April Selection: The Collapse of Western Civilization

At our April meeting we will discuss David Gilmour’s selection:

Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway, The Collapse of Western Civilization, Columbia University Press, 2014.

This is a short read so David has asked us to also read some background material on this topic. He suggests starting with:

Essays by Wendell Berry: What are People for?, San Franscisco Press, 1990:
pp. 109 – 122, An Argument for diversity
pp. 123 – 125, What are people for?
pp. 197 – 203, Word and flesh

Alan Thein Durning, The Six Floods, an article exerpted from, This Place on Earth: Home and the Practice of Permanence, published by Sasquatch Books, Seattle, 1996.

David has copies of these articles to make available to all members of the book club.


About Ron Boothe

I am a Professor Emeritus at Emory University, currently living in Tacoma Washington USA.
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5 Responses to April Selection: The Collapse of Western Civilization

  1. Ron Boothe says:

    For anyone interested in reading up on the current scientific consensus about the topic of global climate change, here is a link to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2014 Synthesis Report:


    You can read the report online or download pdf files to read on your own computer.
    This report reflects the consensus of hundreds of climate scientists from all over the world. It is carefully documented, and each conclusion is tagged according to how much agreement there was amongst the scientists (very likely, likely, more likely than not likely, less likely than likely, etc).

    I found it very refreshing to see all of the evidence laid out and evaluated — Quite a contrast to the undocumented polemical arguments that permeate so much of the internet and media.

  2. Ron Powers says:

    The following blog entry at The New York Review of Books discusses the reaction of conservative Catholics, including presidential candidates, to Pope Francis’ encyclical on climate change.

  3. David Gilmour says:

    This article in Esquire shows the dilemma climatologists face when they wish to speak out.

  4. David Gilmour says:

    And here is a link to one concrete action you can take in response to the climate change deniers.

  5. David Gilmour says:

    Amitav Ghosh, Writing the Unimaginable: When future generations look back at the literature of our time what will they make of the failure to address the crisis of climate change, The American Scholar, Autumn 2016 issue, p. 42-53.

    Gosh’s article discusses the absence of important features of Climate Change in the fiction literature of our time. There may be some weakness in the subject in that much apocalyptic Sci-fi literature has discussed the problems that brought the downfall of civilization and the planetary health. I think of J. G. Ballard’s The Drowned World. Ghosh calls the Sci-Fi genre “melodrama,” but that does not seem to apply to the Naomi Oreskes-Eric Conway, The Collapse of Western Civilization, a “science-based” novel that was essentially a fictional setting for looking back at the failure of countries’ scientists and leaders to inform and direct their societies on the fate of the planetary health from the bad industrial practices and wasteful habits of the past centuries. Ghosh quote: “For let us make no mistake: the climate crisis is also a crisis of culture, and thus of the imagination.” And “These [climate changing] events are the mysterious work of our own hands returning to haunt us in unthinkable shapes and forms.” This article also touches on issues we discussed about the usefulness of scientific thinking for novelists when we read Quantum Moment. Ghosh again: ” Probability and the modern novel happen to be twins, born at the same time [he’s thinking of the 19th century literature], among the same people, under a shared star.” I would take the modern novel back further to Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy in its concern for chance and probability in the lives of a family and its extended relationships. Also Sterne’s gravity principle, “What starts as lofty thought is just all posture; eventually it will drop down to the ‘vitals,’ which is what matters most to people”–he got it right for our age.

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