Warm-up Exercise

The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future (Columbia) packs a big premise into a thin paperback that throws wicked jabs. Science historians Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway play themselves as a composite in the Second People’s Republic of China. The future historian looks back in detached dismay at events that led to the Great Collapse of 2093, a period of climate-change-triggered upheaval. The scenes are eerily plausible, and no one escapes unscathed. Scientists get tagged for “an excessively stringent standard for accepting claims of any kind” that engenders public indifference or confusion about even imminent threats. But the main punching bags are “free” market (in quotes; read “rigged”) ideologues and political minions like those in our future Congress who pass the “The Sea Level Rise Denial Bill.” Seems absurd, but this imagined law of the land is based on a real 2012 North Carolina statute that reduced an ostensibly science-savvy state to late-night comedy fodder. By the end of this century, nobody’s laughing.