William T. Vollmann’s latest opus is brilliant, but it offers no comfort to its readers.
By Nathaniel Rich in the Atlantic
The story of climate change hangs on human behavior, not geophysics. William T. Vollmann seeks to understand how “we could not only sustain, but accelerate the rise of atmospheric carbon levels, all the while expressing confusion, powerlessness and resentment.”
Why did we take such insane risks? Could we have behaved any other way? Can we behave any other way? If not, what conclusions must we draw about our lives and our futures?
Vollmann admits that even he has shied away from fully comprehending the damage we’ve done. “I had never loathed myself sufficiently to craft the punishment of full understanding,” he writes. “How could I? No one person could.” He’s right, though books like Carbon Ideologies will bring us closer.
The planet’s atmosphere will change but human nature won’t.