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BOOKS Political climate needs to change if collapse of civilisation is to averted

IAN SINCLAIR recommends a book that warns of ‘widespread social and ecological collapse within the next few decades’

Why Climate Breakdown Matters
by Rupert Read
Bloomsbury £17.99

“THERE are no non-radical futures,” top climate scientist Professor Kevin Anderson has repeatedly explained. “The future is radically different from the present either because we make huge, rapid shifts in reducing our emissions with profound shifts in our society, or we hang onto the status quo for a few more years whilst we lock in huge shifts from the impacts of climate change.”

After reading Why Climate Breakdown Matters, I’m confident Rupert Read, an associate professor of philosophy at the University of East Anglia and former Green Party councillor, wholeheartedly agrees with this.

A summation of his recent writings, talks and activism, it’s a deeply challenging and necessary book.

“The stakes could not be higher,” he argues. “Our economic, political and social systems are in the process of making our planet uninhabitable.” And with government action in Britain and elsewhere woefully inadequate, he contends “we are likely to face widespread social and ecological collapse within the next few decades.”

Echoing Anderson and the title of his 2019 primer co-authored with Samuel Alexander, he believes “this civilisation as we know it is finished.”

Those who downplay the seriousness of the climate emergency are participating in “soft denialism,” which he argues “is now the real enemy.”

A comforting bedtime read this is not.

The book’s second half is more hopeful, with Read leaning on the work of Rebecca Solnit and Charles Fritz to highlight how resilient communities often grow in response to terrible disasters.

He urges readers to get active and “do what is necessary now, regardless of its legality or otherwise.”

Having played a key role in Extinction Rebellion’s policy-shifting April 2019 uprising, he is now pushing for a “moderate flank” to be built within the climate movement, one that will have the numbers and broad appeal to force radical change.
 
For Read, if you care about the future of your children and the generations that will come after them, then logically you should also do everything you can to pass on a liveable and sustainable planet to them.
 
As part of Bloomsbury’s Why Philosophy Matters series, unsurprisingly there is certain amount of philosophy running through the book. However, Read keeps his language and arguments relatively straightforward, making the book accessible to the lay reader.

Unlike a lot of academic writing, his references are genuinely an interesting read – I repeatedly found myself underlining sentences and citations for later consideration and investigation.

With Read one of the most interesting thinkers currently engaging with the most pressing issue of our time, Why Climate Breakdown Matters is essential reading.

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