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Reading List August 18, 2019

Highway to Hell

A reading list for our time of climate crisis.

July was officially the hottest month on Earth since records began. So, it’s no surprise that scientists are arguing that we have slipped out of the Holocene—the epoch that encompasses the last ten thousand years—and entered a new era: the Anthropocene, where humanity is the main force shaping the planet and nature can no longer be regarded as “natural.”

Today’s reading list wades deep into debates about how we should respond to such a time, asking questions like: Would  climate engineering actually work? What would a green economy look like? Are divestment campaigns worth the effort? And how can we reconcile the emissions that coal produces with its promise of cheap and abundant energy for development?

But first, a trio of essays interrogate the very idea of the Anthropocene itself—including a brand new piece from Geoff Mann, co-author of Climate Leviathan. In “It Was Not Supposed to End This Way,” Mann reveals how the relationship between liberalism and the Anthropocene is one of dialectical doom: while it is frequently picked up by “liberal modes of sense making“ he writes, “the Anthropocene actually can’t fit the narrative because it is proof that the end of liberalism is near.


anthropocene and the end of liberalism

It Was Not Supposed to End This Way
by Geoff Mann

The Anthropocene challenges liberalism’s vision of permanent progress. So why has it become another technocratic tool of liberal bureaucracy?

• • •

The New Nature
a forum with Jedediah Purdy

The Anthropocene adds nature to the list of things we can no longer regard as natural, and makes it impossible to divorce nature from human influence. But can that influence be democratic?

• • •

Nature Defends Itself
by Dayton Martindale

A recent book on climate change resurrects the antinomy between man and nature. Dayton Martindale argues that not only is this wrong, but it constrains the possibilities of a truly liberated ecosocialist future.

• • •

Build the Green Economy
a forum with Robert Pollin

“Reducing emissions is simple. It entails about $200 billion of public and private investments in clean energy every year for twenty years. This is a massive amount of money, but it is only about 1.2 percent of U.S. GDP.”

• • •

The Global Calculus of Climate Disaster
by Ashley Dawson

Planetary ecocide is not the result of “human nature”. To describe it in such universalizing terms obscures the (ultra-rich) people who have benefitted from carbon emissions. We have to see climate disaster as the result of fossil capitalism instead.

• • •

Living with Coal
by Richard K. Morse and David G. Victor

“Emissions from coal are growing faster than from any other fossil fuel. Yet no other fuel matches its promise of cheap and abundant energy for development.The central task of any serious (and politically viable) global-warming policy, then, is to reconcile these diverging patterns.”

• • •

Climate Gut Check
by Troy Vettese

Beneath the jargon, a new UN report serves up a revolutionary response to climate change, arguing that the economy must be constrained if there is to be a chance of keeping warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

• • •

Get Carbon Off Campus
by Benjamin Franta

In response to David G. Victor’s defense of taking money from big carbon, Franta argues that it is not enough to reassure Americans that money does not influence research—“we know that it does.

• • •

Technology to Cool the Planet
an interview with David Keith

“Solar geoengineering provides a means—risky and uncertain—to limit climate change in the near term, but those risks will fall on vulnerable ecosystems and vulnerable human populations.”

• • •

The Death and Life of America’s Waters
by Meghan O’Gieblyn

Climate models warn that the coming apocalypse will be one of water. Glaciers will calve in thundering cascades, the rising oceans will erode the coasts, and droughts will make whole countries uninhabitable.”

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