William Vollmann: It’s too late

“Try to be happy and helpful…”
~ William Tanner Vollmann, author of ‘Carbon Ideologies’

“‘Carbon Ideologies’ seeks to explain to future inhabitants of Earth why we, the people of today, persisted in emitting carbon into the atmosphere in spite of growing evidence that the practice threatens life as we know it. As always, Vollmann is breathtaking in the scope of his reporting.”
~ Christopher Leonard

“‘No Immediate Danger’ (‘Carbon Ideologies’ Volume 1) tussles with the comprehension-defying nature of climate change … terrifying insights are to be found … It embodies the confusion of our current moment, the insidiousness of disbelief, and the mania-inducing reality that our greatest threat is the hardest to act upon. It is a feverish, sprawling archive of who we are, and what we’ve wrought.”
~ Meara Sharma, The Washington Post

“Remarkably moving and disturbing detail.”
~ Allen Pierleoni


Dreary book about a very dreary subject

“Writing it was a “quick turnaround” of only seven years, requiring excursions to Japan, Mexico, Bangladesh, the United Arab Emirates, West Virginia, Kentucky and Colorado, among other destinations. It’s carried by his insightful interviews, observations and trademark wit and is supplemented with his photographs. It is not, however, optimistic or uplifting.

“It’s a very dreary book about a very dreary subject, and no one really likes to think about it, including me,” Vollmann said. “I was very resistant to the whole idea of climate change, but it’s undeniable that the world is getting more degraded. It really could lead to human extinction – which might be a good thing.” (…)

The big-picture problem, he said, “comes when politicians and corporations decide they deserve the freedom to do things their way. They cause irreparable damage and then cover it up, deny it or lie about it. We have to start passing judgment now and worrying about tomorrow.”

But can the information imparted in ‘Carbon Ideologies’ change anything?

“It’s too late,” Vollmann said. “Hopefully you and I will be safely dead before things get to be too bad. All I can say is I did my best.”


» The Sacramento Bee – 8 April 2018:
William T. Vollmann has a new book, and it should scare the hell out of you

» The Washington Post – 6 April 2018:
Why have we done so little to tackle climate change?


“I take full blame and responsibility for my contribution to global warming. I think about it, yet I continue to do it. Right now we’re sitting here with the gas fire on — fracked gas, very likely. I constantly fly in airplanes, a tremendous source of carbon dioxide. I’m very lucky — I’m one of the ‘haves.’ If I were a better person, maybe I would give it all away and go live in a homeless camp.”
~ William T. Vollmann, author, journalist, and war correspondent


Explore the ideology of energy consumption

William T. Vollmann — a brilliant, idiosyncratic writer whom some have described as a plausible candidate for the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature and whom the Washington Post called “the most ambitious, productive and important living author in the U.S.” — the reality of climate change has become a personal obsession.

In April 2018, he released the first volume of a sprawling, two-volume polemic called ‘Carbon Ideologies’. Titled ‘No Immediate Danger’, it explores in more than 600 pages how our society is bound to the ideology of energy consumption. Addressed to humans living in a “hot dark future,” the book is highly technical, chock-full of tables, studies, and hundreds of Vollmann’s own photos.

» Vox – 19 April 2018:
“Are we prepared to endure lives with less comfort?”: William T. Vollmann on climate change.
“The famous novelist and journalist has a new two-volume tome on climate change”


Publishers description of the book

A timely, eye-opening book about climate change and energy generation that focuses on the consequences of nuclear power production, from award-winning author William T. Vollmann

In his nonfiction, William T. Vollmann has won acclaim as a singular voice tackling some of the most important issues of our age, from poverty to violence to the dark soul of American imperialism as it has played out on the U.S./Mexico border. Now, Vollmann turns to a topic that will define the generations to come – the factors and human actions that have led to global warming.

Vollmann begins ‘No Immediate Danger’, the first volume of ‘Carbon Ideologies’, by examining and quantifying the many causes of climate change, from industrial manufacturing and agricultural practices to fossil fuel extraction, economic demand for electric power, and the justifiable yearning of people all over the world to live in comfort.

Turning to nuclear power first, Vollmann then recounts multiple visits that he made at significant personal risk over the course of seven years to the contaminated no-go zones and sad ghost towns of Fukushima, Japan, beginning shortly after the tsunami and reactor meltdowns of 2011. Equipped first only with a dosimeter and then with a scintillation counter, he measured radiation and interviewed tsunami victims, nuclear evacuees, anti-nuclear organizers and pro-nuclear utility workers.

Featuring Vollmann’s signature wide learning, sardonic wit, and encyclopedic research, No Immediate Danger, whose title co-opts the reassuring mantra of official Japanese energy experts, builds up a powerful, sobering picture of the ongoing nightmare of Fukushima.

Watch for ‘No Good Alternative’, the second volume of Carbon Ideologies, focusing on human experiences related to coal mining and oil and natural gas production – coming in June 2018.

About the author

William T. Vollmann is the author of ten novels, including Europe Central, which won the National Book Award. He has also written four collections of stories, including The Atlas, which won the PEN Center USA West Award for Fiction, a memoir, and six works of nonfiction, including Rising Up and Rising Down and Imperial, both of which were finalists for the National Book Critics Circle Award. He is the recipient of a Whiting Writers Award and the Strauss Living Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His journalism and fiction have been published in The New Yorker, Harpers, Esquire, Granta, and many other publications.

» Wikipedia page about William T. Vollmann



William T. Vollmann: ‘Carbon Ideologies – No Immediate Danger’
» You can buy it on www.amazon.com


One last question: If William T. Vollmann has a motto, what is it?

“Well,” the author said, “let’s see … ” Slowly, the characteristic impish gleam that had been absent all afternoon returned to his eyes.

“Try to be happy and helpful,” he said, “and have a motto you change every day.”
~ The Sacramento Bee





“Focus on music, love, education and happiness”

“There are no means of reversing the process which is melting the polar ice caps. And very few appear to be prepared to say so.”

“With doom ahead, making a case for cycling as the primary mode of transport is almost irrelevant,” he says. “We’ve got to stop burning fossil fuels. So many aspects of life depend on fossil fuels, except for music and love and education and happiness. These things, which hardly use fossil fuels, are what we must focus on.”
~ Dr Mayer Hillman, British social scientist and senior fellow emeritus of the Policy Studies Institute

» The Guardian – 26 April 2018:
‘We’re doomed’: Mayer Hillman on the climate reality no one else will dare mention
“The 86-year-old social scientist says accepting the impending end of most life on Earth might be the very thing needed to help us prolong it.”