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Risk Criticism

Risk Criticism: Precautionary Reading in an Age of Environmental Uncertainty OPEN ACCESS

Molly Wallace
Copyright Date: 2016
Pages: 274
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    Risk Criticism
    Book Description:

    Risk Criticism is a study of literary and cultural responses to global environmental risk in an age of unfolding ecological catastrophe. In 2015, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists reset its iconic Doomsday Clock to three minutes to midnight, as close to the apocalypse as it has been since 1953. What pushed its hands was not just the threat of nuclear weapons, but also other global environmental risks that the Bulletin judged to have risen to the scale of the nuclear, including climate change and innovations in the life sciences. If we may once have believed that the end of days would come in a blaze of nuclear firestorm, we now suspect that the apocalypse may be much slower, creeping in as chemical toxins, climate change, or nano-technologies run amok. Taking inspiration from the questions raised by the Bulletin’s synecdochical “nuclear," Risk Criticism aims to generate a hybrid form of critical practice that brings “nuclear criticism" into conversation with ecocriticism. Through readings of novels, films, theater, poetry, visual art, websites, news reports, and essays, Risk Criticism tracks the diverse ways in which environmental risks are understood and represented today.

    eISBN: 978-0-472-90067-1
    Subjects: Environmental Science, Language & Literature
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Table of Contents

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  1. From the start of what, in retrospect, may have been the first nuclear age, perhaps no image has so captured the sense of looming risk that nuclear weapons pose as theBulletin of the Atomic Scientists’s “Doomsday Clock,” an icon that has graced the cover of that publication since 1947. From its perilously close two minutes to midnight following the detonation of the first thermonuclear bombs, first by the United States and then by the Soviets, in 1953 to its position at a relatively comfortable seventeen minutes to midnight in 1991, the Clock has stood as a barometer of the...

  2. At the end of his magisterial novel of the Cold War,Underworld(1997), Don DeLillo imagines, in the sort of miraculous wish-fulfillment only possible in fiction, a post– Cold War scheme in Russia to destroy nuclear waste by exploding it with nuclear weapons: “The fusion of two streams of history, weapons and waste,” explains Viktor, the entrepreneurial tour guide: “We destroy contaminated nuclear waste by means of nuclear explosions.”³ The nuclear menace is here turned in on itself, as one megarisk of the twentieth century annihilates another, closing out the nuclear age and the Cold War in one fabulous fell...

  3. InNo Place to Hide, his firsthand layman’s account of the atomic testing near the Bikini atoll in 1946, David Bradley makes a rhetorical move that might be said to be emblematic of world risk society.³ “The Bikinese,” he explains, “160 odd people, are not the first, nor will they be the last, to be left homeless and impoverished by the inexorable Bomb. They have no choice in the matter, and very little understanding of it. But in this perhaps they are not so different from us all.”⁴ In short, as he says in the introduction, “Bikini is our world.”⁵...

  4. What’s wrong with genetically modified foods—those products judged “substantially equivalent” and fed to North American consumers willynilly;⁵ the same ones rejected for so long (and in some quarters still) by the European Union, and turned back at one point by the boatload when sent to Zambia or, more recently, China⁶—the “StarLink™” corn, the “Roundup Ready®” canola, the “Genuity™” soybeans? What’s wrong with these foods, and, perhaps even more pointedly, how do we know? Are transgenic foods like nuclear weapons (as the epigraph above that I have drawn from Andrew Kimbrell seems to suggest)? Will there be, as Kerry...

  5. In 2008, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power hit upon a solution to an unforeseen problem in the Ivanhoe Reservoir, which provides drinking water to the southern portion of the city. The problem was the presence in the water of the carcinogen bromate, formed when, in the opento-the-sky pool, the bromide (which appears naturally) and chlorine (used in treatment) interact with sunlight. Cost-benefit analyses suggested that to cover the pool, with cloth or metal, would likely be too expensive and inefficient. And officials reassured residents that “dangers were minimal because bromate poses a small cancer risk only after...

  6. When, in her environmental memoirRefuge(1991), Terry Tempest Williams braids the narrative of the rising waters of the Great Salt Lake with the narrative of her mother’s struggle with cancer, she acknowledges that though both are “environmental,” only the latter has a human cause. As her final chapter, “The Clan of One-Breasted Women,” suggests, the cancers in her family are at least potentially linked to their status as downwinders in the era of above-ground atomic testing. In the case of the lake, however, the culprit is rain: “There is no one to blame, nothing to fight. No developer with...

  7. The Doomsday Clock of theBulletin of the Atomic Scientistsarrives in the second nuclear age as an inherited artifact, a legacy and a kind of time machine, for like the trinity of scientists imagined in Lydia Millet’sOh Pure and Radiant Heart, the Clock represents a moment when the fears and hopes of the nuclear were largely to come. The June 1947 issue in which the Clock first appeared is full of the seemingly real possibilities of world government and with it a world without war, the belief that, still, the bomb might have the potential to usher in...

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International
This book is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International.
Funding is provided by Knowledge Unlatched