My only complaint about this book is that the title suggests a far more depressing read than is actually the case. I should have known better – Brendan Myers isn’t the kind of philosopher to succumb to despair. It is of course a challenging and sometimes uncomfortable book, but there is also lyrical writing driven by a passion for life and existence, a book written to try and express possible ways forward.
For anyone looking for ways to think about the climate crisis, and to think about what they personally might be able to do, this is a good book to read. There are no glib answers here, there’s no sure fire quick fix and there is a lot of analysis of things that have already been tried and that failed. There’s also an enlightening history of ecological science which will help anyone not experienced in that field to better understand the ways in which we talk about the world and how that impacts on our responses to the crisis. Brendan also explores the kinds of psychological factors and human-created pressures acting on us to keep us where we are, with all the disastrous implications.
I particularly appreciated the way Brendan has tackled both the history and current manifestations of eco-fascism. Hate, as he points out, is not going to save anything or anyone. However, there is a lot of eco-fascism out there and like most kinds of fascism, it often seems persuasive to people at a surface level. The classist, racist, eugenics-oriented aspects don’t reveal themselves at first glance. Any argument that involves blaming poor people for existing will lead us into this territory and it is so important to be alert to where that thinking goes and how harmful it is.
For anyone into philosophy, and anyone who wants material to reflect on, this book has a great deal to offer. It is an invitation to engage, to contemplate, and ultimately, to act. Heartily recommended.
This is a really striking book and well worth your time.
The first section deals with how reality works – the science is quite intense but if you are an intelligent and determined reader, you’ll keep up even if it isn’t your area of expertise. What really struck me about this section is the deliberate choice of emotionally engaged language when talking about the building blocks and systems of the natural world. It made me realise that our ‘objective’ language is a choice and one that often serves to alienate us from whatever we’re talking about. This first section would make a powerful spiritual text for animists.
The second section really digs into the issues facing the world. It isn’t easy or comfortable reading. Part of the problem of course is that no one really wants to face up to massive, terrifying almost unimaginable threat levels, which is part of how we got into this mess in the first place and a real barrier to fixing things. Taking the time to educate yourself is a meaningful thing that you can do to contribute. Be prepared to be afraid. Embrace your grief, know what you have lost, and carry that knowledge. Use it to push back against business-as-usual.
Throughout the second section, there are prompts for things you can do or explore, so it’s not a disempowering read. The author is clear that it is worth acting and that we must not ignore the problems facing us. Political change will depend on creating a context that pushes politicians to act, and that’s on us.
This is a book primarily about climate chaos, but it’s not simply about CO2. There’s a serious look at the issues around methane, and an exploration of different kinds of pollution and the impact that has. We damage ecosystems in multiple ways and all of them need scaling back as a matter of some urgency. Light pollution only gets a brief mention – but at least it’s in there!
This is not an easy read, but it is well worth your time and attention.