This post is a list of quotes from the book - The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green. The Anthropocene Reviewed is a open-hearted exploration of the paths we forge and an unironic celebration of falling in love with the world.

The Anthropocene Reviewed Quotes

We are at once far too powerful and not nearly powerful enough. We are powerful enough to radically reshape Earth’s climate and biodiversity, but not powerful enough to choose how we reshape them. We are so powerful that we have escaped our planet’s atmosphere. But we are not powerful enough to save those we love from suffering.

For me anyway, to fall in love with the world is to look up at the night sky and feel your mind swim before the beauty and the distance of the stars. It is to hold your children while they cry, to watch as the sycamore trees leaf out in June.

We all know how loving ends. But I want to fall in love with the world anyway, to let it crack me open. I want to feel what there is to feel while I am here.

In just 250,000 years, our behavior has led to the extinction of many species, and driven many more into steep decline. This is lamentable, and it is also increasingly needless. We probably didn’t know what we were doing thousands of years ago as we hunted some large mammals to extinction. But we know what we’re doing now. We know how to tread more lightly upon the earth. We could choose to use less energy, eat less meat, clear fewer forests. And we choose not to. As a result, for many forms of life, humanity is the apocalypse.

There is some comfort for me in knowing that life will go on even when we don’t. But I would argue that when our light goes out, it will be Earth’s greatest tragedy, because while I know humans are prone to grandiosity, I also think we are by far the most interesting thing that ever happened on Earth.

History, like human life, is at once incredibly fast and agonizingly slow.

For many species of large animals in the twenty-first century, the single most important determinant of survival is whether their existence is useful to humans. But if you can’t be of utility to people, the second best thing you can be is cute. You need an expressive face, ideally some large eyes. Your babies need to remind us of our babies. Something about you must make us feel guilty for eliminating you from the planet.

Two of the Anthropocene’s major institutions are the nation-state and the limited liability corporation, both of which are real and powerful—and on some level made-up.

For humans, there is ultimately no way out of the obligations and limitations of nature. We are nature. And so, like history, the climate is both something that happens to us and something we make.

I still can’t find language to describe how breathtakingly beautiful sunsets are—not breathtakingly, actually, but breath-givingly beautiful. All I can say is that sometimes when the world is between day and night, I’m stopped cold by its splendor, and I feel my absurd smallness.

You can’t see the future coming—not the terrors, for sure, but you also can’t see the wonders that are coming, the moments of light-soaked joy that await each of us.

The mighty pulse of the throbbing today does make new things out of old—but it also makes old things out of new.

I find hopelessness to be a kind of pain. One of the worst kinds. For me, finding hope is not some philosophical exercise or sentimental notion; it is a prerequisite for my survival.

Tradition is a way of being with people, not just the people you’re observing the traditions with now, but also all those who’ve ever observed them.

There’s a certain way I talk about the things I don’t talk about. Maybe that’s true for all of us. We have ways of closing off the conversation so that we don’t ever get directly asked what we can’t bear to answer.

One of the strange things about adulthood is that you are your current self, but you are also all the selves you used to be, the ones you grew out of but can’t ever quite get rid of.

Humans are not the protagonists of this planet’s story. If there is a main character, it is life itself, which makes of earth and starlight something more than earth and starlight.

When I was a kid, I thought being a parent meant knowing what to say and how to say it. But I have no idea what to say or how to say it. All I can do is shut up and listen. Otherwise, you miss all the good stuff.

The challenge and responsibility of personhood, it seems to me, is to recognize personhood in others—to listen to others’ pain and take it seriously, even when you yourself cannot feel it.

We should get out of the habit of saying that anything is once-in-a-lifetime. We should stop pretending we have any idea how long a lifetime is, or what might happen in one.

Memory is not so much a camera as a filter. The particulates it holds on to are nothing compared to what leaks through.

What’s most interesting to me about humanity is not what our individual members do, but the kinds of systems we build and maintain together. The light bulb is cool and everything, but what’s really cool is the electrical grid used to power it.

Despair isn’t very productive. That’s the problem with it. Like a replicating virus, all despair can make is more of itself.

History presses into us, shaping contemporary experience. History changes as we look back on the past from different presents. And history is electric current, too—charged and flowing. It takes power from some sources and delivers it to others.

There is no holding history fast. It is always receding and dissolving, not just into the unknowable past but also into the unfixable future.