104 pages, 1 map
The year is 2393, and a senior scholar of the Second People's Republic of China presents a gripping and deeply disturbing account of how the children of the Enlightenment, the political and economic elites of the so-called advanced industrial societies, entered into a Penumbral period in the early decades of the twenty-first century, a time when sound science and rational discourse about global change were prohibited and clear warnings of climate catastrophe were ignored. What ensues when soaring temperatures, rising sea levels, drought, and mass migrations disrupt the global governmental and economic regimes? The Great Collapse of 2093.
The Collapse of Western Civilization is an important title that will change how readers look at the world. Dramatizing climate change in ways traditional nonfiction cannot, this inventive, at times humorous work reasserts the importance of scientists and the work they do and reveals the self-serving interests of the so called "carbon industrial complex" that have turned the practice of sound science into political fodder. The authors conclude with a critique of the philosophical frameworks, most notably neo-liberalism, that do their part to hasten civilization's demise. Based on sound scholarship yet unafraid to tilt at sacred cows in both science and policy, The Collapse of Western Civilization provides a welcome moment of clarity amid the cacophony of climate change literature. It includes a lexicon of historical and scientific terms that enriches the narrative and an interview with the authors.
"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 head 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 Orwell and 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, Former US Senator and Member, US 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
1. The Coming of the Penumbral Age
2. The Frenzy of Fossil Fuels
3. Market Failure
Lexicon of Archaic Terms
Interview with the Authors
About the Authors
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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 Conway is a historian of science and technology employed by the California Institute of Technology. He recently received a NASA History award for "pathbreaking 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.