Climate Emergency: Verso Student Reading
It's clear that global warming is fundamentally linked to the regime of capital accumulation, and the only way to fight climate change is to transition away from a capitalist system designed to pursue profit at the expense of the health of the planet and the people living on it.
How should we think through such looming climate catastrophe and how can an understanding of political economics help in our fight for climate justice? Here we present a reading list which aims to tackle one of the greatest issues facing us today.
In a world careening towards climate chaos, nature is dead. It can no longer be separated from society. Everything is a blur of hybrids, where humans possess no exceptional agency to set them apart from dead matter. But is it really so? In this blistering polemic and theoretical manifesto, Andreas Malm develops a counterargument: in a warming world, nature comes roaring back, and it is more important than ever to distinguish between the natural and the social. Only with a unique agency attributed to humans can resistance become conceivable.
In Extreme Cities, Dawson offers an alarming portrait of the future of our cities, describing the efforts of Staten Island, New York, and Shishmareff, Alaska residents to relocate; Holland’s models for defending against the seas; and the development of New York City before and after Hurricane Sandy. Our best hope lies not with fortified sea walls, he argues. Rather, it lies with urban movements already fighting to remake our cities in a more just and equitable way.
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Nature, money, work, care, food, energy, and lives: these are the seven things that have made our world and will shape its future. In making these things cheap, modern commerce has transformed, governed, and devastated the Earth. In A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things, Raj Patel and Jason W. Moore present a new approach to analysing today’s planetary emergencies.
To further the struggle for climate justice, we need to have some idea how the existing global order is likely to adjust to a rapidly changing environment. Climate Leviathan provides a radical way of thinking about the intensifying challenges to the global order. Drawing on a wide range of political thought, Joel Wainwright and Geoff Mann argue that rapid climate change will transform the world’s political economy and the fundamental political arrangements most people take for granted.
Finance. Climate. Food. Work. How are the crises of the twenty-first century connected? In Capitalism in the Web of Life, Jason W. Moore argues that the sources of today’s global turbulence have a common cause: capitalism as a way of organizing nature, including human nature. Drawing on environmentalist, feminist, and Marxist thought, Moore offers a groundbreaking new synthesis: capitalism as a “world-ecology” of wealth, power, and nature.
George Monbiot is one of the most vocal, and eloquent, critics of the current consensus. How Did We Get into this Mess?, based on his powerful journalism, assesses the state we are now in: the devastation of the natural world, the crisis of inequality, the corporate takeover of nature, our obsessions with growth and profit and the decline of the political debate over what to do.
George Monbiot shows how new findings in psychology, neuroscience and evolutionary biology cast human nature in a radically different light: as the supreme altruists and cooperators. He shows how we can build on these findings to create a new politics: a “politics of belonging.” Both democracy and economic life can be radically reorganized from the bottom up, enabling us to take back control and overthrow the forces that have thwarted our ambitions for a better society.
In 2016, a small protest encampment at the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota, initially established to block construction of the Dakota Access oil pipeline, grew to be the largest Indigenous protest movement in the twenty-first century. Water Protectors knew this battle for native sovereignty had already been fought many times before, and that, even after the encampment was gone, their anticolonial struggle would continue.
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How did we get to this point? Refuting the convenient view of a “human species” that upset the Earth system, unaware of what it was doing, this book proposes the first critical history of the Anthropocene, shaking up many accepted ideas: about our supposedly recent “environmental awareness,” about previous challenges to industrialism, about the manufacture of ignorance and consumerism, about so-called energy transitions, as well as about the role of the military in environmental destruction. In a dialogue between science and history, The Shock of the Anthropocene dissects a new theoretical buzzword and explores paths for living and acting politically in this rapidly developing geological epoch.
The more we know about the catastrophic implications of climate change, the more fossil fuels we burn. How did we end up in this mess? In this masterful new history, Andreas Malm claims it all began in Britain with the rise of steam power.
In Molecular Red, McKenzie Wark creates philosophical tools for the Anthropocene, our new planetary epoch, in which human and natural forces are so entwined that the future of one determines that of the other. Wark explores the implications of Anthropocene through the story of two empires, the Soviet and then the American.
Mimi Sheller shows how power and inequality inform the governance and control of movement. She connects the body, street, city, nation, and planet in one overarching theory of the modern, perpetually shifting world. Concepts of mobility are examined on a local level in the circulation of people, resources, and information, as well as on an urban scale, with questions of public transport and “the right to the city.” On the planetary level, she demands that we rethink the reality where tourists and other elites are able to roam freely, while migrants and those most in need are abandoned and imprisoned at the borders.
What is it that makes humans human? As science and technology challenge the boundaries between life and non-life, between organic and inorganic, this ancient question is more timely than ever. Acclaimed object-oriented philosopher Timothy Morton invites us to consider this philosophical issue as eminently political. In our relationship with nonhumans, we decide the fate of our humanity.
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.
Against the background of recent technological developments, Gorz's major new book explores the political agendas facing both right and left in the midst of the transformations of the nature of work and the structure of the workforce
Faced with climate change, many counsel “going green,” encouraging us to buy organic food or a “clean” car, for example. But can we rely on consumerism to provide a solution to the very problems it has helped cause? Heather Rogers travels from Paraguay to Indonesia, via the Hudson Valley, Detroit, and Germany’s Black Forest, to investigate green capitalism, and argues for solutions that are not mere palliatives or distractions, but ways of engaging with how we live and the kind of world we want to live in.
Ike Okonta and Oronto Douglas present a devastating case against the world's largest oil company, demonstrating how (in contrast to Shell's public profile) irresponsible practices have degraded agricultural land and left a people destitute. The plunder of the Niger Delta has turned full circle as crude oil has taken the place of palm oil, but the dramatis personaeremain the same: a powerful multinational company bent on extracting the last drop of blood from the richly endowed Niger Delta, and a courageous people determined to resist.
As the world around us increases in technological complexity, our understanding of it diminishes. Underlying this trend is a single idea: the belief that our existence is understandable through computation, and more data is enough to help us build a better world. In New Dark Age, leading artist and writer James Bridle surveys the history of art, technology, and information systems, and reveals the dark clouds that gather over our dreams of the digital sublime.
At a time of ever more accelerated and expanded development of natural and agricultural territory, in the aim of making targeted areas more profitable and controllable, there are inhabitants who oppose these projects with a firm, unwavering NO. This is the case in Notre-Dame-des-Landes in western France and in the Italian Susa Valley, where decades-long battles have been mounted against high-speed transport infrastructure, an airport for one, and a high-speed train (TAV) between Lyon and Turin for the other.