Mini Book-Review: Jay Owens’ Dust as Cosmic Horror

I recently finished Jay Owen’s Dust. While the book is non-fiction, it felt like a work of cosmic horror, as it made me uncomfortably aware of the scale and fragility of the world.

The main marker of cosmic horror is that the characters become aware of the true scale of the universe, its hidden natures, and wrestle with the meaning of that. This book shows that dust affects us on a massive scale. Soot from forest fires can fall on glaciers, changing the albedo and speeding up their melting by making them absorb more heat. The Amazonian rain forest relies on phosphorous blown on the wind from Africa. And nuclear fallout from weapons tests will be with us for unimaginable lengths of time.

Inevitably, the book wrestles with the nature of the Anthropocene and the huge changes that are being thoughtlessly produced by humans through dust. Owens is a good guide, travelling from the stolen water of Los Angeles to a rave at the lost Aral Sea, and I loved reading this.

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