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I Want a Better Catastrophe: Navigating the Climate Crisis with Grief, Hope, and Gallows Humor
by Andrew Boyd


Andrew Boyd's I Want a Better Catastrophe is a deeply personal and thought-provoking exploration of the emotional and philosophical terrain we navigate as we face the climate crisis. He blends science, humor, and personal reflection to grapple with the impossible news that we are locked into a future of climate catastrophe, regardless of our actions.
Boyd's central argument is that we must confront the truth of our predicament, including the possibility of human extinction, and find a way to hope and act despite the bleakness. He challenges the reader to move beyond traditional notions of hope and embrace a more resilient and action-oriented approach to living in a world on the brink.

The book is structured around a series of "Meetings with Remarkable Hopers and Doomers" in which Boyd interviews eight individuals from diverse fields:

  • Guy McPherson: A scientist who argues for near-term human extinction, but emphasizes living ethically in the face of the impossible.
  • Tim DeChristopher: An activist who, despite recognizing the inevitability of collapse, finds hope in rebuilding a better world on the ashes of the old.
  • Meg Wheatley: A wisdom teacher who promotes a practice of "spiritual warriorship" that involves releasing hope and fear to find deeper confidence and strength.
  • Gopal Dayaneni: A grassroots organizer who frames climate justice as a struggle for an equitable distribution of suffering and argues for a "just transition" to a post-capitalist society.
  • Joanna Macy: An eco-Buddhist philosopher who advocates for "active hope" and teaches a series of practices called the "Work That Reconnects" to help people confront their despair and find the motivation to act.
  • Jamey Hecht: A collapse psychologist who grapples with the unbearable knowledge of our predicament, but ultimately argues for cultivating a "tragic consciousness" to find meaning in a doomed world.
  • adrienne maree brown: A community organizer and emergent strategist who emphasizes the importance of imagination and visionary fiction to envision a more just and equitable future.
  • Robin Wall Kimmerer: An Indigenous botanist who challenges us to re-story our relationship with nature and adopt a worldview based on reciprocity and respect.

Key Themes:

  • The Difficulty of Hope: Boyd argues that traditional, outcome-based hope is insufficient in the face of climate catastrophe. He explores alternative forms of hope, including "grounded hope," "strategic hope," and "hope beyond hope."
  • The Importance of Grief: Boyd acknowledges the deep emotional toll of the climate crisis and emphasizes the importance of grieving what we stand to lose. He advocates for rituals and practices to help people confront their despair.
  • The Role of Storytelling: The stories we tell ourselves about the climate crisis shape our understanding of the problem, our sense of agency, and our willingness to act. Boyd encourages readers to challenge their own narratives and seek out new, more hopeful stories.
  • The Imperative of Justice: Boyd emphasizes the interconnectedness of social and ecological issues and argues for a just transition that addresses inequalities and injustices. He highlights the importance of listening to and learning from marginalized communities.
  • The Power of Action: Despite the daunting nature of our predicament, Boyd stresses that action remains crucial. He outlines a range of strategies for tackling the crisis, from individual lifestyle changes to collective action and policy shifts.

The book leaves the reader with a sense of urgency and possibility. It is not a guide to despair, but rather a call to action to live more consciously, compassionately, and effectively in the face of the climate crisis. While acknowledging the severity of the situation, I Want a Better Catastrophe ultimately offers a message of hope, reminding us that we still have the power to shape our future and choose a more just and sustainable path.