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Home Uncategorized The Uninhabitable Earth, David Wallace-Wells

The Uninhabitable Earth, David Wallace-Wells

The Uninhabitable Earth: A Story of the Future, by David Wallace-Wells, Allen Lane, 310 pp, £20, ISBN: 978-0241355213 It’ll be forty degrees today in Alice Springs, in Australia’s Northern Territory, but it’s likely to go down to thirty-eight around midweek and then plummet to thirty-two in a fortnight’s time as autumn takes hold. But hey, what do I care? I don’t live in Alice Springs, I live in Dublin. If we didn’t think that global warming was happening somewhere else, or sometime soon, but not exactly here and not exactly now, we would very probably do something about it. But for most of us it is insufficiently present (either spatially or temporally) for us to be very concerned. It is also a BORING subject, or that at least was the consensus among my peers when I worked for a newspaper: sure, we’ll put in something about climate, I know I know, it’s important – but don’t ask us to run a piece every single week: no one reads the stuff for God’s sake. It should be said that this was not the voice of prejudice but rather of jaded experience. No one did read “the stuff”, or at least only a small fraction of those who were keen to lap up the latest columnist’s excoriation of whatever political scandal had briefly captured his attention sufficiently to provide meat for the grinder that week. Besides, haven’t we been there before and survived? Well, David Wallace-Wells tells us, the world has experienced five mass extinctions before the one we are apparently living through now: “86 percent of all species dead, 450 million years ago; 70 million years later, 75 percent; 125 million years later, 96 percent; 50 million years later, 80 percent; 135 million years after that, 75 percent again.” Wallace-Wells’s predictions for a future he maintains is not inevitable, or at least not inevitable in its very worst shape, are quite terrifying. But this is not science fiction. Many of these things are happening already. Climate change, drought and poverty were factors exacerbating the conflict in Syria, which apart from leading to huge numbers of deaths produced a wave of migration into Europe and a surge of xenophobic panic here orchestrated by far-right politicians in response. Large parts of Bangladesh may flood soon. Where will these people go? Where would they be welcome? What will happen to them when they are not welcome where they happen to end…



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