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The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View…

The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future

by Naomi Oreskes, Erik M. Conway

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A quick read. A retrospective of our current age. A requiem for the dying. ( )
  jefware | Apr 25, 2016 |
People, get ready

The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View From the Future by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway (Columbia University Press, $9.95)

The authors of Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues From Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming, Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway, now turn their attention to the consequences of ignoring the science surrounding climate change.

Writing from 2393, a Chinese historian living in the Second People’s Republic of China examines the West in the 21st century to determine where it all went wrong.

The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View From the Future puts the “Great Collapse” in 2093, the result of continued reliance on fossil fuels, false belief that fracking would serve as a “bridge” to renewals, and the so-called “Western values” (a constantly-growing economy, individual rights) which are the hallmarks of the West will also lead to its destruction. It doesn’t succeed as science fiction, but then it’s not supposed to; it’s a pretty decent polemic, though, especially given the paucity of long-term thinking in regards to the future of our culture.

And frankly, given the way that we now know everyone from the Pentagon to the insurance companies is preparing for climate-fueled collapse, they may not be too far off the mark.

Reviewed on Lit/Rant: www.litrant.tumblr.com ( )
  KelMunger | Aug 19, 2014 |
This short book is a report by a future Chinese academic on the collapse of civilization in the 21st

century, caused by global warming and pollution. It purports to recount the disaster with perspective that

usually only time can provide. We today are too closely involved to see the forest for the trees. That is

usually the case. Yet most of us can see the forest, burning, and that is a different issue the book delves

into with gusto. Science has been shunted aside in favor of "freedom" and the dollar.

The basic premise of a historian looking back to see what happened is valid, but the authors don't go nearly

far enough. The rank stupidity shown by the politicians of the 20th century is no different from the rank

stupidity of the church in the thousand years before, when it burned scientists at the stake for uttering

facts it did not want to hear, regardless of provability. Basically, it was always this way. There have

always been entrenched interests to defend, empires to defend, wealth to defend, and of course power to

expand. Our author from the future missed that.

It is instructive to see how a future Chinese academic might view the economic history of the west, citing

capitalism vs communism and neoliberalism and market fundamentalism (in the religious fervor sense). But

that academic would surely have also discovered and reported the simple truism that separates all of it for

the purposes of his report: Communism failed because it did not tell the economic truth about prices.

Capitalism failed because it did not tell the ecological truth about prices. That in a nutshell has driven

the greed machine to the heights we see today. (It is touched on in the glossary.) The greater good is a

concept discredited in the USA, and the result is a planet swamped for example, in 88,000 new chemical

compounds since WWII, only three of which have been tested. (This is touched on in the Q&A, where they

compare the lack of chemical testing to exhaustive testing in pharmaceuticals.) Government went from being

the solution in the trustbuster age, to the problem in the Reagan era. The results were predictable and were

predicted. The market fundamentalists just told everyone where they could go. And we are. Faster than we


The "report" is only about 60 pages. More of a pamphlet than a book. There follows a lexicon of terms we in

the present currently use and abuse. This also helps give perspective, as does the Q&A with the authors that

follows. The combination of those three nonstandard components makes this an unusual book that would be

refreshing if it weren't so hurtful. ( )
  DavidWineberg | Mar 11, 2014 |
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Conway, Erik M.main authorall editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 023116954X, Paperback)

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.

This work 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, this book 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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:23 -0400)

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