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No Immediate Danger

Carbon Ideologies, Volume One
Narrated by: Sean Runnette
Series: Carbon Ideologies, Book 1
Length: 16 hrs and 31 mins
4 out of 5 stars (28 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

In his nonfiction, William T. Vollmann has won acclaim as a singular voice tackling some of the most important issues of our age. Now, Vollmann turns to a topic that will define the generations to come - the factors and human actions that have led to global warming. 

Vollmann begins No Immediate Danger, the first volume of Carbon Ideologies, by examining and quantifying the many causes of climate change, from industrial manufacturing and agricultural practices to fossil fuel extraction, economic demand for electric power, and the justifiable yearning of people all over the world to live in comfort. 

Turning to nuclear power first, Vollmann then recounts multiple visits that he made at significant personal risk over the course of seven years to the contaminated no-go zones and sad ghost towns of Fukushima, Japan, beginning shortly after the tsunami and reactor meltdowns of 2011. Equipped first only with a dosimeter and then with a scintillation counter, he measured radiation and interviewed tsunami victims, nuclear evacuees, anti-nuclear organizers, and pro-nuclear utility workers. 

Featuring Vollmann's signature wide learning, sardonic wit, and encyclopedic research, No Immediate Danger builds up a powerful, sobering picture of the ongoing nightmare of Fukushima.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2018 William T. Vollmann (P)2018 Tantor

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  • Darwin8u
  • Mesa, AZ, United States
  • 04-14-19

Look at the brightside always and die in a dream!

"Look at the brightside always and die in a dream!"
- Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Anima Poetae, 1804

I'm not sure what the 1/2 life of getting over this book is, but like all of Vollmann's nonfiction, it spins a massive data/narrative web that grows, and grows, and sticks. I absolutely agree with some of the previous reviews that some of Vollmann's data in this book might be flawed, but THAT is part of the point of this book. There is SO much data, so many ways to view risk, and it is so diffuse that making policy decisions or changing behaviors becomes difficult (I actually think that is one of Vollmann's major points).

Vol 1: No Immediate Danger (the first half of Carbon Ideologies) is basically broken into three major commonents:

1. Into and The Primer (1 - 220)
2. Nuclear Ideology (221 - 516)
3. Definitions, Units, Conversions, Tables (517 - 600)

No Good Alternative: Volume Two of Carbon Ideologies: 2 will focus more on carbon (read coal, natural gas, oil). It will not have the Prime (the carbon pump only needs primed once) or the definitions, units, conversions.

The book feels familiar because I'm half-way through Vollmann's intense and huge, unabridged, seven-volume Rising Up and Rising Down: Some Thoughts on Violence, Freedom and Urgent Means. These two books (or one book, broken into two by Viking) are built similarly and use the same structure (Poor People)"

"All three volumes use induction to generalize from subjective case studies into analytical categories of the phenomenon under investigation."

I'm not done with Rising Up and Rising Down. Carbon Ideologies is a Vollmann diversion.*

Reviewing this book is a challenge for several reasons. I'm not going to review the facts (because, like we've seen with politics and ideologies, the facts soon stop mattering). Also, I'm more interested in writing about Vollmann's larger approach.

I'm going to (tomorrow, always tomorrow) review first The Primer - Not finished. Not harldy begun, but perhaps, I'll just say this. I think we as humans (and Vollmann shows this over and over again) lie to survive. We lie with data. We lie to each other. We lie to ourselves. We ignore facts. Think of mob wives who are blind to the actions of their mobster husbands. We are all mob wives. We ignore the cost to the future because we are satisfied with our excesses of today. We also lie, not just because we don't want to be confronted with the things that make our life easier, we also lie to survive. Less mobster wife, and more abused wife. If we were confronted by the truth, every day, of how exactly we were f-ing the future with our energy use, our plastic use, our farming, our consumerism, we might not mentally make it. So, we get lost in the data or chose to ignore it. We let those profiting from it bullshit us, again and again. Because to pay attention is to be robbed of the mental fat that we all need to sometimes not go mad. I think it was PKD who said, "It is sometimes an appropriate response to reality to go insane.". I would adjust that. We avoid going insane in the modern world by going blind.

After that, I'm most certainly next going to review Nuclear Ideology - Begun, but not by much.

So, I won't forget, one of the things I want to include are several examples from this book where Vollmann's prose (especially when he is describing the landscape around Fukushima, or the dialogues of those escorting him around the Red Zones and Yellow Zones) rings like Japanese poetry. Several lines feel like they could have been written by Bashō (松尾 芭蕉).

* It is hard with Vollmann's intensity to do anything quite straight.

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Too Much Fukushima: Talking to Future Generations

Some good climate science research, but I don't recommend this book in the least. The author pretends he is talking to future generations. That is a big turn-off. Then most of the book is about measuring radiation in Fukushima.