To be or not to be : that is the question : whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles and by opposing end them : to die, to sleep no more; and by a sleep, to say we end the heart-ache, and the thousand natural shocks that Flesh is heir to?
William Shakespeare, c.1600
This book – and its parent project, Decency and Survival – are about a ‘Sea of troubles’, or rather, the ‘Sea of troubles’ that arguably defines our times. By ‘Sea of troubles’, I mean that exercising the consciences of a good number of our scientists, religious and civic leaders, and concerned citizens around the world. That is, as indeed it seemed to me at the inception of the project, the fact that many, if not most of us, around the world are leading miserable lives, and are dying prematurely; all of us are threatened by nuclear weapons and their potential direct and indirect effects; and humanity as a species – that is, all children and grandchildren, and future generations – is also threatened by climate change and environmental breakdown. It is in these latter two senses that these can be said to be our times.
‘To be or not to be’ is indeed then the question. Humanity now faces extinction, by its own hand; our choices – what we give the name of Action – collectively, and individually, will determine whether we live or die. The project aims to clarify the choices before us collectively and individually, by examining arguments and evidence as to where we are (the structure of the Earth System and current institutional and physical structure of the Human System), and where things are headed; where we need to go instead, and why we ought to; and how we can get there. The arguments and evidence considered are, at the outset, principally that gleaned from a selection of forty book-form and online English language sources (twenty of each, half from UK authors and institutions, and half from the rest of the world), based on my personal knowledge and experience. A variety of outputs is planned, including, at the time of writing, a website, podcast series, video blog, this book (see below), talks, exhibitions, (open) letters, and perhaps more besides. The project has to date been largely self-funded. I hope to raise funds from individuals – and perhaps institutions – on an ongoing basis.
A view toward Westminster from the South Bank