Deb Anderson reviews 'The Uninhabitable Earth: A story of the future' by David Wallace-Wells

Deb Anderson reviews 'The Uninhabitable Earth: A story of the future' by David Wallace-Wells

The Uninhabitable Earth: A story of the future

by David Wallace-Wells

Allen Lane, $29.99 pb, 310 pp, 9780241400517

To a weary and frightened people, fatalism does offer the consolation of lethargic peace ... anger and alarm still signal life.

Yi-Fu Tuan (Landscapes of Fear, 1979)


Be afraid. ‘The Uninhabitable Earth’, the viral article published in New York magazine (2017) that was both fêted and scorned for its visceral bluntness, has grown out and up. A scary, 7,000-word portrait of a near-future Earth razed by climate change has matured into a deeper, darker treatise on environmental injustice, or what author David Wallace-Wells calls ‘ethics at the end of the world’. ‘And how widespread alarm will shape our ethical impulses toward one another,’ he writes, ‘and the politics that emerge from those impulses, is among the more profound questions being posed by the climate to the planet of people it envelops.’

The way this book sounds the climate alarm is no mere lyrical feat. Wallace-Wells, a deputy editor at New York, heard his detractors yet did not repent. Be very afraid. For fear is now at the crux of the story.

Read the rest of this article by subscribing to ABR Online for as little as $10 a month.

We offer a range of subscription options, including print, which can be found by clicking here. If you are already a subscriber, enter your username and password in the ‘Log In’ section in the top right-hand corner of the screen.

If you require assistance, contact us or consult the Frequently Asked Questions page.

Published in May 2019, no. 411
Deb Anderson

Deb Anderson

Deb Anderson is a journalist and Monash University academic, and the author of Endurance: Australian Stories of Drought (2014).

Leave a comment

Please note that all comments must be approved by ABR and comply with our Terms & Conditions.

NB: If you are an ABR Online subscriber or contributor, you will need to login to ABR Online in order to post a comment. If you have forgotten your login details, or if you receive an error message when trying to submit your comment, please email your comment (and the name of the article to which it relates) to We will review your comment and, subject to approval, we will post it under your name.