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CLIMATE CHANGE AND THE NATION STATE: The Case for Nationalism in a Warming World by Anatol Lieven book review

  • Written by  Lucy Kehoe
  • Published in Books
CLIMATE CHANGE AND THE NATION STATE: The Case for Nationalism in a Warming World by Anatol Lieven book review
27 May
2020
by Anatol Lieven • Allan Lane • £20.00 (hardback)

What would happen if we treated climate change as a war? If nation states deemed this ecological crisis the largest national security threat to their people and their power? That’s what international relations academic Anatol Lieven asks us to consider in his controversial new book on how to combat the socio-political impact of a warming world.

Taking a disparaged view of the left’s idealised utopian mass movement to save our planet and armed with evidence of how global liberalism’s blind eye to sky-rocketing mercury is damaging their political base, Lieven reveals a manifesto that offers a refreshingly realist scope on how to solve the looming crisis. Arguing that the true crisis is lack of mobilisation (rather than a lack of technological know-how or financial capabilities), he suggests the only way to re-orientate our economies around so-called ‘green new deals’ and resist the dominance of emissions-heavy industries on political action is by reimaging a word that’s become unsavoury in modern discourse: nationalism.

Touching on migration and mass unemployment caused by automation, Lieven argues that climate change’s threat lies not in its capacity to create wars, but in the likelihood of it producing internal collapse within developed states. Our current polarised political landscape must be brought together by recognising that only through national-level organisation can we take steps to mitigate emissions. Resilience in the face of climate change will, according to Lievan, demand a blitz-spirit-style sacrifice of our materialist economy, only possible by strengthening individual country’s societies through so-called ‘progressive nationalism’.

At times, the book seems misty-eyed over the longevity of the Chinese government– which eases its abilities to ensure lasting climate policy – skipping over the more problematic questions that surround the country’s governance. His discussion of buoyant nationalism within states also avoids difficult questions on how we prevent the talismans of nationalist discourse, including xenophobia and racism, from flourishing. But largely, Lieven provides an energizing new voice on our climate crisis and a blueprint that, if not perfect, then at least offers a pragmatic outline of how actual communities, rather than imagined ones, can combat this very real and urgent threat.

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