William T. Vollmann writes some massive books. His current offering is so enormous that his publisher had to split it into two volumes. The first installment is "No Immediate Danger-Volume One of the Carbon Ideologies." Volume Two, "No Good Alternative," will be published in June.
I spoke to Bill Vollmann about the first volume-we had a sobering discussion about this very important book. Vollmann has written this book by taking the approach that he is leaving this text behind for some reader in the future to peruse. A reader who will probably be fairly miserable and living in a world that is far different from the one we know now.
The author took his title from the signs that he frequently encountered on numerous trips to Japan in the aftermath of the nuclear reactor meltdown at Fukushima. He went there five times to conduct research and he brought along devices to measure the radiation levels in the various locales that he visited. In his book and in our interview Vollmann observed that the radiation from this nuclear disaster is comparable to climate change because we humans cannot see radiation therefore we are less concerned about it and the same goes for climate change; we don't really see it so many of us don't believe that it is actually happening. We don't easily comprehend something when it is mostly invisible.
But it is happening. Vollmann addresses his unknown future reader and tries to explain that he enjoyed living in a world with so much luxury and so much to consume. We have cheap energy and we have become increasingly profligate in consuming it. He doesn't blame the deniers for not believing that this is happening. He understands and wishes that he could ignore it, too.
But he cannot. In "No Immediate Danger-Volume One of the Carbon Ideologies" the author goes into great detail as he examines our fossil fuel usage and the impending future disaster that is approaching. He takes on our supposedly reassuring mythologies that nuclear power is somehow cleaner and could be our salvation. It isn't. And it won't save us.
This is dark stuff. It is also the most essential book I have read in many years. We need to know about these things! I am hoping to obtain another interview with Bill for his second volume.
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