Macdonald's review seems to indicate that ... Kolbert's latest book takes the position that we cannot "meaningfully distinguish between nature and humanity." If this is a correct understanding of Kolbert's thinking, that means that Kolbert has rejected a main feature of my "Two Worlds Hypothesis," which holds that we need to conform our Human World to the laws that govern the World of Nature. The implication is that it is now time for human beings to "grow up," and to assume full responsibility for running the Natural World, just as we have full responsibility for what happens in our Human World....
Since I haven't yet read Under A White Sky (it's now on my list), I don't know whether Macdonald is right about Kolbert's thinking, or whether I am misconstruing what Macdonald is saying. The review is somewhat equivocal, and Macdonald does complain, a little bit, about how difficult it is to understand what Kolbert actually thinks. I hope that Kolbert is not, in fact, thinking what Macdonald seems to suggest she is thinking....
Should human beings decide that they really want to try to "run the world" in its entirety, meaning that they will take responsibility for both the Natural World and our Human World, thus displacing the role that "Mother Nature" or "God" has always played with respect to the Natural World, I am afraid that it will soon be "Game Over" for almost all humans on the planet (emphasis added).
Here, in one book [Malm's book], is "how we got into this mess," as so many these days put it. From preindustrial times to China, Malm (in 400 pages, + 60 more of notes) exhaustively covers the transition from "the flow" (water power, wind power, and other forms of energy, like sheer muscle power, directly or less directly derived from the sun) to "the stock" - "relics of solar energy of the very distant past."
In a nutshell, as Malm sees it, manufacturers turned to "the stock" not because "the flow" was insufficient, and not because coal for steam engines was cheaper, but because they needed mobile forms of energy - energy in no way bounded by space, time, or the constraints of nature itself - so they could more efficiently (cheaply) control/extract/exploit the labor that produced the surplus value that made capital self-sustaining and self-aggrandizing. "Capitalism delivered the fossil economy," in Malm's words...not the other way around (emphasis added).
This has been a book [says Kolbert] about people trying to solve problems created by people trying to solve problems. In the course of reporting it, I spoke to engineers and genetic engineers, biologists and microbiologists, atmospheric scientists and atmospheric entrepreneurs. Without exception, they were enthusiastic about their work. But, as a rule, this enthusiasm, was tempered by doubt."
We live in a world [Parker] has said "where deliberately dimming the fucking sun might be less risky than not doing it."
But to imagine that "dimming the fucking sun" could be less dangerous than not dimming it, you have to imagine not only that the technology will work according to plan but also that it will be deployed according to plan. And that's a lot of imagining.