Screwing Up Is What We Do

Dave Mandl in the Los Angeles Review of Books:

THE WORLD IS LITTERED with the consequences of monumental human screw-ups — environmental, economic, political, social, and now, as we deal with a pandemic, health-related. You might even claim, as Tom Phillips does in Humans: A Brief History of How We F*cked It All Up, that these screw-ups are a defining characteristic of humankind. There’s the everyday type that you and I commit — say, accidentally shattering your phone’s screen on the sidewalk — and then there’s the scaled-up kind — say, killing a river or triggering a famine that results in millions of deaths. In his book, Phillips walks us through tens of thousands of years of human-caused disasters, the results of systematic mistakes that people seem unwilling or unable to learn from.

Phillips’s vast Hall of Shame was assembled pre-coronavirus, but now the pandemic provides especially easy pickings, observable in real time.

More here.