We have a problem, a problem that is well worth solving. In the context of discourse around climate change transforming and the issue becoming a predominant point of contention in recent presidential debates and mass media discussion, David Wallace-Wells’ timely book, The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming, provides a clear explanation of the current human predicament: our species is on the verge of a Biblical scale extinction.
Climate activists may be written off by governments and large corporations for not providing concrete solutions to the problems we face — or for their so-called “radical stance” on climate change. Wallace-Wells offers concrete solutions in the fight for climate justice in his book, which underscores the validity of all climate change activism and the Climate Strike movements that promote positive change for the environment. Wallace-Wells is optimistic about what the future holds for the climate advocacy movement and the people of the world who are fighting for change.
The Uninhabitable Earth starkly describes what our world will become in the coming decades. The future is grim. Wallace-Wells asserts that the human race faces devastation, and that our planet cannot continue to support us if we continue to pollute and disrespect our home. Most of the desolation has been inadvertent. In Cascades, the first chapter of the book he writes, “I am like every other American who has spent their life fatally complacent, and willfully deluded, about climate change, which is not just the biggest threat human life on the planet has ever faced but a threat of an entirely different category and scale. That is, the scale of human life itself.”
Initially, Wallace-Wells seeming pessimism was jarring. He starts the book with the following line, “It is worse, much worse, than you think. The slowness of climate change is a fairy tale, perhaps as pernicious as the one that says it isn’t happening at all.” Wallace-Well’s well-researched and citation-rich writing thoroughly explains what most people do not understand – the human race cannot survive in an environment that is unfit to support life. Dozens of quotations and excerpts from contemporary and historical scientists, philosophers, and great thinkers provide a strong basis for Wallace-Wells’ argument. Every claim is substantiated – the bibliography is extensive and spans sixty-seven pages listing two hundred and twenty-seven resources.
Through plain language, unconditionally clear terms, and stark metaphors, Wallace-Wells illustrates that the human race is in a potentially final crisis. Our species is facing mass extinction.
The majority of the book consists of blunt representations of the unpleasant facts of our current situation. Wallace-Wells makes his purpose in writing quite clear; he is raising awareness about climate change and the purpose of offering the facts is to educate readers on the importance of what is at stake and to inspire them to enact change. Wallace Wells writes, “THIS IS NOT A BOOK ABOUT THE SCIENCE OF WARMING; it is about what warming means to the way we live on this planet.” In no way does Wallace-Wells downplay the problems at hand, and, although he talks about the worst-case scenario in his writing, he never inflates the issue beyond realism.
According to Wallace-Wells, even the best case scenario isn’t a utopia, but nonetheless it is more desirable than just simply ignoring what we face. A restructuring of the current system could drastically change the future. The key to success is to take immediate action and force positive change, because right now we are on the wrong path. David Wallace-Wells proposes the following solutions to the problem:
- Carbon taxes to influence the corporations to reduce emissions: A systemic change in society through current government structure that promotes companies and governments to utilize ethical and sustainable business practices would do a whole lot of good, it starts with one person who decides to make a step in the right direction. The best thing that government powers can do to help solve the climate crisis is to impose taxes on emissions.
- Increased utilization and implementation of solar, wind, and nuclear power: These sources are much more sustainable solutions compared to coal and natural gas, which emit huge amounts of pollution into the atmosphere.
- Carbon capture technology: This technology is still in developmental stages and could not entirely erase the problem, but it is a possibility that in the future these carbon dioxide scrubbing plants that utilize the carbon capture technology could make a sizeable dent in the excessive amount of carbon that plagues our atmosphere.
- Reduction of concrete production: Wallace-Wells tweeted on June 26th 2019, “Manufacturing cement is responsible for 7% of global carbon dioxide emissions, more than what comes from all the trucks in the world.”
The list of possible actions above is not comprehensive, Wallace-Wells’ ultimate claim is that the only way to fully solve this crisis is to restructure our society and economic systems so that we can adapt to survive in this new set of circumstances.
Wallace-Wells’ call for restructuring resonates with what I am learning as student and see as a member of Generation Z. We need to change the way we approach the situation – adapt or perish. I have great hope that my generation will come up with the final solution to this problem, our lives and our posterity are at stake so we better do something. The problem is not yet unsolvable, and I have great faith in the power of the people. I know that now we must be as resilient as ever and become radically committed to the idea that we can and must do this for ourselves, for our communities, and for the world.