Climate Chaos and its Origins in Slavery and Capitalism

Climate Chaos and its Origins in Slavery and Capitalism

By Reva Blau & Judith Blau

Anthem Sociological Perspectives on Human Rights and Development

Climate Chaos argues powerfully that unless global citizens come together to change the infrastructure and value system of capitalist greed and consumption, human society will not survive past this century.

Hardback, 114 Pages


October 2020

£24.95, $29.99

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About This Book

Climate Chaos provides readers the latest consensus among international scientists on the cascading impacts of climate change and the tipping points that today threaten to irreversibly destroy the delicate balance of the Earth’s ecosystems. The book covers some controversial topics: that slavery in the American South is the origin of capitalism; the indigenous perspective on the environment (“Mother Earth” movement), international debates about the response to accelerating climate change, and the failure of the U.S. government to be part of the international effort to slow climate change.

The book argues that deregulation and an expansion of fossil fuel extraction have already tipped the planet towards a climate that is out of control. This crisis will cause massive human suffering when extreme weather, pollution and disease lead to displacement, food and water shortages, war, and possibly species extinction. 

The repression of science creates an existential crisis for humanity that has reached crisis proportions in the twentieth-first century. The scale of the crisis has prompted a call for geoengineering, large interventions into the climate by technological innovation. However, the history of colonialism and slavery make the technological and monetary elites untrustworthy to solve this humanitarian and planetary crisis. While the elites have always cast certain groups of humanity as expendable, the climate crisis makes a true humanist and egalitarian movement based in human rights and dignity not only aspirational but also existentially mandatory. The crisis demands that we remake the world into a more just and safe place for all the world’s people.


Climate Chaos and Its Origins in Slavery and Capitalism situates the human contribution to our current climate crisis in a centuries long process of capitalist commodification and institutional development that has on balance degraded and exploited humans and the planet. Just when the U.S Department of State is withdrawing its commitment to international cooperation and transnational problem-solving – abandoning the Paris Climate Treaty, the Human Rights Commission, and the World Health Organization -- narrowing what counts as human rights, and re-narrating American history to reinforce a culture of individualism and American exceptionalism, Judith and Reva Blau offer us a powerful and timely alternative diagnosis and vision for addressing the decline of human civilization and the planet that it depends on for survival. This mother and daughter team marshal and eloquently present ample evidence to clarify the urgency of the challenge we now face, and persuasively explain not only why market solutions are futile, but also why the strengths of liberalism (diversity, democracy, and expertise) are not enough. Any viable path for navigating this climate chaos, they contend, also will have to transcend the culture of individualism and human-centered understandings of our relationship to Earth and the non-human life and systems with whom we share it. — John G. Dale, Associate Professor, George Mason University

Author Information

Reva Blau is a writer and middle-school ELL teacher. She leads professional development that teaches empowerment along lines of race, gender, and class that is grounded in restorative practice.

Judith Blau is professor emerita of sociology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, where she chaired the social and economic justice undergraduate minor for many years. She was founder and director of the Human Rights Center of Chapel Hill-Carrboro.


Anthem Sociological Perspectives on Human Rights and Development

Table of Contents

Preface; 1. Background: Early Signs of Warming into the Present; 2. Extraction: Slavery and Capitalism; 3. Are We Helpless? Or Empowered?; 4. What Replaces Capitalism? The Circular Economy? Blockchain?; 5. Geoengineering; 6. Hands off Mother Earth; 7. The Millennium Development Goals, the Sustainable Development Goals, and the Paris Agreement; 8. The SDGs and COVID-19; 9. Turning the Page; 10. Conclusions: To End Capitalism; Glossary: Terms Relevant for (1) Global Warming, and (2) COVID-19; Index.


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