Unprecedented Crime: Review

Breen, Howard | March 1, 2018 | Leave a Comment

Engendering the Response to Climate Change by Jervis Sundays, Kenya Red Cross Society | Bread for the World | Flickr | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

This review was first published by Resilience.org on February 16, 2018. The original article can be found here. It is republished with permission from the author.


Cover image for Unprecedented Crime by Peter D. Carter & Elizabeth Woodworth | Clarity Press
Cover image for Unprecedented Crime by Peter D. Carter & Elizabeth Woodworth | Clarity Press

Seldom are missed books truly missed opportunities — but nothing could possibly be worse than missing an opportunity that could have saved your life, and those of your family and friends.

Unprecedented Crime: Climate Science Denial And Game Changers For Survival is just such a book that you shouldn’t miss in this increasingly post-truth age. With chapter-after-chapter gut punch, it is a volume that reads like a UN science team jointly making a life-and-death 911 call recording to a planet of primed and waiting emergency responders: “We’ve hit bottom. The situation is dire. Time is short. Ignore the criminal deniers, bankers, media and politicians! We need to urgently mobilize millions now!”

In a time when common sense human survival is really becoming uncommon with worsening existential threats in the White House and in our atmosphere and oceans with each passing hour, British Columbia writers Dr. Peter Carter and Elizabeth Woodworth, as honest brokers of factual scientific information, expose for readers the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of Big Oil glory days and their approaching end of days. Dr. James Hansen (the former NASA scientist, pioneering climate-prophet) provides a Foreword that is sure to give you the first twists and turns between nightmares and hope to be found in the book.

While arguably the most urgent issue of our time, climate change makes for a poor villain. It is impersonal, and usually glacially slow. However, there are uber-rich, faceless corporate villains lurking behind the rise in planet temperature who strive to ensure we all, in varying degrees, are part of the problem, by keeping the planet fossil-addicted. Such corporate crime stirs the moral outrage of the authors like a legion of Nazis bent on similar world domination once stirred our grandparents.

Unprecedented Crime devotes the opening half of the book to deftly arguing that climate denial is not just immoral, that it is a willful act of global-scale violence, an unimaginably senseless and cruel act of climate battery against today’s vulnerable, and dispossessed, a fate which will surely only deepen and become dire for today’s youth and future generations. It is a ‘policy breakout’ book deserving to be prominently placed on multiple library shelves from public health to climate adaptation to corporate criminology.

The writers chronicle how the billionaire-funded, but small denier community, has created an abrupt, near-death global experience, a life flashing before your eyes kind of thing, for the many facing record-shattering tornado swarms and hurricane force winds, to those barely escaping wildfire infernos with the clothes on their backs, and the palpably imaginable fear of others in flood-ravaged regions awaiting rescue from rooftops. The trauma of denial was only less immediate but sadly gravely under-reported for drought-stricken subsistence farmers in many developing nations watching their crops shrivel and die during intense heatwaves, and poor fishers experiencing the slow asphyxiation of fish in warming oceans and disappearing lakes. The fate of European climate refugees has become today’s fate of millions, human and non-human species seeking more and more migration to safe havens from deadly climate disruptions, habitat loss, and the conflicts which inevitably arise when resource scarcity becomes more acute on a hot planet.

While the definition of evil may change over time, as most governing parties anywhere in the world refuse to prohibit extraction of the oil and gas on their doorstep or fossil fuel imports due to the climate trivialization work of deniers and hydrocarbon-trafficking lobbyists, the authors ‘name and shame’ the deniers (and aiding and abetting bankers, media, shareholders and politicians) as among the evilest, downright dirty, and irredeemable corporate villains in the history of humanity.

Carter and Woodworth forcefully argue that it’s time for Big Oil ‘take-the-money and-run’ psychopaths to take full responsibility for the devastation they have wrought and to start paying for the unwise, unnecessary and unwanted global damage they have done and the moral confusion they have profitably cultivated. Only a fool keeps on appealing to the better nature of a deaf thug, hence Carter and Woodsworth do not expect much more than the expected ongoing manufactured rage and lies of deniers, and the betrayal and treason of the political establishment, and reserve the remainder of their book to ‘game changers’ who have demonstrated the courage and prescience to pull the emergency brake on the runaway climate train, and offer additional solutions that can help democratize survival for the many.

To that end, these climate crimefighting authors controversially support the creativity, gumption and grit of greater civil unrest and civil disobedience necessary to get reticent world leaders and their citizenry to urgently respond to the Paris Climate Accord 1.5 C guardrail dying of Trump’s toxic political malabsorption, and Canada’s Trudeau threatening genocidal relapse into genteel apartheid for non-consenting indigenous communities confronting the tarsands and new pipelines. Rest assured, history is not going to judge these leaders well.

Again, the real crime and legacy of unutterable shame is corporate and elected deniers suggesting indigenous and settler water protectors in our slowly decolonizing world commit a crime opposing new fossil fuel expansion (or the authors do by exposing planetary corporate ecocide and calling for concerted resistance, instead of rightfully receiving a civil courage award for their book).

Changing lifelong loyalties and habits is never easy, (especially if we’re still locked into a vexingly circular ‘glass half-full or half-empty of bitumen’ climate debate; as it turns out this shale bitumen barrel has no bottom) but is necessary if we want to have a habitable world for our gravely at-risk children and grandchildren.

Final takeaway for our ecologically ticking time bomb: If you’re feeling sadness or fury at the state of the world, the authors say put it to good use! A no compromise, no retreat, no surrender, global climate mobilization is just what the doctor ordered. This is not your first nor likely your final warning, but it is unerringly the most urgent in publication today — with very little time remaining.

Don’t wait for the final courtroom impact statements or climate collapse documentary. Read the book before the climate denier bully mob have it banned and burned (but don’t be surprised, if half way through, it makes you want to go out and blow up a pipeline).

If read, the smart money is on you — making a difference that matters — a difference that won’t cultivate the denier lie that the climate emergency is a hoax (but hey, pro wrestling is real), and that there will always be someone else to save the world.  All readers of Unprecedented Crime should now consider yourselves ‘deputized’ to pursue by any means the lawlessness of carbon racketeers hiding in plain sight behind the autocratic corporate state.

If the law is to ensure human survival, everyday citizens must become the new vanguard pressing for a fundamentally just, democratic system change. Replacing complicity with conscience, together, we can again be both society’s sentinels and its tribunes.


This review was first published by Resilience.org on February 16, 2018. The original article can be found here. It is republished with permission from the author.

Howard Breen is a Victoria, B.C.-based writer and climate activist.

Unprecedented Crime is available for purchase through Clarity Press and Amazon.com, or can be found at a bookstore near you through InideBound.


The MAHB Blog is a venture of the Millennium Alliance for Humanity and the Biosphere. Questions should be directed to joan@mahbonline.org

MAHB Blog: https://mahb.stanford.edu/blog/unprecedented-crime-review/

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  • stevenearlsalmony

    The current colossal scale and fully expected growth of worldwide overproduction, overconsumption and overpopulation activities by the human species are in and of themselves tantamount to unprecedented crimes against the integrity of earth’s body and the future of life as we know it in our planetary home.

  • stevenearlsalmony

    If the human species is indeed responsible for enormous global ecological threats to future human well being and environmental health, then common sense tells us that each and every one is implicated in the mess we have produced. That said, we cannot broadly charge individuals with equal culpability for the colossal wreckage human beings are in the act of precipitating. Without doubt some individuals are more responsible than others for the serious existential situation in which humankind finds itself. At some point the individuals as well as the corporations (that have been misguidedly accorded “personhood”) who actually bear responsibility need to be held to account for the fulmination and combustion of the explosion of distinctly human overproduction, overconsumption and overpopulation activities overspreading the surface of the Earth on our watch.

  • By and large I agree, I winced, however, when I came to the point where Jim Hansen was referred to as a “prophet”, which puts the results of atmospheric science and the corresponding insights into global climate change onto the same rhetorical level as faith and religion. Prof. Hansen is a scientific pioneer of the field, which is something entirely different as a prophet!

    When talking about the oil industry, I can also play advocatus diaboli. For one, managers are hired to make decisions to benefit the organizations that hired them. Society, through its political and legislative arms, must regulate the behavior of individuals and organizations it encompasses. The economic incentives we have chosen to adopt clearly encourage lies, profit maximizing behavior and externalization of responsibilities. Calling everyone in the hydrocarbon field psychopaths also seems a bit beyond the target. Although it is true that there is ample evidence for psychopaths accumulating in the higher ranks of politics and big business, it still is too simple an assessment. Simple psychological effects are at work – ranging from peer pressure to the real-world equivalent of the internet “Ecochamber”, i.e. people constantly mingling with people from the same circles and views, re-enforcing the same opinions and statements over and again. Elite thinking, group think etc. – there is nothing new about it. Of course that does not make them any less responsible, but it explains what is going on. The ultimate responsibility, however, strikes me as being on the side of an anti-intellectual, unscientific and a-political population that handed over the power of economic and political decisions to people acting against their own interest – up to the level where survival at large is at stake.

  • Sailesh Rao

    What about the much more widespread denial that our exploitation and consumption of animals is responsible for 33% of the ice-free land area of the planet to become desert and 37% to become grasslands and pasture lands? If we regenerate forests on those lands, we can easily sequester the excess carbon in the atmosphere and restore biodiversity, but that requires our consumer culture to change.

    As Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”

    It takes COURAGE to overcome our willful ignorance. It takes COURAGE to Go Vegan…

    https://www.farmersweekly.co.za/opinion/by-invitation/animal-welfare-consumers-wilfully-ignorant/

    • Democracy1st

      Hello Sailesh: I am co-author of this book and it does go into the need for vegetarian and vegan diets in five different places. The book presents game changing solutions as well as legal evidence for the crime of denial, which is so dangerous because it blocks low-carbon solutions that will prevent emissions (including NO2 from agriculture) from becoming truly catastrophic.

      I agree that lifestyle changes will take courage, but we have great reserves of courage within us once we see the need for it! 🙂

      • Sailesh Rao

        Thank you for the response. My point was that there is plenty of denial to go around: the Global Animal Agriculture (GAAg) industry, the Chemical industry, the Tobacco Industry and the Fossil Fuel industry all pretend that their products are not harming us, when they know perfectly well that their products are harming us. Such denial is systemic.

        Indeed, the GAAg industry has been responsible for more human and animal deaths than any other industry to date. According to Dr. Michael Greger in his NY Times bestseller, “How Not to Die,” 14 of the 15 leading causes of death in affluent countries can be attributed to the consumption of animal foods. The GAAg industry is also the leading cause of the Sixth Great Mass Extinction event underway today through habitat destruction, deforestation and industrial fishing. The GAAg industry also operates the slaughterhouses in our midst where they torture and kill 74 Billion farmed animals every year.

        In a paper that we presented at the AGU Fall Meeting in 2015, we showed that if the native forests that used to exist in 1800 were regenerated on current grasslands and pasture lands, that itself would sequester an additional 265 Gt of Carbon on just 14% of the Earth’s ice-free land area, which is more than the 240 Gt of Carbon that humans added to the atmosphere between 1750 and 2015.

        https://agu.confex.com/agu/fm15/meetingapp.cgi/Paper/67429

        This is not so hard to fathom. Land stores 3 times as much carbon as the atmosphere despite all the deforestation and other land use depredations that humans have committed over the past 10,000 years. Therefore, by going Vegan, we can literally reverse climate change, which is something that we don’t hear from the mainstream experts on climate change. For some reason, they prefer to focus on a highly dis-empowering narrative centered around fossil fuels only.

  • People are gong to die this century from starvation and conflict. A lot of people – by my count 8-10 billion by 2100. That includes most people’s children. And certainly extreme drought, and precipitation, and ocean acidity on our present course will contribute injuries. However, if we could undo these climate changes, my estimate of human misery would not be lowered. There are enough people on earth that they collectively are breaking other parts of the ecosystem and exhausting non renewable resources. And these changes can kill 8-10 billion without any climate change.

    So blaming the climate deniers or discrediting them, or publicly assigning them responsibility for the present or coming injuries is really distracting people from the actual human predicament, there are too many of us. The distraction is making it harder to focus on the changes (e.g.rapid population decline) that would reduce the injuries bearing down on us.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VdksoUuAXDc

    For a more robust presentation of the “too many people” argument see:
    Self Guided Tour of the Human Predicament and What to Do About it.
    http://www.skil.org//position_papers_folder/TourlectureSKILconcepts.html