Does oil wealth lead to political poverty? It often looks that way, but Carbon Democracy tells a more complex story. In this magisterial study, Timothy Mitchell rethinks the history of energy, bringing into his grasp as he does so environmental politics, the struggle for democracy, and the place of the Middle East in the modern world.
With the rise of coal power, the producers who oversaw its production acquired the ability to shut down energy systems, a threat they used to build the first mass democracies. Oil offered the West an alternative, and with it came a new form of politics. Oil created a denatured political life whose central object—the economy—appeared capable of infinite growth. What followed was a Western democracy dependent on an undemocratic Middle East. We now live with the consequences: an impoverished political practice, incapable of addressing the crises that threaten to end the age of carbon democracy—namely, the disappearance of cheap energy and the carbon-fueled collapse of the ecological order.
“We have concluded that the UK chose to join the invasion of Iraq before the peaceful options for disarmament had been exhausted. Military action at that time was not a last resort.” — John Chilcot.
The long-awaited Chilcot Report, spanning almost a decade of UK government policy decisions between 2001 and 2009, was released today. The report finds that there was no “imminent threat” from Saddam Hussein, and that Tony Blair had gone to war before “peaceful options for disarmament” had been exhausted — the UK's invasion of Iraq in 2003 was not a “last resort”.
Verso presents a reading list of books that contextualize the disaster resulting from the "War on Terror" and the refugee crisis rooted in its violence. After the invasion by coalition forces in 2003, Iraq began fracturing along sectarian lines, unleashing years of violence and displacement. With the outbreak of war in Syria in 2011, ISIS exploited the chaos and societal tensions of the region to sweep to power on a brutal campaign that has displaced millions of civilians. The Iraq War, too, led to increased risk of terrorism in Europe as well as within the Middle East.
Syrian revolutionaries, in the wake of Geneva’s partial “cessation of hostilities", have begun to peacefully protest in the streets of Aleppo, Damascus, Dera'a, and Homs. Chanting “the Syrian people are one!,” they rally to demand freedom, democracy, and an end to the deadly civil war. Despite the death toll reaching nearly half a million, the Syrian population has shown that it will not defer to the murderous campaigns of Bashar Al-Assad, the terrorism of jihadist groups such as Jabhat Al-Nusra and ISIL, nor the imperial strategies of divide-and-rule by foreign superpowers such as the US and Russia. This sudden wave of people power harks back to the broad regime-defying spirit that animated the Arab Uprisings in 2011. Tragically, autocratic forces continue to hold political and economic power, not only in Syria but also in Egypt, Israel, Turkey, and the monarchy of Saudi Arabia (which, with US support, has spearheaded a deadly assault on the population Yemen). As events unfold, we present a reading list of key titles that – through investigative journalism, graphic storytelling, and critical analysis – shed light on what’s at stake for in the conflicts that plague the Middle East.
(A Syrian Kurdish boy sits atop a destroyed tank in Kobane three months after ISIS fighters were driven out by Kurdish forces. Photo: Yasin Akgul/AFP/Getty Images)
"We already live in the Anthropocene, so let us get used to this ugly word and the reality that it names. It is our epoch and our condition. This geological epoch is the product of the last few hundred years of our history. The Anthropocene is the sign of our power, but also of our impotence. It is an Earth whose atmosphere has been damaged by the 1,500 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide we have spilled by burning coal and other fossil fuels. It is the impoverishment and artificializing of Earth’s living tissue, permeated by a host of new synthetic chemical molecules that will even affect our descendants. It is a warmer world with a higher risk of catastrophes, a reduced ice cover, higher sea-levels and a climate out of control." - Christophe Bonneuil and Jean-Baptiste Fressoz, The Shock of the Anthropocene
2015 was the hottest year in recorded history. Scientists have confirmed that the staggering growth of global emissions this past century has caused a definitive turning point in global climate history.
Some put forth that this climate predicament represents a new geological epoch of human origin, thus dubbing it as the “Anthropocene”. There is no doubt as to whether climate change is occurring. However, identifying the origins of this crisis presents great implications on deciding what to do next.
Take back the planet and understand what's really going on in these new and recently published (plus soon to come) books on the history and politics of the global climate crisis.
All of the books on our Anthropocene Reading List are 20% to 30% off (plus free shipping and bundled ebooks where available!)