Science, Capitalism & Catastrophe


  • Mark Walsh Socialist Workers Network


Given the precarious place our species occupies, Byron’s deathly vision and Wollstonecraft-Shelley’s caution against scientific hubris feel alarmingly apposite. We face extinction threats on multiple fronts: from catastrophic climate change to nuclear annihilation. Indeed, the world Byron describes bears an uncanny resemblance to that predicted by scientific models of nuclear winter. There is good reason for this. Scientists have applied the lessons of volcanic eruptions, like Mount Tambora, to model the likely climactic effects of nuclear war. It is now well understood that even a relatively small nuclear exchange (a regional conflict between India and Pakistan, say) involving only about 0.03 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons, would send enough soot hurtling into the stratosphere to cause global crop failures and cataclysmic famine. This is without even considering the blasts themselves or the effects of radioactivity.