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Learning to Die in the Anthropocene: Reflections on the End of a Civilization (City Lights Open Media) Paperback – October 6, 2015
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"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise. Learn more
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More praise for Learning to Die in the Anthropocene:
"Roy Scranton gets it. He knows in his bones that this civilization is over. He knows it is high time to start again the human dance of making some other way to live. In his distinctive and original way he works though a common cultural inheritance, making it something fresh and new for these all too interesting times. This compressed, essential text offers both uncomfortable truths and unexpected joy."--McKenzie Wark, author of Molecular Red: Theory for the Anthropocene
"We're f*cked. We know it. Kind of. But Roy Scranton in this blistering new book goes down to the darkness, looks hard and doesn't blink. He even brings back a few, hard-earned slivers of light. . . . What is philosophy? It's time comprehended in thought. This is our time and Roy Scranton has had the courage to think it in prose that sometimes feels more like bullets than bullet points."--Simon Critchley, Co-founder and moderator of The New York Times online philosophy series "The Stone"
"An eloquent, ambitious, and provocative book."--Rob Nixon, author of Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor
"Roy Scranton has written a howl for the Anthropocene--a book full of passion, fire, science and wisdom. It cuts deeper than anything that has yet been written on the subject."--Dale Jamieson, author of Reason in a Dark Time: Why the Struggle to Stop Climate Change Failed--And What It Means For Our Future
"As a motivator, the concept Life hasn't been working out so great, hardwired as it is into the post-Neolithic drive to exist no matter what the quality of that existence. Life won't help you to live. Including ecological awareness in our political decisions means including as much death in as many different modes (psychic, philosophical, social) as we can manage. Roy Scranton has written an essential recipe book for adding some death to the bland, oppressive and ecologically disastrous human cake."--Timothy Morton, author of Ecology without Nature: Rethinking Environmental Aesthetics
"In the brief but crowded pages of Learning to Die in the Anthropocene, Iraq War veteran, Roy Scranton, wields both history and philosophy as forensic tools. With the unblinking eyes of a medical examiner, he systematically reveals the causes, trajectory and outcome of our planetary domination and its subsequent climate crisis. Slicing away obscuring adipose tissue of romanticism on the left and denial on the right, he pinpoints the source of the corpse's demise."--Jose Knighton, Weller Book Works' Newsletter
"Scranton has always been a few steps ahead of other veteran-authors. . . . Learning to Die in the Anthropocene casts a beautiful allure."--Peter Molin, Time Now
"Scranton’s book has its own kind of power. . . . There is something cathartic about his refusal to shy away from the full scope of our predicament."--Rebecca Tuhus-Dubrow, The Los Angeles Review of Books
"This is a small book with big ideas from an Army veteran who views the flooding after Hurricane Katrina and sees 'the same chaos and collapse I’d seen in Baghdad.' Scranton brings meaning and humor to the mayhem."--J. Ford Huffman, The Military Times
"With clarity and conviction, Scranton explores the global failure to address the climate crisis and the possibility that the planet could become uninhabitable. Referring to classic texts as far back as The Epic of Gilgamesh, he urges readers to face their fear of death and find guidance in literature as they prepare for and adapt to the future. The book is an unapologetic punch in the gut, likely to leave many readers gasping. Scranton does offer a kind of hope: By making tough accommodations and reconnecting with our core humanity, we may eventually be able to recover our collective breath."--Michael Berry, Sierra Magazine
" . . . Scranton’s book is a very well researched investigation into our troubled future. Scranton doesn’t sugar coat his findings, 'We are f*cked' as he so bluntly puts it. And indeed with the rise in global temperatures set to soar in the next fifty years bringing with it melting ice caps, rising seas, a toxic cocktail of carbon dioxide and methane that has remained locked in the permafrost for centuries, no argument can be made against Scranton’s statement."--Stephen Lee Naish, Hong Kong Review of Books
About the Author
A war veteran, journalist, and author, Roy Scrantonhas published in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Rolling Stone, Boston Review, and Theory and Event, and has been interviewed on NPR's Fresh Air, among other media.
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Scranton seems to be more than capable of picking up the mantle of the younger generation's John Raulston Saul: a moralist interested in providing an unvarnished, big picture understanding of WHY and HOW we find ourselves in such a dark place. Yet it's the hopeful tone throughout which makes this exceptional. There are plenty of books out there which will explain to you the myriad reasons why the world is going to s***. You can see it in our fantasies, too--from the general dystopia bent in popular fiction to the kill-everyone-and-everything zombie fetish that won't seem to go away. But Roy is very clear: s*** sucks, but we are not hopeless. The battle is the same battle its always been; the forces of consolidated greed, violence, and everything dark against the light of wisdom, hope, and love. For as hard as it seems and as dark as it gets, we, the people of the light, can't give up. Roy Scranton knows that and so should you.
It's easy to call this a "climate change" book, but Scranton's narrative does a good job connecting this to geologic history, not the comparitive split second of recent human history. Climate change IS going to happen, humanity in its current form WILL be destroyed - there's no point in crying about it. Not tomorrow, obviously, but eventually. But, it's fairly likely that the children of today's children will be facing a world where much we take for granted has been dramatically changed.
So Scranton is not writing this book as a "drive fewer miles" polemic - as he points out, our reliance on technology burns more fossil fuel in a few minutes than worrying about driving 55 or 65 mph. He is writing literally to wake humanity up to how to learn how to die - because it's coming. We, as humans, are biologically hard-wired to avoid confronting our own personal mortality - much less confront it as a species. He doesn't have any answers as to what we should do, but be more enlightened as to our place in the world, and how we can prepare to adjust to an existential conclusion.
It's funny - candidates for president babble about ISIS as an "existential threat" to the US - it isn't, and will never be. ISIS terrorists could blow up Houston, but the country would survive. In the meantime, an existential threat is happening all around us, every day, and it's denied at every turn. It's just humans being humans - worrying about the broken window in a car with no tires.
So in this book - really, an extended essay - Scranton, without pity or much melodrama, lays out the case that we had our moment, and now that moment is coming to an end. Not in 10 years or 50 years or 150 years - but it's coming, and the by-then long dead and disintegrated Scranton will have the words left behind to say "I told you so."
To paraphrase another column that defends the "pessimism" that a book like this seems to encourage: "We’re not diagnosing cancer because we’re pessimistic – we’re pessimistic because our diagnosis is that this is cancer."
In other words - it's not pessimism to try and convince people that climate change is the problem. The pessimism comes because climate change IS the problem.
This is the finest inadvertent explanation of Buddhism I have ever read. One of the themes of Buddhism is learning to die, and that's one of the main themes of Scranton's book: climate change will reshape (or possibly wipe out) civilization, and either way, we will have to learn to die to our current lifestyle.
Most recent customer reviews
It started strong with a no holds barred assessment on the gravity of our current situation and many examples of why our economics and politics...Read more