Thursday, 24 July 2014

A Failed Book Review

A couple of years ago I had read Rebecca Costa's The Watchman's Rattle. It was a zealous and somewhat perplexing attempt to explain off most of the plagues ailing our civilization to socio-evolutionary concepts. My first guess (as could be yours) was that Rebecca was a believer in kin selection famously propounded by Edward Wilson. A back ground check revealed I was right - she had been a student of the legendary evolutionist.

The cause and effect relationship the book sought to push requires a separate blog post in itself but the message was clear - we're running out of time to save our planet. The signs are there and there's no need to bring in voodoo or faith into the mixture. The evidence was in the realm of facts and science.

There's a charm to alarmist books and movies. To contemplate the collapse of all that mankind has achieved requires a certain amount of effort. In movies it takes something really big, such as an alien invasion or a cataclysmic freak climate event to cut it. And that only serves to put it safely into the cabinet of sci-fi.

Then there are books that genuinely aim to persuade the reader of the perils of real life phenomena such as climate change or the collapse of the financial system. To be sure, these works are very cautious in their treatment of the subject, knowing too well the dangers of straying into hyperbole or dystopic territory. Anthropogenic climate change, for example, is almost certainly true. But the measured debate we're witnessing has eminent thinkers like Bjorn Lomborg on the other side of the field. Read The Sceptical Environmentalist for more.

So when I picked up The Third Curve, I had mixed expectations. The author is definitely unknown but the topic is enticing enough to make a good story. You flip to the backside of the book and you read words of restrained praise from Shashi Tharoor and Jairam Ramesh, and people from TERI and civil society.

I read the book. There's nothing to write about it.

I am not kidding.