I spent a good part of my summer reading these books. As always, Vollmann transformed my understanding and thought process. His nonfiction always examines the observational and subjective minds behind the decision making process. In this instance, the focus is on humanity’s crippling inability to address climate change. Cynical but essential reading.
“Throughout the books, Vollmann addresses a hypothetical future reader—one from a future when climate change has made life beyond difficult. These books apologize to that reader. Vollmann speculates about the reader’s hardship and tries to explain the creature comforts of cooking with natural gas, cooling a house with an air conditioner, and flying around the world to write a book about global warming. Vollmann openly acknowledges, “I myself, an American born in the mid-20th century, enjoyed the best life that carbon could give.” Vollmann claims that reducing the demand of energy had been our only hope—one that we failed to live out. This points to the fact that we humans are more attuned to the short term than the long, more concerned with the local weather than the earth’s climate, the community we associate with than the strangers of the human race. Vollmann points out that after all the technological improvement, the source of all these problem is human nature—a cynical but honest assessment of our values and notion of progress.”
You can find the rest at Brooklyn Rail