cover image The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future

The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future

Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway. Columbia Univ., $9.95 paper (112p) ISBN 978-0-231-16954-7

Science historians Oreskes and Conway arouse the intellect without inviting the imagination in this soulless treatise. In 2393, a historian of the Second People’s Republic of China reviews the “Penumbral Age” (1988–2093), when politicians, corporations, and scientists ignored the statistical significance of climate disaster. Carbon dioxide warming the planet, deadly summer heat and fires, and the collapse of the West Antarctica Ice Sheet lead to a second Black Death and “the Great Collapse” of the Western world. Other authors have successfully dramatized catastrophes with objective documentation and narrative distance, but these historians miss a sense of urgency and omit characters who might invite sympathy. They provide no friends, only facts and figures. The premise of a future historian regarding the past (our present) never truly develops, reducing potentially explosive material to a clever textbook. Accurately researched and logically persuasive, this is nevertheless a political manifesto, not dramatically structured or emotionally involved storytelling. (July)