- Series: Carbon Ideologies (Book 1)
- Paperback: 624 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (April 9, 2019)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0399563512
- ISBN-13: 978-0399563515
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Customer Reviews: 22 customer ratings
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #544,453 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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No Immediate Danger: Volume One of Carbon Ideologies Paperback – April 9, 2019
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“Carbon Ideologies is an almanac of global energy use . . . a travelogue to natural landscapes riven by energy production . . . a compassionate work of anthropology that tries to make sense of man’s inability to weigh future cataclysm against short-term comfort . . . one of the most honest books yet written on climate change.” —Nathaniel Rich, The Atlantic
“No Immediate Danger tussles with the comprehension-defying nature of climate change . . . terrifying insights are to be found . . . It embodies the confusion of our current moment, the insidiousness of disbelief, and the mania-inducing reality that our greatest threat is the hardest to act upon. It is a feverish, sprawling archive of who we are, and what we’ve wrought.” —The Washington Post
“In the face of complex, contested data, Vollmann is a diligent and perceptive guide. He’s also deeply mindful of those who’ve been sacrificed in the name of profits and political expediency. Amid the Trump administration’s rollbacks of environment protections, these are incontestably important books.” —The San Francisco Chronicle
“Vollmann’s many fans . . . will not be disappointed . . . he packs research and voice into his impassioned works . . . Reading these two books did have an effect on me; I became even more conscious of the resources I waste in my own life.” —John Schwartz, The New York Times Book Review
“One of the enjoyable things about this massive work is the way Vollmann employs irony, and that bluntest of irony called sarcasm, throughout the volume. He can be quite humorous. You might even call this the Infinite Jest of climate books . . . there’s something admirable, even noble, about the sheer time and effort—and sheer humanity—that went into these volumes.” —The Baffler
“Equal parts gonzo journalism, hand-wringing confessional, and one hot mess . . . the books document Vollmann’s quest to understand how capitalism, consumerism, and fossil fuels are ruining the planet.” —Sierra
“The best part of the books [are] the conversations Vollmann had during his travels, the sensitive histories he gives of the places he visited, and the moral impressions those conversations and places have made on him. It’s these parts that made Carbon Ideologies a unique, lasting, definitive contribution to the global warming literature.” —The Humanist
“An elegy to our damned epoch that’s also a work of enlightenment and education . . . the book is a performance of the vexations involved in trying to understand our energy reality . . . [Vollmann’s] project—not unlike that of his historical fiction—is to show with utmost fidelity what it was like to be a human involved in terrible things.” —The Los Angeles Review of Books
“[Provides] profound insights into both Japanese society and universal themes regarding the human response to and preparation for major disasters and tragedies.” —The International Examiner
“Vigilant in his precision, open-mindedness, and candor, Vollmann takes on global warming . . . [His] careful descriptions, touching humility, molten irony, and rueful wit, combined with his addressing readers in ‘the hot dark future,’ makes this compendium of statistics, oral history, and reportage elucidating, compelling, and profoundly disquieting.” —ALA Booklist (starred)
“[A] rewarding, impeccably researched narrative . . . Vollmann apologizes to the future that we’ve ruined, charting how our choices of energy sources made the planet scarcely inhabitable.” —Kirkus Reviews
About the Author
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The vast majority of these hundreds and hundreds of readings are remarkably low and I'm not sure what Volmann's point is with them. They were boring as hell and I can't see they served any purpose. Added to this is that in the area of nuclear energy, Vollman's science is very very poor. He confuses terms and seems to not understand how radioactive decay works in terms of the harm it causes. For example, it seems he confuses the particles ejected from a decay with the radioactive material itself. In the end, he convinces that the Fukushima disaster was very damaging long term and was caused by mankind's hubris with the risks but in the meantime, I could not wait until it was over. I am however looking forward to reading the second volume on carbon based technologies as the Primer convinced me he is on more solid ground in that area.
natural wealth humanity is presently squandering away:
"Nothing can be done to save it; therefore, nothing needs to be
done." Had Vollmann followed his own logic, he would not have
written his two books. Why did he write them anyway? Because
he "felt ashamed of doing nothing" (p. 13). I am sure many other
readers feel the same way. Even if nothing they can do will
avert the catastrophe, they do not want to do nothing.
Now why does the author consider writing books as doing
something, isn't writing books business as usual for authors?
There is an important difference. As another Amazon reviewer
said, these books are an "act of civil disobedience against the
dictates of commercial publishing." Vollman used his social
standing as a famous writer in order to undermine the restraints
he and other writers meet in the capitalist book publishing
environment. He went to the limits of what he could get away
with to write a book which told the truth instead of pleasing the
This should give other readers ideas what they can do. The
reader forgive me for boasting what I myself did. Before
retirement I was University professor. I shared Vollmann's views
that our civilization will not survive the environmental
degradation which humanity is causing. I told my students that
they were in for a tough ride in the second half of this century,
and I could back this up with science. Enrollment was low, but
many of those who came to my classes were grateful because it was
so rare that someone told them the unvarnished truth which was so
important for them. My colleagues thought I was violating
academic standards, since I imposed my views on the students
instead of letting them come to their own conclusion. Since I
was tenured, they could not get rid of me easily, therefore they
tried to ignore me. I think I used my academic freedom to its
limits just as Vollmann used his reputation as an author to his
Now after my retirement I am paying more attention to my own
lifestyle. I live in voluntary carbon-restrained simplicity. I
do not own a car, I no longer fly, I heat or cool my home only to
a minimum, I take vacations locally and try to still have a
fulfilled life. And indeed, my life is interesting because such
a different lifestyle creates many frictions. The most hurtful was
that I have to disappoint my children because I am not flying to
be a good grandfather to my grandchildren. My defense is: I am
not telling others what they should be doing, and in return I
resist any social pressures and conventions which force me to do
what the others are doing.
I added my own example to Vollmann's in order to encourage others
to use their own social assets and leverage to undermine the
constraints that keep everybody paralyzed. Because people DO
care whether civilization has a future or not. Vollmann comes
close to saying this on p. 12 when he refuses to condemn
individual actors who have best intentions even while destroying
the future of their children. This tragic paradox is not created
by individual weakness, but by the capitalist social relations
which force everyone to continue on the path to overconsumption
His latest, Carbon Ideologies, is an exhaustive study of the impact on our world by energy production. A 200pp Primer begins Volume One: No Immediate Danger with numerous tables and incalculably informative studies and data about all the impacts of all the various energies on our planet and societies, then proceeds to focus on Nuclear Energy, specifically the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster. Volume Two: No Good Alternative, which I'm reading now, covers the rest: Coal, Oil, Fracking.
This is formidable and essential work, of course to little use to those who won't or more likely can't read it.
Vollmann is peerlessly important.