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Pyromania : Fire and Geopolitics in a Climate-Disrupted World - Simon Dalby


Fire and Geopolitics in a Climate-Disrupted World

By: Simon Dalby

Paperback | 23 November 2023

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We are the only species that uses fire. It has determined how we have made our home on this planet and it has propelled us to the role of the dominant species in the biosphere. But at the heart of contemporary climate change is the process of combustion. Simon Dalby explores what a life without burning things might look like, and how we might get there.

Fires make the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that is heating the planet, melting the ice sheets, changing weather patterns and making wildfires worse. Our civilization is burning things, especially fossil fuels, at prodigious rates. So much so that we are now heading towards a future "Hothouse Earth" with a climate that is very different from what humans have known so far.

By focusing on fire and our partial control over one key physical force in the earth system, that of combustion, Simon Dalby is able to ask important and interesting questions about us as humans, including different ways of thinking about how we live, and how we might do so differently in the future. Simply put, there is now far too much "firepower" loose in the world and we need to think much harder about how to live together in ways that don't require burning stuff to do so.

Industry Reviews

Pyromania explores how we have reached the limit of the planet's natural resources and how we could stop burning up the atmosphere and using it as a free dumping ground for pollutants from fossil fuel. Fire, once an important element to human life, is now possibly our most relevant threat.

-- Mia Funk, The Creative Process

Simon Dalby gives us a radically new approach to the global problem of global heating and climate breakdown. Focusing on the human relationship with fire over time, he shows how our tardy response to the disastrously rapid burning of fossil carbon is forcing us to come to terms with the downside of that relationship. Essential reading.

-- Paul Rogers, Emeritus Professor of Peace Studies, Bradford University

In this remarkable tour de force, Simon Dalby convincingly shows how humanity's drive to exploit fire, in all its forms, has shaped world history and is transforming the planet - in an increasingly destructive fashion. The intensive combustion of fossil fuels, he argues, has enabled the rise of our modern, high-tech civilization, but now threatens to ravage our world unless we rapidly decrease our reliance on those very fuels. Sweeping in its scope and relevance, indisputable in its conclusions, Pyromania is an urgent plea for human and planetary transformation.

-- Michael T. Klare, Professor Emeritus of Peace and World Security Studies, Hampshire College, Amherst

In 1954 the anthropologist and essayist Loren Eiselely wrote, 'Man's long adventure with knowledge has, to a very marked degree, been a climb up the heat ladder ... and he is himself a flame - a great, roaring, wasteful furnace devouring irreplaceable substances of the earth'. In Pyromania, Simon Dalby builds brilliantly on Eiseley's sketch, laying out the threats posed by humanity's unbridled 'firepower' and offering a compelling call for a post-combustion path to progress.

-- Andrew Revkin, author of The Burning Season: The Murder of Chico Mendes

The world is burning but our international politics are ill-suited to firefighting. In this challenging yet accessible book, Dalby analyses the new geopolitics of the fire age, pinpointing the urgent action needed to cure the modern world of pyromania.

-- Jo Sharp, Professor of Geography, University of St Andrews and Geographer Royal of Scotland

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