Extracts From Elsewhere


I had a dream, which was not all a dream.
The bright sun was extinguish’d, and the stars
Did wander darkling in the eternal space,
Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earth
Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air;
Morn came and went—and came, and brought no day,
And men forgot their passions in the dread
Of this their desolation; and all hearts
Were chill’d into a selfish prayer for light:

— Lord Byron,  Darkness


I want Death to find me planting my cabbages.

— Michel de Montaigne

Earth is to me a tomb, the firmament a vault, shrouding mere corruption. Time is no more, for I have stepped within the threshold of eternity; each man I meet appears a corse, which will soon be deserted of its animating spark, on the eve of decay and corruption.

We feared the balmy air – we feared the cloudless sky, the flower-covered earth, and delightful woods, for we looked on the fabric of the universe no longer as our dwelling, but our tomb, and the fragrant land smelled to the apprehension of fear like a wide church-yard. — Mary Shelley, The Last Man
Backward or forward, eternity is the same; already have we been the nothing we dread to be.
— Herman Melville, Mardi

In tremendous extremities human souls are like drowning men; well enough they know they are in peril; well enough they know the causes of that peril;—nevertheless, the sea is the sea, and these drowning men do drown.
— Herman Melville, Pierre, or The Ambiguities

Why this sudden bewilderment, this confusion?
(How serious people’s faces have become.)
Why are the streets and squares emptying so rapidly,
everyone going home lost in thought?

Because night has fallen and the barbarians haven’t come.
And some of our men just in from the border say
there are no barbarians any longer.

Now what’s going to happen to us without barbarians?
Those people were a kind of solution.
— C. P. Cavafy, Waiting for the Barbarians

Doom! Doom! Doom! Something seems to whisper it in the very dark trees of America.
— D. H. Lawrence
Ours is essentially a tragic age, so we refuse to take it tragically. The cataclysm has happened, we are among the ruins, we start to build up new little habitats, to have new little hopes. It is rather hard work: there is now no smooth road into the future: but we go round, or scramble over the obstacles. We’ve got to live, no matter how many skies have fallen.
— D. H. Lawrence, Lady Chatterley’s Lover

It is written: ‘It is not good for man to be alone!’ But good or no, the arrangement of One planet, One inhabitant, already seems to me, not merely a natural and proper, but the only natural and proper, condition; so much so, that any other arrangement has now, to my mind, a certain improbably, wild, and far-fetched unreality, like the utopian schemes of dreamers and faddists. That the whole world should have been made for me alone – that London should have been built only in order that I might enjoy the vast heroic spectacle of its burning – that all history, and all civilisation should have existed only in order to accumulate for my pleasures its inventions and facilities, its stores of purple and wine, of spices and gold – no more extraordinary does it all seem to me than to some little unreflecting Duke of my former days seemed the possessing of lands which remote forefathers seized, and slew the occupiers: nor, in reality, is it even so extraordinary, I being alone.
— M. P. Shiel, The Purple Cloud


Es gibt ein Bild von Klee, das Angelus Novus heißt. Ein Engel ist darauf dargestellt, der aussieht, als wäre er im Begriff, sich von etwas zu entfernen, worauf er starrt. Seine Augen sind aufgerissen, sein Mund steht offen und seine Flügel sind ausgespannt. Der Engel der Geschichte muß so aussehen. Er hat das Antlitz der Vergangenheit zugewendet. Wo eine Kette von Begebenheiten vor uns erscheint, da sieht er eine einzige Katastrophe, die unablässig Trümmer auf Trümmer häuft und sie ihm vor die Füße schleudert. Er möchte wohl verweilen, die Toten wecken und das Zerschlagene zusammenfügen. Aber ein Sturm weht vom Paradiese her, der sich in seinen Flügeln verfangen hat und so stark ist, daß der Engel sie nicht mehr schließen kann. Dieser Sturm treibt ihn unaufhaltsam in die Zukunft, der er den Rücken kehrt, während der Trümmerhaufen vor ihm zum Himmel wächst. Das, was wir den Fortschritt nennen, ist dieser Sturm.
— Walter Benjamin, Über den Begriff der Geschichte


“Ah! If only it had been an earthquake! A good shake and that’s it… One counts the dead, one counts the living and the whole thing’s over and done with. But this rotten bastard of a disease! Even those who don’t have it carry it in their hearts.”
— Albert Camus, The Plague


That the boffins would come through with the complete answer one day was not to be doubted – and, always, it might be to-morrow.
From what I had been hearing, the general faith in boffins was now somewhat greater than the boffins’ faith in themselves. Their shortcomings as saviours were beginning to oppress them.
— John Wyndham, The Kraken Wakes


Beneath it all, the desire for oblivion runs:
Despite the artful tensions of the calendar,
The life insurance, the tabled fertility rites,
The costly aversion of the eyes away from death –
Beneath it all, the desire for oblivion runs.
— Philip Larkin, Wants


HAMM: (Violently.) Use your head, can’t you, use your head, you’re on earth, there’s no cure for that!

CLOV: I open the door of the cell and go. I am so bowed I only see my feet, if I open my eyes, and between my legs a little trail of black dust. I say to myself that the earth is extinguished, though I never saw it lit.
— Samuel Beckett, Endgame


We project ourselves – a small, humble elect, perhaps – past the End, so as to see the structure whole, a thing we cannot do from our spot of time in the middle.

Apocalypse depends on a concord of imaginatively recorded past and imaginatively predicted future, achieved on behalf of us, who remain in the middest.

Apocalypse can be disconfirmed without being discredited. That is part of its extraordinary resilience. It can also absorb changing interests, rival apocalypses. It is patient of change and of historiographical sophistications. It allows itself to be diffused, blended with other varieties of fiction … and yet it can survive in very naive forms. Probably the most sophisticated of us is capable at times of naive reactions to the End.

Already in St. Paul and St. John there is a tendency to conceive of the End as happening at every moment; this is the moment the modern concept of crisis was born.

The apocalyptic types – empire, decadence and renovation, progress and catastrophe – are fed by history and underlie our ways of making sense of the world from where we stand, in the middest.
— Frank Kermode, The Sense of an Ending
This prosperity…consciously or unconsciously leads to a kind of schizophrenic existence…In this society an incredible quantum of aggressiveness and destructiveness is accumulated precisely because of the empty prosperity, which then simply erupts.
— Herbert Marcuse
We are the killers. We stink of death. We carry it with us. It sticks to us like frost. We cannot tear it away.

A swallow flits past, purple against the roaring whiteness of the weir, blue over the green smoothness of the river. As so often on spring evenings, no birds sing near me, while all the distant trees and bushes ring with song. Like all human beings, I seem to walk within a hoop of red-hot iron, a hundred yards across, that sears away all life. When I stand still it cools, and slowly disappears.
— J. A. Baker, The Peregrine
When it is all up with Germany, when human beings cease to exist, and ants and cockroaches have taken over, and subsequently algae in the oceans that have started boiling; when the earth is then extinguished and the universe goes dark, collapsing in on itself to nothing, it is possible that something abstract will remain behind, perhaps something akin to a state of happiness. But I have a deep fear inside me that what will fill the darkness and the space that no longer exists will be a form of stupidity. It does not need a particular place, it is everywhere. Happiness, at least, requires open space.
— Werner Herzog, Thinking about Germany
‘Shall I tell you something? Every year the lake-water grows a little more salty. There is a simple explanation – never mind what it is. The barbarians know this fact. At this very moment they are saying to themselves, “Be patient, one of these days their crops will start withering from the salt, they will not be able to feed themselves, they will have to go.” That is what they are thinking. That they will outlast us.’

It is the fault of Empire! Empire has created the time of history. Empire has located its existence not in the smooth recurrent spinning time of the cycle of the seasons but in the jagged time of rise and fall, of beginning and end, of catastrophe. Empire dooms itself to live in history and plot against history. One thought alone preoccupies the submerged mind of Empire: how not to end, how not to die, how to prolong its era. By day it pursues its enemies. It is cunning and ruthless, it sends its bloodhounds everywhere. By night it feeds on images of disaster: the sack of cities, the rape of populations, pyramids of bones, acres of desolation
— J. M. Coetzee, Waiting for the Barbarians
Yet every child Is cast from paradise- Into growth and new community, Into vast, ongoing Change.
— Octavia Butler, The Parable of the Sower

“You know how I know it’s the end of the world? Because everything’s already been done. Every music’s been tried. Every government. Every hairstyle. Every bubblegum. Every breakfast cereal. It’s over. We used it all up.”
— Kathryn Bigelow — Strange Days


By collapse, I mean a drastic decrease in human population size and/or political/social/economic complexity, over a considerable area, for an extended time. The environmental problems facing us today include the same eight that undermined past societies, plus four new ones.
— Jared Diamond, Collapse

We believe that the roots of these crises lie in the stories we have been telling ourselves. We intend to challenge the stories which underpin our civilisation: the myth of progress, the myth of human centrality, and the myth of our separation from “nature”. These myths are more dangerous for the fact that we have forgotten they are myths.

The end of the world as we know it is not the end of the world full stop. Together, we will find the hope beyond hope, the paths which lead to the unknown world ahead of us.
— Paul Kingsnorth and Dougald Hine, Uncivilisation, The Dark Mountain Manifesto
The banking system was insolvent, he assumed, and that implied some grave upheaval. When banking stops, credit stops, and when credit stops, trade stops, and when trade stops – well, the city of Chicago only had eight days of chlorine on hand for its water supply. Hospitals ran out of medicine. The entire modern world was premised on the ability to buy now and pay later.
— Michael Lewis, The Big Short
Justine: The earth is evil. We don’t need to grieve for it.

Claire: What?

Justine: Nobody will miss it.

Claire: But where would Leo grow?

Justine: All I know is, life on earth is evil.

Claire: Then maybe life somewhere else.

Justine: But there isn’t.

Claire: How do you know?

Justine: Because I know things.

Claire: Oh yes, you always imagined you did.

Justine: I know we’re alone.

Claire: I don’t think you know that at all.
Justine: 678. The bean lottery. Nobody guessed the amount of beans in the bottle.

Claire: No, that’s right.

Justine: But I know. 678.

Claire: Well, perhaps. But what does that prove?

Justine: That I know things. And when I say we’re alone, we’re alone. Life is only on earth, and not for long.
— Melancholia (dir. Lars von Trier)
Die Lage verschärfte sich, trieb schon jetzt immer mehr Menschen dazu, ihr Leben an den herkömmlichen Systemen vorbei zu organisieren. Oder neue zu etablieren. Die staatlich organisierten Kommunen hatten ihre Daseinsberechtigung schon vor langer Zeit selbst zerstört, neue, selbstbestimmte, lebendige würden sich bilden, mehren, teilen, vergehen und auferstehen. Auch die Militärs würden das bald zu spüren bekommen. Ihre Machtübernahme war nur ein Zwischenschritt. Diese sprachlose Gesellschaft, die keine mehr war, weil ihr die Gemeinsamkeiten abhandengekommen waren, in ihrer verzweifelten Sucht nach Betäubung durch immer mehr, durch ewiges Wachstum, war am Ende ihres Weges angelangt.
— Marc Elsberg, Blackout
Extinction may be the first scientific idea that kids today have to grapple with. One-year-olds are given toy dinosaurs to play with, and two-year-olds understand, in a vague sort of way at least, that these small plastic creatures represent very large animals. If they’re quick learners – or, alternatively, slow toilet trainers – children still in diapers can explain that there were once lots of kinds of dinosaurs and that they all died off long ago. … All of which is to say that extinction strikes us as an obvious idea. It isn’t.
— Elizabeth Kolbert, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History
Scratch climate change confusion long enough and you may find our denial of death underneath; we are terrified by an unconscious awareness of an existential threat, and we may need to look at climate change on those terms to really deal with it.
— Jonathan Rowson, Spiritualise: Revitalising spirituality to address 21st century challenges
More than in any other way, fear comes to us in images and messages, as social media vibrations, products of cultural technologies that we have interpolated into our lives. Going about our daily business, we receive constant messages of apprehension and danger, ubiquitous warnings, insistent needling jabs to the deep lizard brain. Somebody died. Something blew up. Something might blow up. Somebody attacked somebody. Somebody killed somebody. Guns. Crime. Immigrants. Terrorists. Arabs. Mexicans. White supremacists. Killer cops. Demonic thugs. Rape. Murder. Global warming. Ebola. ISIS. Death. Death. Death.

What Sloterdijk helps us to see is that responding autonomously to social excitation means not reacting to it, not passing it on, but interrupting it, then either letting the excitation die or transforming it completely. Responding freely to constant images of fear and violence, responding freely to the perpetual media circuits of pleasure and terror, responding freely to the ongoing alarms of war, environmental catastrophe and global destruction demands a reorientation of feeling so that every new impulse is held at a distance until it fades or can be changed. While life beats its red rhythms and human swarms dance to the compulsion of strife, the interrupter practices dying.
— Roy Scranton, Learning to Die in the Anthropocene
In a sense, Inuit of my generation have lived both in the ice age and the space age. The modern world arrived slowly in some places in the world, and quickly in others. But in the Arctic, it appeared in a single generation. … The Arctic ice and snow, the frozen terrain that Inuit life has depended on for millennia, is now diminishing in front of our eyes. We are all accustomed to the dire metaphors used to evoke the havoc of climate change, but in many parts of the Arctic the metaphors have already become a very literal reality.
— Sheila Watt-Cloutier, The Right to Be Cold
It becomes easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism.
— Paul Mason, PostCapitalism: A Guide to Our Future
It is hard for us to take in the reality that Earth is an extinction machine, and it has been here before. It doesn’t need us, and we cannot control it. The “ecological crisis” we hear so much about, and that I have written so much about and worked to stave off – well, who says it is a “crisis”? Humans do – and educated, socially concerned humans at that. For the Earth itself, the Holocene Extinction is not a “crisis” – it is just another shift. Who determined that the planet should remain in the state which humans need and prefer? Is this not a form of clinging to mutable things, and one that is destined to make us unhappy? When we campaign to “save the Earth” what are we really trying to save? And which Earth?
— Paul Kingsnorth, The Witness
It is surely no accident that colonial cities like Mumbai, New York, Boston and Kolkata were all brought into being through early globalization. They were linked to each other not only through the circumstances of their founding but also through patterns of trade that expanded and accelerated Western economies. These cities were thus the drivers of the very processes that now threaten them with destruction.

What is the place of the non-human in the modern novel? To attempt an answer is to confront another of the uncanny effects of global warming: it was exactly in the period in which human activity was changing the earth’s atmosphere that the literary imagination became radically centred on the human. Inasmuch as the non-human was written about at all, it was not within the mansion of serious fiction but rather in the outhouses to which science fiction and fantasy had been banished.
— Amitav Ghosh, The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable
This is where the ecosystem’s non-linear responses, or tipping points, come in. Inching up to mass extinction might be a little like inching up to the event horizon of a black hole – once you go over a certain line, a line that perhaps doesn’t appear all that remarkable, all is lost.
“So,” I said, “it might be that we sort of bump along where everything seems okay and then…”
“Yeah, everything’s fine until it’s not,” said Erwin.
— Peter Brannen, The Ends of The World
The truth is actually much scarier. That is, the end of normal; never normal again. We have already exited the state of environmental conditions that allowed the human animal to evolve in the first place, in an unsure and unplanned bet on just what that animal can endure. The climate system that raised us, and raised everything we know as human culture and civilization, is now, like a parent, dead. And the climate system we have been observing for the last several years, the one that has battered the planet again and again, is not our bleak future in preview. It would be more precise to say that it is a product of our recent climate past, already passing behind us in a dustbin of environmental nostalgia. There is no longer any such thing as a ‘natural disaster,’ but not only will things get worse; technically speaking, they have already gotten worse. Even if, miraculously, humans immediately ceased emitting carbon, we’d still be due for some additional warming from just the stuff we’ve put into the air already. And of course, with global emissions still increasing, we’re very far from zeroing out on carbon, and therefore very far from stalling climate change. The devastation we are now seeing all around us is a beyond-best-case scenario for the future of warming and all the climate disasters it will bring.
— David Wallace-Wells, The Uninhabitable Earth
Care more than you believe is possible. Wear your proverbial heart on your proverbial sleeve. Let it get smashed. Love, and suffer as a result. Trust me: It is all worth it. The going up is worth the coming down. The pain of living – really living, not merely making a living – is occasionally rewarded by joy.

According to numerous media sources, many climate scientists who are paying attention to the predicament in which we are embroiled are depressed. As knowledgeable as most of them, as powerless as each of them, I am still not plagued by depression. Few climate scientists are willing to admit our near-term extinction, doubtless because they lack sufficient background in biology and ecology, and yet they are devastated that the murderous civilization they love is threatened by climate change. My conclusion is far direr, yet my response is muted by comparison.
— Guy McPherson, Only Love Remains: Dancing at the Edge of Extinction
Wie immer, wenn Vater ein Problem hatte, vergaß er, dass Hannah ein Kind war. Dass ein Kind nicht so gut darin war, Probleme alleine zu lösen. Dass ein Kind immer an den Weltuntergang glaubte, wenn ihm keiner sagte, dass alles gut sein wird.
— Sibylle Berg, GRM Brainfuck
If you invent a form of capitalism where power surges suddenly towards an unaccountable and technologically armed elite, with a penchant for class confrontation, it becomes easy to destroy the liberal, democratic and universalist ethos most people in the West thought was permanent.
— Paul Mason, Clear Bright Future
I remembered a line from the French philosopher Paul Virilio – “The invention of the ship was also the invention of the shipwreck” – which seemed to me to encapsulate perfectly the extent to which technological progress embedded within itself the prospect of catastrophe. And it occurred to me that Pripyat was a graveyard of progress, the final resting place of the future.
— Mark O’Connell, Notes from an Apocalypse
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