Like the paleontologist who begins a lecture by holding up the bone of a dinosaur, Clive Hamilton opens Requiem for a Species with a chapter entitled: “No escaping the science.”
Our planet is in trouble. The conclusion of the most eminent climate scientists is that we are on the path to a very unpleasant future. And it’s too late to stop it. Those in a position to know are in 100% agreement that the choice is now between extreme rates of emission reduction and extreme impacts of a hot world.
Hamilton, one of Australia’s foremost intellectuals and no stranger to hard truths, argues that, apart from the need to understand how we arrived at this point, the main justification for his book is to set out what we face in order to be better prepared for it. Subtitled “Why We Resist the Truth about Climate Change”, he approaches the problem of global warming by focusing on the human capacity for denial in the face of overwhelming evidence. He points to many reasons for our failure to act: the modern preoccupation with economic growth, the symbolic significance of the GDP, habits of over-consumption, hubris, our disconnection from nature, the human tendency to avoid unpleasant truths.
Requiem for a Species is a call to immediate action. It should be sent to every elected official at each level of government. All concerned citizen should read it in order to hold government and industry accountable for knowing the facts, altering policy, and developing clean technologies—not at some later point in time but now.
The future looks grim; but, as Hamilton says, action is the best cure for despair. It may also be our only hope.
Requiem for a Species, Clive Hamilton, Allen & Unwin.
Review first published in The Courier-Mail in April, 2010.