Book Review: Generation Dread by Britt Wray
I just finished reading Generation Dread: Finding Purpose in an Age of Climate Crisis by Britt Wray. It is excellent. So very, very good. I’ve long wanted to read at least one good book on climate change for a while, but had avoided doing so because things with the environment seem so hopeless to me. I saw a post or two on Mastodon mentioning this book. I read a few reviews, and then immediately got myself a copy. I read the whole thing in less than a week. The book is incredibly well written. I learned a great deal reading it. I was given a few tools on how to manage and move beyond eco-anxiety. From all the books I have ever read, I would definitely place it somewhere in the top ten. It’s that good and helpful.
The one thing that really stuck with me is a short section on hope:
In recent years, amidst the onset of climate breakdown, the concept of hope has become unfashionable, a security blanket, all the more necessary, a dangerous distraction, the engine of action, and a sign of being out of touch or coddled, all at the same time. Hope is “such a white concept,” climate justice essayist Mary Annaise Heglar as quoted as saying in Vice. “You're supposed to have the courage first, then you have the action, then you have the hope. But white people put hope at the front. Their insistence on hope for all of these years has led to exactlv where? Nowhere. ” Her words get at how hope actually works. We can't sit back and hope for a better future from our living rooms if we want any realistic chance of getting it. We need to get out there together and work to bring it forth.
As a Black American Southerner, Heglar carries the stories ofher ancestors and of her people's ongoing struggles to advance their own well-being inside a relentless haze of historical and state-based oppression. The Black community did not close their eyes and hope the issues would resolve themselves, or that someone would come and save the day; they organized, advocated, and continue to push against the brutality and banality of wrongdoing that comes with a white supremacist system, continuously improving their situation. Coming at us all now is climate disruption as cultural trauma, which requires a similarly determined response rather than empty declarations of hope.
This line of thinking is so explosive and applicable in so many contexts from the micro to the macro levels.
Action first. Hope will follow only when action has begun to produce results.
It won’t be easy. Perseverance will be necessary, but it will be right there next to hope once action has taken place.
Last thing: I read this book from both a christian and stoic perspective. It strengthened the former, and challenged the latter in its theory of emotions. More on this later. Suffice it to say that I am becoming increasingly skeptical of the sufficiency and adequacy of Stoicism when it comes to the management of emotions. It’s not that what Stoicism is wrong, more that it did not say enough and failed to have a positive role for the acknowledgment, acceptance, management, and use of everything they considered negative emotions.
I could say so much more, especially in conjuction with Moltmann’s Theology of Hope. Perhaps I will do that later. Fantastic book. 7/5 stars.