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Catastrophic ThinkingExtinction and the Value of Diversity from Darwin to the Anthropocene$
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David Sepkoski

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780226348612

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226354613.001.0001

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Extinction in the Shadow of the Bomb

Extinction in the Shadow of the Bomb

Chapter:
(p.127) 4 Extinction in the Shadow of the Bomb
Source:
Catastrophic Thinking
Author(s):

David Sepkoski

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226354613.003.0005

Continuing the theme of pessimistic extinction imaginaries, this chapter brings the story to the aftermath of World War II and the Cold War. Catastrophic events like the Holocaust and the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki further shook Western faith in progress, and the period between 1950 and 1970 saw increased cultural anxiety about the future of human society in the shadow of the atomic bomb. At the same time, a new model of extinction as a sudden, catastrophic process began to take hold, first in the popular imagination—spurred by speculative theories like Immanuel Velikovsky's cosmic impact scenario and by contemporary science fiction—and later by more mainstream paleontological studies of mass extinction as a regular phenomenon. This scientific and cultural context would be an important basis for the science and politics of extinction and biodiversity that developed at the end of the twentieth century.

Keywords:   nuclear war, Cold War, Immanuel Velikovsky, postmodernism, mass extinction, Norman Newell, ecological balance

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