usually only time can provide. We today are too closely involved to see the forest for the trees. That is usually the case. Yet most of us can see the forest, burning, and that is a different issue the book delves into with gusto. Science has been shunted aside in favor of "freedom" and the dollar.

The basic premise of a historian looking back to see what happened is valid, but the authors don't go nearly far enough. The rank stupidity of the politicians of the 20th century is no different from the rank stupidity of the church in the thousand years before, when it burned scientists at the stake for uttering facts it did not want to hear, regardless of provability. Basically, it was always this way. There have always been entrenched interests to defend, empires to defend, wealth to defend, and of course power to expand. Our author from the future missed that.

It is instructive to see how a future Chinese academic might view the economic history of the west, citing capitalism vs communism and neoliberalism and market fundamentalism (in the religious fervor sense). But that academic would surely have also discovered and reported the simple truism that separates all of it for the purposes of his report: Communism failed because it did not tell the economic truth about prices. Capitalism failed because it did not tell the ecological truth about prices. That in a nutshell has driven the greed machine to the heights we see today. (It is touched on in the glossary.
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11 Comments 87 of 105 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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