Entertaining Futility: Despair and Hope in the Time of Climate Change
In playfully pessimistic and thought-provoking essays, author Andrew McMurry explores a vital but fundamentally perverse human practice: destroying our planet while imagining we are not. How are humans able to do this? Entertaining Futility: Despair and Hope in the Time of Climate Change investigates the discourses of hope, progress, and optimism in the era of climate change, concepts that, McMurry argues, are polite names for blind faith, greed, and wishful thinking. The itemized list of humanity’s arrogance can quickly lead to despair, so McMurry compensates by presenting the news in a darkly comic and irreverent style.
McMurry believes human culture relies on a full suite of rhetorical tricks to distract us from our own demise. He investigates the role language, discourse, media, and technology play in shaping perceptions and misperceptions of our complex environmental crises. Writing in a mode that freely mixes the scholarly, fictive, poetic, and personal, McMurry draws on philosophy, history, ecology, film, science fiction, and pop culture to raise questions that are difficult to face, let alone answer. In the author’s words, “our age is utterly paralyzing unless you can crack jokes about it.”
Entertaining Futility offers no easy solutions to today’s environmental calamities and, in fact, claims that perhaps the continual proposing of solutions is part of the problem. Instead, McMurry encourages readers to examine their own deeply held beliefs about the environment and the future and to look more closely at where those beliefs originate. By pulling back the curtain, he reveals the rhetorical and cultural ruses that distract us from the reality of our environmental crises.
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