Requiem for a Species

Author: Clive Hamilton
Pub: Earthscan
Price: £14.99

Requiem for a SpeciesCasting my mind back to a particular science lesson at school, I remember quite clearly a teacher declaring that we had already pushed climate change too far, that no degree of cutting back could undo what would be unleashed upon us, that we would each bear witness to massive environmental disaster in our lifetime. Requiem for a Species would probably have been his book of choice.

This book tackles the issue of climate change. Starting with the facts – emissions have been growing much faster than predicted in the 1990s – it focuses on the nature of growth and the average member of the public as the consumer self. There is an attack on the concept of denial and an analysis of our disconnection from nature. By the end of the book, the author is contemplating a four-degree-warmer world, the most likely situation by 2050.

Devastatingly, the world is still divided on action. In June 1997, prior to the Kyoto Conference, America passed a resolution that stated that it would not reduce greenhouse gas emissions if that would result in ‘serious harm to the economy of the United States’. This attitude has continued: a poll in January 2009 saw Americans rank global warming last in a list of 20 priorities. So dear do we hold our manufactured selves that we fear loosing them more than our planet.

The book is aimed at the both the layman and professional. Philosophical in tone, some of the chapters are difficult to follow, but they’re interspersed with sections of clear prose, and the overall style of the book is readable. Ending on a positive note, Hamilton explains how once we have faced up to the horrors of the change, we can take action and build a new, different reality.