This book argues that climate change has a devastating effect on how we think about the future. Once several positive feedback loops in Earth’s dynamic systems, such as the melting of the Arctic icecap or the drying of the Amazon, cross the point of no return, the biosphere is likely to undergo severe and irreversible warming.

Nearly everything we do is premised on the assumption that the world we know will endure into the future and provide a sustaining context for our activities. But today the future of a viable biosphere, and thus the purpose of our present activities, is put into question. A disappearing future leads to a broken present, a strange incoherence in the feel of everyday life.

We thus face the unprecedented challenge of salvaging a basis for our lives today. That basis, this book argues, may be found in our capacity to assume an infinite responsibility for ecological disaster and, like the biblical Job, to respond with awe to the alien voice that speaks from the whirlwind. By owning disaster and accepting our small place within the inhuman forces of the biosphere, we may discover how to live with responsibility and serenity whatever may come. (Publisher's Description)



Download Full Text (968 KB)

Download Front Matter (171 KB)

Download Introduction (113 KB)

Download Chapter 1. Climate Change Will Happen to You (130 KB)

Download Chapter 2. What We Could Do (123 KB)

Download Chapter 3. Time's Up (123 KB)

Download Chapter 4. The Impossible Revolution (130 KB)

Download Chapter 5. The Stolen Future (94 KB)

Download Chapter 6. The Ruins to Come (102 KB)

Download Chapter 7. The Broken Present (89 KB)

Download Chapter 8. A Slow and Endless Horror (112 KB)

Download Chapter 9. Infinite Responsibility (136 KB)

Download Chapter 10. Making Reparation: Offset Your Life (109 KB)

Download Chapter 11. Bear No Children (112 KB)

Download Chapter 12. The God of the Whirlwind (126 KB)

Download Appendix: Climate Change Is Real (128 KB)

Download Acknowledgments (56 KB)

Download Works Cited (164 KB)



Publication Date



Open Humanities Press


Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA

Department or Program



rights, revolution, ethics, genocide, nuclear, trauma, grief, love, reproduction, travel, covenant, secular


Arts and Humanities | Nature and Society Relations | Place and Environment | Science and Technology Studies


Freely available online at:

Original Publication Information

Copyright © 2014 David A. Collings

This is an open access book, licensed under Creative Commons By Attribution Share Alike license. Under this license, authors allow anyone to download, reuse, reprint, modify, distribute, and/or copy their work so long as the authors and source are cited and resulting derivative works are licensed under the same or similar license. No permission is required from the authors or the publisher. Statutory fair use and other rights are in no way affected by the above.

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Cover Art, figures, and other media included with this book may have different copyright restrictions.

The cover image is by Valerie Hegarty – Bierstadt with Holes, 2007, foam core, paper, paint, wood, glue, gel medium, plexiglass, 103 x 85 x 7 cm (close up).

Stolen Future, Broken Present: The Human Significance of Climate Change