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From Complicity to Consciousness

in the Age of Eco-Crisis
Nathaniel Popkin

An urgent and deeply felt call to face our complicity in the Earth’s destruction.

In the shadow of an escalating eco-crisis—a looming catastrophe that will dwarf the fallout from COVID-19—how can we explain our society’s failure to act? What will we tell future generations? Are we paralyzed because the problem is so vast in scope, or are there deeper reasons for the widespread passivity? Nathaniel Popkin explores the moral, social, and psychological dimensions of the crisis, outlining a path to a future spring.

Novelist, essayist, editor, documentary writer, and critic, Nathaniel Popkin is the author of six previous books and co-editor of the anthology Who Will Speak for America? His novel Everything Is Borrowed is also available from New Door Books.



Nonfiction, 148 pages
paperback / $15.95 / ISBN 978-0-9995501-6-8
ebook / $9.95 / ISBN 978-0-9995501-7-5
audiobook available on Audible, Amazon, iTunes


“​Nathaniel Popkin is a swordsmith. He hones words that cut deep through the lies and self-deceptions that license cruelty, revealing the brittle bones of an unjust, death-dealing culture. Everyone should read this book. It is clarifying, bracing, and ultimately transformative; truth-telling is essential for change, and change is essential.
Kathleen Dean Moore, author of Great Tide Rising

To Reach the Spring is a tour de force, both an incisive reckoning with the full magnitude of the climate emergency along with a visionary understanding of how and why we have come to this place. I read this book with an unruly range of emotions and states of mind including shame, unspeakable grief, existential dread, curiosity, insight, admiration for the author but finally, most of all, hope. By illuminating how our reverence for earth is intrinsically connected to our capacity to hope and to heal leading to an inexorable yearning to act, Nathaniel Popkin has offered us a way forward. This book is essential reading for anyone who cares about our future.”
Gail Straub, award winning author, The Ashokan Way: Landscape’s Path Into Consciousness

“How can we go diligently about our business while the daily disasters of climate change are already visibly recasting natural processes, forcing migration and violence? 'We are the most slippery kind of criminal,' explains Nathaniel Popkin in his searching new book To Reach the Spring. And he's right, Americans (especially middle class and wealthy white Americans) have built up a resistance to the consciousness of their own complicity in the climate crisis. Exerting privilege without feeling privileged, we go about our quotidian consumption, and destruction, consumed by worry but never taking real action. Simultaneously told as a letter to a future descendant, a history of disaster, a personal confession, and a lie-stabbing op-ed, Popkin has crafted a read so melancholy and spiritual you won't lay it aside until you're done.”
Scott Gabriel Knowles, author of The Disaster Experts: Mastering Risk in Modern America

“Drawing on his years of experience as a climate activist and referencing past world crises from the bubonic plague of the dark ages to our Covid-19 pandemic, Popkin shows how challenging it is to achieve consensus on climate action and then shows us why we must.... To Reach the Spring is a needed clarion call to climate action.”
Steven Strong, Green Energy Times

“In a ruminative but urgent treatise, historian Popkin (The Year of the Return) takes a philosophical approach to climate change, drawing analogies to other crises in human history. He begins by discussing the climate crisis as a global rallying point and by pinpointing its major causes, from the outsize political influence of fossil fuel companies to consumer culture, while recalling how his experience working for an environmental group demonstrated to him why activism is often ineffective. Popkin’s analysis picks up steam when he cites Hannah Arendt’s notion of the 'banality of evil'—originally formulated in reference to those who actively or passively facilitated Nazism’s crimes—to argue that, with humanity careening toward another historic catastrophe, silence and inaction about climate change is morally unacceptable. He also discusses, more briefly, how the medieval world reacted to the Black Death, and draws from the works of Italo Calvino, Iranian poet Forough Farrokhzad, Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, and more. Admitting that concrete solutions to the climate crisis are beyond his purview, he concludes by urging others who are concerned about the environment to channel their concerns into action. In a glut of books on the topic, Popkin’s is notable for its thought-provoking longview perspective on how to think about and face climate change.”

Publishers Weekly

Author Remarks During a Q&A with Deborah Kalb

We often talk about this as "climate crisis," which ghettoizes the situation a little bit. "Oh, it's climate." Meaning what a lot of people think of is weather.
But it's really a whole set of interlinked crises of ecosystems, and balances of life, throughout the entire globe that are interconnected and interrelated: desertification, extinction, ocean acidification, mass deforestation, proliferation of dams (often under the pretext of “sustainable energy”).
We see that with the fires, we see that with floods, how each thing is interrelated with each other: for example, high heat leads to forest fire, which leads to the release of stored carbon (perhaps at even greater rates than it’s produced by burning fossil fuels), which leads to warmer temperatures, more fire and the consequent loss of more beings, and therefore greater rates of species extinction.
When there's mass extinction, you see that all beings are related, and one extinction leads to another. So this is a whole earth situation we're talking about, and it also involves the evisceration of human cultures, and human ways of life. As it has, since the dawn of colonialism.
All together what we’re talking about is a radical realignment of Earth life and, at the same time, the making of some places uninhabitable for humans.

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