THERE are books we read for pleasure or escape, and there’s books we read because they’re important, and they feed our souls with reflections on the difficult questions.
The author of one such book, Clive Hamilton, will be in Bathurst on Tuesday June 6.
Hamilton is a Professor of Public Ethics at Charles Sturt University’s Canberra campus and for many years now the executive director of the Australia Institute think-tank.
His new book, Defiant Earth – The Fate of Humans in the Anthropocene, pulls no punches when it comes to our future on a warming planet.
The International Commission on Stratigraphy is now considering whether to confer official status on the Anthropocene. The fact that this is even happening is a staggering situation, one that would have seemed fanciful just few decades ago.
If the Earth is our Mother, it’s clear we’ve been very naughty children, taking advantage of her goodwill for far too long. Now, it’s as though she is shooing us all off her cosy bed. She’s threatening to stop looking after us; she might even kill us.
For Hamilton, the Anthropocene is a rupture on two levels. First, it’s a rupture in the material world “out there” and secondly, it’s a rupture in our sense of self: “What kind of creature interfered with the Earth’s functioning and would not desist when the facts became known?”
This rupture, says Hamilton, calls for a profound reassessment of who we think we are, and the nature of our responsibility to ourselves and our fellow creatures.
As an ethicist, Hamilton concedes that few guidelines can be found within familiar ethical frameworks. In all of human history, there is nothing quite like the crime of interference with the workings of planet. It may be a sin, but it is entirely within the law.
If ethics cannot deal with the magnitude of the problem, then perhaps philosophy can. Hamilton calls for a new philosophy that orients us towards the Earth; one in which “we understand deeply our extraordinary power and unique responsibility.”
Much of Hamilton’s book is an attempt to tease this out. Just how might we become global citizens with a profound sense of duty towards the Earth? If this seems an impossibly giant quest, then Hamilton warns that the giant systems we’ve awakened call for nothing less.
In an evening co-presented by Books Plus and Bathurst Community Climate Action Network, Dr Hamilton will talk about his new book at The Oxford at 6 for 6.30pm. Bookings essential on 6331 5994 or tickets from Books Plus.