Crimes Against Nature: capitalism and global heating

2023 - Shortlisted


Judges' Comments

The 14 essays in Sparrow’s Crimes Against Nature are at once reassuring and disturbing. The book outlines the deeper economic and political forces behind the climate crisis and exposes the current falsehood that holds individual consumers responsible for systems that were expressly designed to shape, control, and subdue individual and community wishes. Culpability, Sparrow reveals, lies with leaders motivated by profit and power, by institutional measures of success and notions of ‘progress’ that undermine community and fracture people’s scope for creative and meaningful work and fulfilling lives. In deft, clear and accessible prose, Sparrow explains that human nature is not inherently destructive — rather, a combination of relatively modern economic and political forces have colluded to encourage and even mandate nature-destroying habits. In a hopeful, punchy conclusion, Sparrow outlines the actions individuals can take to create a positive future — all the while reminding readers to ‘be suspicious of the inevitable attempts to blame the crises on ordinary people’. 

Sparrow’s expert historical research into industrial processes, marketing manoeuvres, policy shifts, and planning decisions is coupled with stories of the people and communities that have found alternative ways of living, working and thriving in the face of globalised capitalism. Readers are introduced to the economic histories of the car and clothing industries, the world of finance and stock markets, food production, and industrialised work practices. Crimes Against Nature shows that each of these systems was transformed into its current destructive form by carefully constructed marketing plans that propagandised destructive processes. Sparrow shows the historical shifts in dominant conceptions of population, environmental conservation, racial difference and class distinction to demonstrate that bad ideas need endless spin for the ruthless exertion of political and financial power to emerge. Despite this, the book remains hopeful, practical and inspirational.