Overkill: Nuclear war and climate crisis as 'states of exception'

The Centre for Environment and Society (CES) warmly invite you to join guest speaker Professor John Preston from the department of sociology as he explores nuclear attacks and the climate crisis.

  • Thu 27 May 21

    13:00 - 14:00

  • Online

    Book your place now

  • Event speaker

    Professor John Preston, Department of Sociology, University of Essex

  • Event type

    Lectures, talks and seminars
    Centre for Environment and Society (CES) Research Seminar Series

  • Event organiser

    Essex Business School

  • Contact details

    Dr Chaminda Wijethilake

The Centre for Environment and Society (CES) cordially invites you to join this research seminar on Overkill: nuclear war and climate crisis as 'states of exception' presented by guest speaker Professor John Preston, Deputy Dean of Research for the Faculty of Social Sciences. 

Seminar abstract

In the Cold War of the 1980s, Stan Openshaw (University of Leeds) and his academic colleagues produced original and sophisticated computer models which concluded that the UK government had vastly underestimated casualties and property damage in the event of a nuclear attack.

The academics believed that these models would lead to policy acceptance that any military move which might provoke a nuclear attack would be unacceptable as casualties could be in the order of eighty percent.

However, Openshaw was unaware that the UK government had already considered a lower threshold of destruction would be an existential threat to the nation and were already considering extreme authoritarian plans for national reconstruction.

Governments in crisis operate in the ‘state of exception’, considering state logics and brutally pragmatic, experimental, forms of response that academics often misjudge in their conceptions of policy impact.

This perspective is used to consider UK government responses to the ‘climate crisis’ as experimental states of exception.



This seminar is free to attend and we ask you to book your place in advance.


Speaker bio

John Preston is an Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Leadership Fellow in Conflict, Crime and Security.

John works on the sociology of disasters, emergencies and existential threat. He also works on the sociology of education with reference to class, race, Higher Education, Vocational Education and Adult Education.

His work considers social inequalities in preparedness for disasters and emergencies. This has involved analysis of preparedness campaigns and films from the Cold War in the UK and US, reappraising working class children's agency in the Aberfan disaster, community case studies on public information for terrorist attacks, comparative analysis of national cultures of preparedness and critiquing popular conceptions of existential threat from nuclear war to A.I. 'super-intelligence'.

His latest book 'Grenfell Tower: Preparedness, Race and Disaster Capitalism' (2019) examines the role of fire safety information in the tower block fire.

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