The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future

The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future

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By (author) Naomi Oreskes, By (author) Erik M. Conway

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  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Format: Paperback | 104 pages
  • Dimensions: 116mm x 166mm x 6mm | 100g
  • Publication date: 1 August 2014
  • Publication City/Country: New York
  • ISBN 10: 023116954X
  • ISBN 13: 9780231169547
  • Illustrations note: 1 maps
  • Sales rank: 9,572

Product description

The year is 2393, and the world is almost unrecognizable. Clear warnings of climate catastrophe went ignored for decades, leading to soaring temperatures, rising sea levels, widespread drought and--finally--the disaster now known as the Great Collapse of 2093, when the disintegration of the West Antarctica Ice Sheet led to mass migration and a complete reshuffling of the global order. Writing from the Second People's Republic of China on the 300th anniversary of the Great Collapse, a senior scholar 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--failed to act, and so brought about the collapse of Western civilization. In this haunting, provocative work of science-based fiction, Naomi Oreskes and Eric M. Conway imagine a world devastated by climate change. Dramatizing the science in ways traditional nonfiction cannot, the book reasserts the importance of scientists and the work they do and reveals the self-serving interests of the so called "carbon combustion complex" that have turned the practice of science into political fodder. Based on sound scholarship and yet unafraid to speak boldly, this book provides a welcome moment of clarity amid the cacophony of climate change literature.

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Author information

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 M. Conway is a historian of science and technology employed by the California Institute of Technology. He recently received a NASA History award for "path-breaking 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.

Review quote

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 heed 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 George Orwell and Aldous 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, and former U.S. Senator and Member, U.S. 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 Packed with salient science, smart speculation and flashes of mordant humour. Nature 6/19/14 This science-historical fantasy is thought-provoking, but is it prescient? Scientific American 7/15/14 [A] must-read... What is science fiction today will someday be the history of real, live people -- billions of them. Kudos to Oreskes and Conway for finding a creative way to talk about the immoral choice we are making today and how those billions of people will suffer for it. Climate Progress Blog 7/16/14 Though short, Collapse provides a detailed examination of how we've failed our environment -- and a call to action to save what's left. Discover Sept 2014 The authors' creative attack, ahead of the 2014 U.S. midterm elections, on those who today deny climate change and advocate a hands-off approach by government, is what makes this work a must-read in the politics of climate change. Its gift -- the real reason why everyone should read it -- is that it gives us an opportunity to imagine the world as our grandchildren will encounter it. Haaretz 10/21/14 ... Oreskes and Conway have carved out a new space for historians to use their knowledge of alternative pasts to help imagine alternative futures. Public Books 11/1/14

Table of contents

AcknowledgmentsIntroduction1. The Coming of the Penumbral Age2. The Frenzy of Fossil Fuels3. Market FailureEpilogueLexicon of Archaic TermsInterview with the AuthorsNotesAbout the Authors