Not light reading.

Everyone knows that when a blogger wishes to resuscitate a moribund blog, the best way to do that is by reading and commenting on a difficult text. I well remember the eager clicks and fervent commenting from our last reading of Unbundling Water Rights. For the next while, as I can bear it, I will be reading and commenting here on Prof. Jem Bendell’s paper Deep Adaptation: A Map for Navigating Climate Tragedy.  This paper lays out his thinking that ecologically-induced social collapse is imminent and unavertable.  I cannot find fault with his argument, nor do I see pockets of robustness that he has overlooked.  I have been heartbroken since I read it, as he knew his readers would be.

Back before 2012, I read a lot of post-apocalypse fiction.  Some were pretty good stories and I thought I had decent odds, post-apocalypse.  You have no reason to know this, but I have some mild actual skills unrelated to blogging.  Then some bad stuff happened, and I lost the western illusion that I was favored by chance and that stories all turn out well.  Then some other stuff happened and I felt horribly vulnerable and in deep need of society and complex economies the way we have them now, thank you.  It was several years before I was willing to return to post-apocalypse fiction. I’ve now read a few more, including the water-related ones.  My current preference is for Carrie Vaughn’s Bannerless series, partially because it describes the fall as piecewise and slow, with workable remnants. As I read Professor Bendell’s paper, I hope for that scenario.

I have noticed a theme in other fiction I’ve read in the past year.  I notice a streak of women committing satisfying, righteous but extrajudicial violence against asshole men.  I gotta say, it fills a need.  I just got caught up on a contemporary fantasy series, in which humans live in small enclaves in a world controlled by the usual monsters (werewolves, vampires) and much worse.  It was medium-good, but I kept reading.  In every book, the human wrongdoers ignore environmental rules and want to expand beyond their limits.  When they persist beyond one warning, they are immediately slaughtered and eaten.  Is it possible that I am so starved for accountability that I want to see environmental extractors dismembered and eaten at the onset of the second infraction, left in bloody scraps by extremely literal all-powerful monsters?  Yes!  Yes, it turns out!  I read all seven volumes of accountability porn.  I have not encountered that genre before, but I won’t be surprised to see more of it.

In the days to come, OtPR will go piecewise through Dr. Bendell’s  Deep Adaptation: A Map for Navigating Climate Tragedy, wishing it weren’t so persuasive.


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12 responses to “Not light reading.

  1. Anonymous

    I’m looking forward to this blog series

  2. Noel Park

    Alas, it makes s lot of sense. And reflects how I have been feeling lately.

  3. Paul Helliker

    The Survivalist was a good film from 2017. And the Quiet Earth from 1985 was also thought-provoking. I look forward to reading Deep Adaptation in detail this weekend, over a good bottle of single malt.

  4. Darn it, I’m too busy to update Hot Earth Dreams right now, but that paper certainly looks familiar. I think the most eye-opening book is Brooke Harrington’s Wealth Without Borders, which is a sociological study of the world’s wealth managers and their effects. The upshot of her study is that many trends in laws and wealth inequality that we think are “natural trends in society” are anything but, especially since 1980. While the book is not about climate change, I suspect that the subjects of her study have had a major impact on the way global society’s floundered in trying to deal with climate change.

  5. JAM

    “Accountability porn” is my new go-to genre. Thanks for the review!

    • Steve Bloom

      “accountability porn” ;)

      Looking forward to the essay review since I still haven’t read it, although I probably already know the contents.

  6. Anonymous

    Checking back in to see the comments after reading Deep Adaptation. Was expecting to see criticism and “no way”s… This is what I’ve been thinking for some time but don’t talk about it because of the reactions I’ve gotten from others. Different reaction here. Interesting….

  7. Noel Park

    The second comment was mine. Sorry for the “Anonymous’. I haven’t posted in a while and I assumed that the site would remember my name.

    I have often reflected that humans are the only species with the ability to bring about their own extinction. I can really see it happening.

    I am often reminded of the traditional song we were taught in grammar school, “Oh Mary don’t you weep don’t you mourn”. The lyric that haunts me is, “God told Noah in the rainbow time, ‘This time it’s the water, it’s the fire next time'”.

  8. Fig

    I’m halfway through. This is what I’ve been waiting for. I’ve been waiting for someone to just lay it out like this. It’s honestly a relief. If we are going to do anything, it must be based on the reality of our situation, or at least as close to “reality” as we can get. There will be no maintenance of the status quo. It’s paradigm shifts all the way around (and that still doesn’t guarantee species survival) or we just keep playacting with our workshops, subcommittees, and our “market solutions” until time is up.

  9. @Noel Park: It’s possible that the genus Archaeopteris changed nutrinet cycling in the biosphere so much at the end of the Devonian that they made themselves extinct. This is one theory for the cause of the end-Devonian mass extinction. It’s not proven, but Archaeopteris made huge, low diversity forests at the end of the Devonian, and disappeared thereafter. It’s not clear what happened, but in the absence of firm evidence, I’d suggest that humility might be in shore. We’re the most invasive species currently on the planet, but it’s at least theoretically possible that the first common trees better deserve the notoriety for causing the first biotically-induced mass extinction on Earth. If this theory turns out to be correct, we’re #2.

    • Noel Park


      I’m not proud of our self destructive abilities. I’m more than happy to cede first place to Archaeopteryx. I can even hope that we wake up before it’s too late, but I’m not optimistic. Especially since, as Prof. Blendell points out, we may well have passed the tipping point already.

  10. Rachel

    In terms of “post-apocalyptic but still hopeful” literature, I return to Ursula Le Guin’s Always Coming Home regularly. When I read the Bannerless books, I thought of them as preceding Always Coming Home by a few hundred years. You might find some comfort in it.