THE FATE OF THE EARTH by Jonathan Schell


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Of the current proliferation of anti-nuclear books, none is as passionate as Jonathan Schell's. He has listened to the scientists and read the documents that shore up the chilling tolls of death and destruction that give a new meaning to ""holocaust."" Part I sums up the discovery of fission and the invention of the bomb. Included is a helpful layperson's description of the complex fission and fusion reactors inside a hydrogen bomb. Schell then details the five stages of destruction accompanying any atom burst and the secondary effects (firestorms, global radiation, ozone depletion, and so on)--in short, the devastating upheaval of the life of the individual, of society, and of the environment. All this is conveyed in straightforward prose and numbers with telling emotional effect. In Part II, however, Schell lets his emotions come to the fore as he tackles the theme of extinction--the second death of all mankind, indeed of the planet itself. Schell argues at length the importance of mankind's debt to the unborn, quoting poets and thinkers from Christ and Kant to Rilke, Hannah Arendt, Lewis Thomas, and George Kennan. He also points his finger at scientists for unleashing the threat (and his strictures will not endear him to that community). In Part III, Schell reveals a heartfelt idealism with pleas for total disarmament--of both nuclear and conventional weapons--and passage from national sovereignty to a new internationalism. He offers no proposals on how to bring that about. On the other hand, he does pinpoint the internal errors of logic that have led to the current strategy of using massive nuclear arms buildups to deter nuclear war. And his maximal pacifism may serve a point in providing an extreme position that gives more practical strategists space to argue from. In any case, he has well publicized the terrifying dilemma the world faces--and that information is vital to convey.

Pub Date: April 26th, 1982
Publisher: Knopf