Book Review by N.R. Mallery, G.E.T. Publisher
Reason in a Dark Time
Why the Struggle Against Climate Change Failed — And What It Means For Our Future
By Dale Jamieson, Oxford University Press 2014, 266 pages, $29.95
What is climate change? They are common words in our conversation and in the media today. Scientists’ as early as 1992 at the Rio Earth Summit and at the Copenhagen Climate Conference, and the very recent International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports are seriously warning us that we are facing the greatest problems that humanity has ever dealt with. We are treading into uncharted territory.
Some say there is no hope for our future – that while the planet will possibly survive, humanity and life on the planet as we know it today is in question. With the great majority of scientists and world leaders in agreement that we need to seriously address the problems, why are we still facing such doom and gloom?
Author Dale Jamieson has been involved alongside scientists with climate change for twenty-five years and is not only a philosopher, but is also a realist. And though he knows we are heading down a dangerous road facing these inevitable difficulties — such that the world has never seen — he also argues that there is so much that we can do as individuals and collectively to make the difference that will determine our future.
He explains why we have failed to stop climate change and just why it still matters what we all do. Jamieson argues that “our failure to prevent or even to respond to climate change reflects the impoverishment of our systems of practical reason, the paralysis of our politics and the limits of our cognitive and affective capacities.”
Climate change challenges our ability to even believe it is real, and accept the consequential responsibility we each own for our actions, and that those actions really matter. He wrote, “Climate change risks putting an end to a great deal that we value, including much of humanity and its creations. We have brought about climate change that we do not want, but do not know how to stop.” From driving a car, to flying in a jet plane across the country – to nearly all that has become normal to us today in our day to day lives – it is hard to accept that we each are part of the problem.
From pg. 222: In 1955 John von Neumann* predicted:
“Intervention in atmospheric and climate matters…
will unfold on a scale difficult to imagine at present…
[T]his will merge each nation’s affairs with those of every other,
more thoroughly than the threat of a nuclear or
any other war would have done.” †
This book is about how it came to this and what we can learn from it — and in what ways our actions can have significance and meaning.
As early as on page ten, Jamieson says,” it matters what we do and how we live. We can cope with change, even when our resources are thin. This does not mean that we will ‘solve’ the ‘problem’ of climate change any time soon. We will have to manage and live the best we can and hope that the darkest scenarios don’t come to pass. We will have to abandon thinking there is a decisive solution and instead engage with the messy world of temperature victories and local solutions while a new world comes into focus.”
The author thoroughly discusses the full problem, historically, ethically, scientifically and politically. His approach turns this doom and gloom that many say is our outcome, into an optimistic possibility that is very inspiring in these uncertain times. HIs words have the ability to help us reassess our attitudes towards the most far-reaching challenges and the reality of our prospects — if we are willing to make the necessary changes. The book does not offer a list of things to do to reduce our carbon footprint. His goal is to make us think. He states that “until the world or humanity comes to an end (literally), there will always be a chance to make a difference…. and that “there is much that can still be done to slow climate change, to adapt to it and restore a sense of agency while living meaningful lives in a changing world.”
This book is a must read by all who wish to bring reason to the challenges we are going to face very soon, whether we want to or not — and who want to know how to do something about it.
* ”Can We Survive Technology” Fortune Magazine 15: 106-108, 151-152.
† John von Neumann is one of the most important scientists of the 20th century. If you own a computer, it is virtually certain to be a “von Neuman Machine” with linear programming he developed.