The Uninhabitable Earth: A story of the future
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.