Down to Earth

Pol­i­tics in the New Cli­matic Regime

Foreword Reviews - - Spotlight Reviews | Climate Change -

Bruno La­tour, Polity (NOVEM­BER) Soft­cover $14.95 (140pp), 978-1-5095-3057-1

Ex­pan­sive and thought pro­vok­ing, Down to Earth in­ter­twines eco­log­i­cal con­cerns with con­tem­po­rary po­lit­i­cal re­al­i­ties.

Lead­ing so­ci­ol­o­gist/an­thro­pol­o­gist Bruno La­tour ap­proaches the world through the lens of a “New Cli­matic Regime,” a term he uses to ac­knowl­edge “the ques­tion of cli­mate change and its de­nial” as it re­lates to “the pol­i­tics of the last 50 years.” His book, which is sub­di­vided into twenty short seg­ments, con­sid­ers the un­der­ly­ing re­al­ity of a chang­ing eco­log­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment and the “pop­ulist” re­ac­tion to it—which, La­tour be­lieves, in­ter­sects with so­cial class in­equal­ity, en­vi­ron­men­tal dereg­u­la­tion, and distrust of glob­al­iza­tion.

The book be­gins with an eval­u­a­tion of the im­pact of Don­ald Trump’s election, and its ele­gant ex­pla­na­tion of “Trump­ism” is no­table. The au­thor writes that it rep­re­sents a con­tra­dic­tion of sorts: a “head­long rush to­ward max­i­mum profit” without re­gard for the masses, com­bined with a “head­long rush back­ward” to­ward na­tion­al­ism. The dis­cus­sion quickly broad­ens to one of global pol­i­tics, sug­gest­ing that ecol­ogy it­self has be­come some­thing of a light­ning rod for po­lit­i­cal di­vi­sive­ness.

La­tour won­ders if the world’s peo­ple “ex­pe­ri­enc­ing de­pri­va­tion feel dis­ori­ented and lost,” thus sig­nal­ing that hu­man­ity is headed for a global catas­tro­phe. In­ter­est­ingly, the book closes with a crit­i­cal eval­u­a­tion of Europe’s role in geopol­i­tics, en­gag­ing in a per­cep­tive dis­cus­sion of a Euro­pean Union that, “by the in­tri­cacy of its reg­u­la­tions,” may be a model for solv­ing “the eco­log­i­cal mu­ta­tion” the world faces.

This work, trans­lated from French into English, has the rare power to de­mand at­ten­tion and en­cour­age con­sid­er­a­tion of how the New Cli­matic Regime im­pacts the des­tiny of hu­man­ity. With ex­pres­sive lan­guage and self-ac­knowl­edged “de­lib­er­ate blunt­ness,” La­tour chal­lenges con­ven­tional thought and opens a path­way to an al­ter­na­tive world­view. Down to Earth will leave a last­ing im­pres­sion on any reader who rec­og­nizes the prime im­por­tance of rais­ing fun­da­men­tal if trou­bling ques­tions.

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