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The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future Paperback – July 1, 2014
"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover,"" illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Pre-order today
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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)
About the Author
Naomi Oreskes is professor of the history of science and affiliated professor of Earth and planetary sciences at Harvard University. Her 2004 essay "The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change," cited by Al Gore in An Inconvenient Truth (2006), led to op-ed pieces in the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and the San Francisco Chronicle, and to Congressional testimony in the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. With Erik Conway, she is the author of Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming.
Erik M. Conway is a historian of science and technology employed by the California Institute of Technology. He recently received a NASA History award for "path-breaking contributions to space history, ranging from aeronautics to Earth and space sciences," and an AIAA History Manuscript Award for his fourth book, Atmospheric Science at NASA: A History.
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One of the biggest problems with scientific discoveries is that scientists seldom publish their work in a forum or a form that is accessible or understandable to the non-scientific community of voters, policy makers, et al. This short book/long essay by Naomi Oreskes and Eric Conway is a fantastic addition to the conversation on climate change and its potential effects.
If you are looking for a sic-fi novel, look elsewhere. If you are looking for an overview of what climate change or climate science is, look elsewhere. But if you are interested in considering intersections between science, communication, business, history, creative thinking and climate change then this little book is for you.
FYI, this is not a light version of "Merchants of Doubt" (also a fantastic read). This book is instead, a way to consider the path we are on and seem determined to stay on with respect to climate change regardless of what science discovers and which actions it recommends.
The writing is clear and concise, but not what I'd call brilliant though the ideas presented are. We are on a downward slope and have been for decades when it comes to climate. We know the causes of climate change. We know the effects, current and future if we don't change. This book outlines much of what science can predict with confidence.
The one criticism I have is that the authors resort to a techno-fix for climate change rather than letting it run its course. Perhaps the alternative was simply too bleak to imagine...
5 stars. Important message...should be read be everyone
The authors' use of actual political and economic philosophies, blending of real and imagined legislation regarding climate change, and determination to approach climate change with a modicum of objectivity thanks to its imagined historical framework really drove home what is at stake, how the future might look, and how ridiculous our present approach to climate change really is. Bravo to the authors for penning such an intriguing work, one that is highly imaginative and yet deeply rooted in real evidence. Highly recommended reading for, well, everyone, really!
The authors do a reasonably credible job of projection, however. They take certain liberties, the main one being the assumption that major releases of methane from permafrost occur before 2100, and that these melt enough land ice to raise sea levels by seven meters by that date. This is probably too rapid a timetable (but given the poor understanding of tipping points, it cannot be completely ruled out.)
They issue two useful warnings: the first, that what they call the carbon-combustion complex will not be defeated by scientific information on climate change, no matter how abundant and compelling, nor how calmly and clearly explained; the second, that geoengineering using sulphate aerosols is risky but may be rammed through out of desperation. Another good point of the book is that along with its scientific projections it folds all the relevant factors — the media's false balance, political inertia, free-market fundamentalism, the difference between democratic and authoritarian governments — into one succinct narrative. Also there is an interesting interview with the authors at the end.
I think it would be better to form your idea of the big climate-change picture from a variety of books, and there are many good ones to choose from. But if you can only read one, this one is good and short.
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