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Requiem for a Species: Why We Resist the Truth About Climate Change Hardcover – April 7, 2010

4.0 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


'Listen to this Requiem and weep, if it helps. False hope is as dangerous as despair. But don't get mired in helplessness. Above all, Requiem is a call to arms; to the urgent task of overhauling democracy in pursuit of survival. At stake, the biggest prize of all: our own humanity.' Tim Jackson, author of Prosperity Without Growth 'I am afraid Clive Hamilton has it right about climate change - deeply afraid. Requiem is a brave and searingly honest book by a brilliant scholar. Ignoring it will only make a bad situation worse, so, please, read this book now.' James Gustave Speth, author of The Bridge at the Edge of the World: Capitalism, the Environment and Crossing from Crisis to Sustainability and Dean Emeritus, Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies 'Requiem for a Species is a remarkable publication which brings together the scientific imperatives of taking action in the field of climate change. Hamilton highlights the political inertia which is currently acting as a roadblock. In the wake of the weak outcome of Copenhagen, this book assumes added significance in breaking the resistance to the truth about climate change.' R K Pachauri, Chair, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Director-General, TERI 'I find it hard to imagine what life would be like if I had genuinely come to the irrevocable conclusion that it was too late to do anything serious about preventing runaway climate change� For me, this ongoing internal dialogue gets a little bit more painful, every year � And having just finished reading Clive Hamilton's excellent (but deeply disturbing!) Requiem for a Species, I'm now going to have to think it all through all over again.' Jonathon Porritt, Founder, Forum for the Future, and author of Capitalism As if the World Matters 'Requiem offers an insightful and informative look at why the human species can't come to terms with a changing climate. And Hamilton's conclusion--To despair, accept, then act--is an important call for us to respond to climate change immediately and decisively or spend the rest of our lives reacting to a warming world and an unraveling civilization.' Erik Assadourian, Director: State of the World 2010: Transforming Cultures: From Consumerism to Sustainability and Senior Researcher, Worldwatch Institute 'Clive Hamilton investigates - in real time - our society's choice not to act to protect ourselves from devastating climate change. We know the science, but 'scientific facts are fighting against more powerful forces' - power, money, bureaucratic inertia and our innate desire to ignore what we don't want to believe. 'It's too late,' he says. 'Humanity failed.' That past tense is devastating.' Fred Pearce, writer and author of The Last Generation: How Nature will take her Revenge for Climate Change 'Hamilton's book presents a powerful statement of the problems confronting us - not just the problem of climate change itself, but the tendency to wish the problem away by denial (which in less extreme circumstances can arguably be an adaptive response to difficult situations). And all compounded by the fact that neither our institutions nor we ourselves have experience in acting on behalf of a seemingly distant future. Read this book.' Robert M May OM AC FRS 'When future generations look out on a planet ravaged by climate change, they will ask of our generation 'When you knew what was happening--surely the greatest debacle since we came out of our caves--why didn't you stop it?' Clive Hamilton proposes the problem lies with 'the perversity of our institutions, our psychological dispositions, our strange obsessions, our penchant for avoiding facts, and, especially, our hubris.' It all makes for a riveting read because (alas) it is all too true--just like Greek tragedy.' Norman Myers, 21st Century School, University of Oxford 'Requiem for a Species magnificently captures the idea that by and large, none of us want to believe that climate change is real. It explains our inability to seriously weigh the evidence of climate change, and to take appropriate action to ensure our own survival.' Tim Costello, CEO, World Vision Australia 'Clive Hamilton, as usual, has courageously challenged the current nature of our society in this inspirational new book.' Graeme Pearman, former head of the CSIRO Division of Atmospheric Research 'Books that change one's life are rare... Requiem is a tour de force of compression and analysis that cannot help but shift climate change thinking.' Andres Kabel, Cultural Pilgrim (www.andreskabel.com) 'Requiem for a Species is a call to immediate action. It should be sent to every elected official at each level of government. All concerned citizen should read it in order to hold government and industry accountable for knowing the facts, altering policy, and developing clean technologies-not at some later point in time but now. The future looks grim; but, as Hamilton says, action is the best cure for despair. It may also be our only hope.' Courier Mail 'Well worth reading by anyone who takes a serious interest in climate change. It's concise, accessible, and full of insights and information which I suspect most readers will find new and revealing.' Permaculture Magazine 'Requiem for a Species is recommended for those who want to get a clearer picture of the science of climate change' Camilla Royle, Socialist Review 'Anyone even superficially concerned about climate change would fo well to read CLive Hamilton's Requiem for a Species...highly entertaining and excellently sources book' Talitha Haller, Ecosystem Marketplace. 'Even more strongly, Hamilton argues that humans have become docile puppets of the growth-focused system and that only those 'who have internalized the goals of the system most faithfully' become political leaders.' Climate Policy 'Hamilton advises that we grieve appropriately. That is, we should despair about the failure of humanity to prevent the climate change problem from reaching current levels, we should accept the new vision of the future that this entails and the need to transform our previous way of life, and we should act to make the best of the situation as we can. Unlike other drier reports and softly spoken analyses of climate change, this book frankly communicates the urgency of the problem, and I hope many people read it.' Katie Steele, Climate Law. 'As Hamilton so convincingly demonstrates, climate change is not only an inconvenient, but a distressing and fundamentally life-changing, truth. When faced with facts so alien to our ideology, we experience 'cognitive dissonance', and become almost incapable of accepting the evidence before us. So if, psychologically, humans as a species were never able to deal with the threat of climate change, is anyone really to blame? Well, Hamilton lays the blame firmly with the corporations.' Green World 'Requiem for a Species by Clive Hamilton was chosen as the May 2010 Book of the Month on my website, www.globalforesightbooks.org. Very important book.' Michael Marien, Editor, GlobalForesightBooks.org 'Anyone concerned with global affairs, facing up to climate change, and long-term futures should read this book' Michael Marien, Editor, GlobalForesightBooks.org 'Refreshing in its candour, clearly-written and well-sourced, Requiem for a Species is a landmark polemic. So while it is undoubtedly an important book for activists, it is clear humanity's future depends on those who are currently not involved in climate activism reading and acting on the facts and arguments contained within. Spread the word.' Ian Sinclair, Peace News

"This book succeeds in revealing why we have ignored the scientific warnings of climate change. Hamilton analyses the science and underlying reasons for global warming with an appropriate blend of dispassion and compassion." -Suzanne Simard, PhD, RPF, BC Forest Professional Magazine

About the Author

Clive Hamilton is professor of public ethics at the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics based at the Australian National University. For 14 years until early 2008 he was the executive director of Australia's foremost progressive think tank. He has held visiting academic positions at the University of Cambridge and Yale University.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 300 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; 1 edition (April 7, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1849710813
  • ISBN-13: 978-1849710817
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #365,102 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I read this book shortly after the very similar Down to the Wire (by David Orr) and found it slightly less enjoyable and less well written. This may be partly because the latter was so impressive. These books belong to an altogether new genre, the post-global-warming book. Years ago there were none, now it looks like they're proliferating. Clearly the warnings from science have been getting more and more panicked in conjunction with popular opinion becoming more and more blase.
The author takes it as given that the scientific consensus is correct, and follows through on the conclusions we are led to. Current estimates are in the range of 4 degree warming likely by 2100, which is of course quite devastating. (Particularly after the Copenhagen failure I think 4 is becoming the 'safe' bet.) In the beginning he outlines why he believes this will happen, why there will be little emissions cuts until many years from now. Obviously there haven't been a whole lot of carbon cuts so far. Most of the middle of the book is then given over to discussion about human nature, how our greed and our divorce from nature led us on this path. Thus he includes the obsession with economic growth and explains how this has led us to a new kind of religion or raison d'etre. It is likely we will be too caught up in this materialism to change our ways, and I think personally he's right. There are many books that have dealt with the topic of our materialistic hedonistic society addicted to endless growth in greater detail, and in fact there is a surplus in my opinion although I agree totally with what they are saying.
In the later chapters he goes on to discuss the consequences of a 4 degree rise, but very briefly, unlike the 6 degrees book which discusses it at length.
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Format: Hardcover
Point one is that climate science is now good enough and specific enough to show that even with optimistic assumptions (eg developed countries begin in 2020 reducing greenhouse gasses annually by 6%) we will still have baked in a minimum of 650ppm CO2 equivalent - more than enough to ensure radical planetary transformation and possibly enough to reset the evolutionary stopwatch.

Point two is that we all are addicted to the good life; that we will not give it up soon or voluntarily; and that our quest for that good life is the driver behind the accelerating greenhouse gas emissions. In the face of this highly disturbing reality we have largely adopted a stance of ideologically driven denial.

Point three is that as we have become progressively disconnected from Nature we largely maintain the illusion that we are in control and have the power to innovate our way out of our present predicament. Climate engineering will no doubt occur and with attendant unintended consequences (She swallowed a spider...).

The outcome of "Climate disruption's assault on all we believed - endless progress, a stable future, our capacity to control the natural world with science and technology - will corrode the pillars that hold up the psyche of modern humanity". Not pleasant to read, just as it's not pleasant to confront our personal addictions and dysfunctional behaviors. And in the end the way forward is the same - depression, acceptance, grieving and finally action.

So whatever it is, this is not a book for the faint of heart. But if you are up to it, it can be liberating.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A stunningly honest and refreshing take on the situation at hand.
Clive Hamilton has taken all of the swirling thoughts that have been aimlessly swooshing about in my head and combined them with many things I had not even considered, and finely woven them together into a cohesive and satisfying meditation on the future of our species. He has taken the fine lens of a scientific mind and turned it sharply on those who deny the validity of climate science yet support geoengineering, or those who know the seriousness of what is happening, yet persist in a sort of apathetic materialism.
He turns his lens on those who refuse to accept facts and asks: Why? and then describes to us in glittering detail the reasons, methods, and outcomes of this behavior.
This book tackles questions I have had gnawing at me for some time, and does so elegantly and thoroughly- in a highly readable language and form.
I cannot possibly recommend this book enough.
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Format: Hardcover
This book was written in the aftermath of the disappointing meeting in Copenhagen in 2009 of world leaders, attempting to reach some consensus about national action on climate change. Dr. Hamilton tries to put this failure in perspective.

In the first chapter, called "No Escaping the Science", he reviews some of the important recent work in science bearing on global warming. He focuses on greenhouse gas emissions. The arctic has been particularly sensitive due to positive feedback mechanisms. He mentions that the United Nations, through the work of the IPCC, predicted, in 2001, as a result of observed climate changes, a global increase in average surface temperature somewhere in the range of 1.4 and 5.8 degrees Celsius between 1990 and 2100 A.D. above pre-industrial values. In 2007, the IPCC narrowed the likely range from 2.4 to 4.6 degrees Celsius. This is within a range where severe consequences might be expected. For example, climate scientists believe an increase in the range of 1 to 3 degrees Celsius could lead to melting of the Greenland ice sheet. In part, we must expect an overall warming trend as a result of the fact that we are in an interglacial period, after seeing continental glaciers recede about ten thousand years ago. On the other hand, it is also clear that humans are substantially affecting the circumstances of these changes by burning fossil fuels and carrying out other activities that have led to recent and pronounced effects, and due to the longevity of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, promise to have implications for many centuries. Although climate scientists can present these recent activities in all their urgency, changes to mitigate the effects among governments and individuals have been remarkable for their sluggishness.
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