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Notes from an Apocalypse

Cover: 'Notes from an Apocalypse'

Staff Review: "Notes from an Apocalypse" by Mark O'Connell

★★★

Author Mark O’Connell writes that he’s always had a pessimistic outlook, and nothing has reinforced that attitude more than the events of recent years. O’Connell writes that an increase in extreme weather events due to climate change, the growing gap between poverty and wealth, and intense division and societal unrest in the United States and other countries have all led him to believe that we’re on a crash course for the end of the world.

As a parent of two young children, O’Connell, a native of Ireland, sets out to explore what kind of world his children will live in when they grow up, as well as what’s currently being done to prepare for, or avoid, an apocalypse. O’Connell visits survival bunkers in the vast openness of South Dakota, where doomsday preppers plan to wait out the end of the world; visits New Zealand, where Silicon Valley billionaires have been purchasing land with plans of creating an elite post-apocalyptic utopia exclusively for the superrich; and travels to Pripyat, Ukraine – the site of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster – to gain a sense of what the world might look like in the end times. He also attends a conference advocating for the colonization of Mars and attends a wilderness retreat, where some naturalists hold the view that the environment, and the earth as a whole, are already beyond saving.

The most gripping parts of this book were the patterns that O’Connell picked up on while on his journey. He found that many of the billionaires planning for an apocalypse have had a hand in creating a bleak future, either through owning companies with large carbon footprints or by advocating for laws and regulations that help widen the gap between the 1% and the rest of the society. He also noted that most of the folks he met who were actively preparing for the world’s end were  men, and ruminates on why doomsday is such a fascination for them.

While the book was slow in parts, I found O’Connell’s journey intriguing, and it helped foster some good food for thought.

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction

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