The Seasons Alter: How To Save Our Planet in Six Acts

Kitcher, Philip & . Liveright: Norton. Apr. 2017. 288p. notes. ISBN 9781631492839. $24.95. SCI
Distinguished philosophy professors Kitcher (Columbia Univ.) and Keller (emerita, MIT) offer tonic for the times in their series of imagined conversations about climate change. The participants are "Jo" and "Joe": avatars, respectively, for idealist and pragmatist positions. Jo represents the voice of climate action, while Joe takes a skeptical approach. Their give-and-take is always "constructive, careful and amicable" but rigorous—the science of climate change gets a full airing out, as do its politics and economics. Equally important, readers are reminded of the ethical challenges ahead: how to balance the rights and responsibilities of developing worlds, how to judge the risks of emerging technologies, and how to measure our responsibility to future generations. Not surprisingly, given the authors' professional interests, this book takes the form of dialogs; the title, however, is from William Shakespeare, and the arguments are presented in six "acts," each delving into key climate-related conundrums. This unusual mix helps to make complex subject matter readable and engaging while suggesting how significant the humanities are to the current climate debate.
VERDICT A conversation starter or more hot air? Most likely the former for reader-citizens crushed by the scale of the problem or confused by its polarity. For students of environmental philosophy, an essential text. [Prepub Alert, 10/10/15.]
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