The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming

by David Wallace- Wells

I will be honest and state it here that i read 2/3 of the book and quit. I should have done so much earlier but you all know what sunk costs mean.

You might ask why I didn’t finish? Well, first I think the book has the wrong title. It should be the Uninhabitable California. In the first section of the book California gets more treatment than the whole continent of Africa. You might call me petty, but I have come to find books that pretend to deal with global issues while treating Africa as a footnote impossible to read. I can’t. I am African and Africa is in me. When David mentions the coastal cities that are threatened with ocean flooding, he can’t find any such coast in Africa. Well, he mentions Asia a bit, maybe because they are so many there but that’s just it.

I found the book too alarmist. I don’t deny the reality of climate change. But the picture Wallace paints is one such that one would be tempted to say why do anything when 2100 looks like the final chapter to the earth as we know. We can wait for 2100 and act from there, that is if those who will survive flooding and heat will act together to avoid human extinction.

His long sentences almost killed me. Sometimes you even get lost in a sentence.

The point he makes that I agree with is that the countries that have not polluted as much will unfortunately bear the greatest burden of climate change while at the same time being unable or unprepared to cope with the challenges. If the earth heats up by say 1 or 2 degrees, places that are already hot are likely to get hotter, heat waves in summers may increase and such which are matters of real concern.

He also makes the point, which i think is reasonable that individual action is insufficient in the challenge we face. To address any human caused climate calamities, we have to do it collectively- politically. And banning single use plastics-straws and all- is a commendable effort, it does little to nothing in ameliorating global warming- human caused or otherwise.

Does the book advance scholarship on climate science? I think not. In fact, I don’t think it helps much in moving the discussion about climate change by being too alarmist. It’s almost a put off.

He is right on some other thing. Our forefathers left almost no mark on the earth. The period we call pre-history is much longer than the duration we have been around. Let’s all hope that this is not the end of history as Fukuyama claimed. I don’t want this to be the end of history. You see, Hegel, that renowned thinker said Africa had no history or something to that effect and I don’t think Fukuyama’s end of history has Africa as a chapter- maybe as a footnote. SO you see, this is personal. I want time, long enough time, for Africa to have history.

Maybe some of you who have read the book have a different feeling and I would love to hear your thoughts on the book.

Happy weekend friends. Enemies also.

About makagutu

As Onyango Makagutu I am Kenyan, as far as I am a man, I am a citizen of the world

35 thoughts on “The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming

  1. Perhaps I’ll avoid this book. You sum it up quite well here.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. renudepride says:

    Great points that you make about the book, my Kenyan brother. I agree with your issues! When selecting a title for one’s book, it must agree with the content! Have a terrific weekend, O Exalted One! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

  3. It doesn’t sound like a good book. Even people here in the States know it’s going to affect Africa, South America, and the Pacific island nations more than anywhere else. These places don’t have a seat at the table when it comes to the big decisions regarding climate change.

    I don’t want to write too long a comment, but I think smaller nations have the ability in theory to combat the larger problem. Putting the theory into reality is going to be tough. On the plus side, it involves rearranging international diplomacy to give everyone an equal seat at the table.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. maryplumbago says:

    Africa has history. It was the seat of human evolution. No other country can claim that.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. I appreciate the review, and here are my thoughts on it:

    1) Your criticism of the book ignoring the continent of Africa and insufficiently covering other regions is spot-on, and I strongly urge Wallace-Wells to address that omission.

    2) I’m disappointed that you didn’t read the entire book. It diminishes the value of your review.

    3) Your description of the book as “alarmist” begs explanatory rationale which you don’t provide. Therefore, I must assume that the book offended you in some way and that is why you didn’t finish it.

    4) Your review doesn’t address the science of climate change at all which is curious because that is by far the most fundamental aspect of this global problem. Did Wallace-Wells get the science right? Some climatologists say “no” and some say “yes.” Recent publications from the scientific community have reported that their previous projections were understated and that the rate of climate change is increasing.

    My critique here is not intended to be personal. I’m just trying to be objective and informative. We all need to be aware of our apprehensions about climate change. It’s quite frightening from a human perspective. Although I don’t see Homo sapiens going extinct in the foreseeable future, I do see the impending climate crisis as an existential threat to modern civilization. If a collapse does occur, it will be unimaginably bad. I have done extensive research on that possibility.

    I urge everyone to put their emotions, intuitions, and preconceptions aside and let the facts speak for themselves. This is a pivotal moment in history. We simply must be brutally honest with ourselves. Willful blindness is no longer a luxury we can afford. The stakes are too high now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nan says:

      Sidenote here, Robert. You wrote … “I have done extensive research on that possibility.” I think you should consider putting together a book on your research. I tend to think many people take the “extreme” view of climate change and its effect on humans, whereas what you suggest as regards to its “threat to modern civilization” is much more relevant … and close to home.

      Liked by 3 people

    • makagutu says:

      Thanks Bob for your comment.
      I read 2/3 of it, that should count Bob๐Ÿ˜€.
      I couldn’t address what isn’t there in the book, you see. When I say alarmist, Wallace admits in his work that our predictions carry many assumptions and we are not particularly certain of how the earth responds to some of the changes then goes ahead to tell us 2100 will be an impossible earth. That extreme weather will be the new normal. So that if Delhi suffered a severe heat wave this year, we expect the same next year and the year after and each heat wave will be longer than the last. To this extent, his book does not advance climate science. It only acts as a scare.
      Well, he mentions ice shrinkage in Greenland, destruction of the Amazon and earth’s inability to absorb the carbon dioxide once we destroy its lungs and so on.
      Being brutally honest with ourselves means also that we must try as much as possible to state the assumptions we are using clearly and precisely. We must have honest conversation. And be emotional about it. Our future is at stake. I think that calls for being emotional, at least. We can’t act detached from it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Wallace-Wells did substantively address climate science in his book (e.g. melting glaciers, rainforest destruction, carbon cycle disruption, etc.) because climatologists were quick to critique it after publication. They noted minor inaccuracies, but largely agreed with its main points. Initially, they reacted negatively towards the book’s dire conclusions; although, the latest research on climate is painting a bleak picture about the rest of this century.

        As climate science matures with more data and understanding, its earlier projections understated the rate of measurable change. Part of the reason was due to caution on their part about scaring the public. Having not read the book, I can’t say whether it is unduly alarmist; but, I can say that – after 50 years of personal study – our climate situation is very bad and it will definitely get much worse.

        You’re right, we must be passionate about climate change in order to solve it; however, emotionalism is an obstacle to understanding.


        • makagutu says:

          When you say we should not be emotional, I am reminded of the claim by some of the enlightenment philosophers that emotions had no place in rationalism.

          That the climate is changing is not contested. The question is how much of it is directly caused by human activity. Wallace does not show this.


    • makagutu says:

      Another thing. After seeing this post by Jill he also mentioned that this alarm over bees is just that, a false alarm.


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