I missed this book while growing up with the fictional Jack London arctic adventures. It wouldn't have changed my life, but it probably would have rei...moreI missed this book while growing up with the fictional Jack London arctic adventures. It wouldn't have changed my life, but it probably would have reinforced my tendency to question authority and assumptions and favor nature over human-centric ideals.
As a work of science, this is probably looked down upon because Mowat often has his tongue in his cheek and certainly anthropomorphizes his non-human subjects. At the same time, though, he often dehumanizes the humans. Still, this short, accessible book hooked me brought me along for several months of exploring wolves in the tundra of Canada back in the 1950s.
I don't know that much about Mowat or the state of research into wolves when he was doing his studies, but it seems that his work did dispel a lot of unproven misconceptions about wolves as blood-thirsty predators that killed for the joy of killing. That, as the book makes clear, is the purview of humans.
This and a recent TED talk (http://blog.ted.com/2014/02/18/video-...) about the trophic cascade brought about by reintroducing wolves in Yellowstone make an interesting paring. I gather, too, that I should read Aldo Leopold's "Thinking Like a Mountain" to see his experiences with wolves. So many books, so little time.(less)
It’s interesting to read a predictive book several years after the predictions have been made. One could be quick to find fault with predictions that...moreIt’s interesting to read a predictive book several years after the predictions have been made. One could be quick to find fault with predictions that haven’t come true in Heinberg’s timeline, but I have read enough other environmental books that note that predictions of dire environmental happenings are sometimes premature but rarely incorrect. This book from 2007 may have been premature in predicting some peaks, and it missed predicting the financial collapse of 2008, but the basic themes of the book are generally sound. There is a limited amount of x, and even if there are technological fixes to get more of x, the growing population will demand more of x, and eventually we will run out of it.
The book is a series of chapter-length essays that look at the development of human societies over the long term, from simple tool making, to the harnessing of stored energy to make things happen, to speculation about what the future holds when a world of people accustomed to or aspiring to using stored energy to create and move things no longer has that source of energy or has used so much of it that they’ve ruined the environment, creating other problems.
One of the most compelling sections is the “letter from the future” from a writer who is pleading with us in 2007 from his vantage point in 2107 to change our ways and recalling our profligate use of resources to satisfy our short term desires. He has us imagine people 50 or 100 years from now mining our landfills looking for useful materials and chastises us for wasting so much energy and so many resources creating disposable items. Think of that person the next time you are removing packaging material, throwing something out after only a single use, leaving the lights on, or taking a longer than necessary shower.
The book is hurt by some over-simplifying of complex ideas and by some rather politically biased and inflammatory phrases, but overall the essays knit together into a useful look at where we’ve been, how we got where we are, and what we might expect in the future. (A note on narration: the pronunciation of some words and phrases is, let’s say, occasionally jarringly “non-standard.”) (less)
Another older (7 years or so old) book about climate change, replete with warnings and concern about the need for action. And in seven years, what hav...moreAnother older (7 years or so old) book about climate change, replete with warnings and concern about the need for action. And in seven years, what have we done? Perhaps more study needs to be done. Doing something might damage the economy. We can't act if those countries aren't also going to act.
This book looks at evidence of climate change with both anecdotal and scientific evidence of the few decades to the last few million years. It explains some difficult scientific concepts fairly well so the lay audience can understand. When not dealing with science, it takes the Clinton and Bush era politicians and business people to task for ignoring warnings and signs of anthropogenic climate change, but unfortunately our current crop of politicians haven't done much to address the issue. There were incentives to produce and purchase more energy efficient appliances and cars, but selective self-interested people, fed by misinformation and doubt mongering, have fought back against everything, even energy efficient light bulbs and limiting water usage.
In the words of Rupert Giles from Buffy the Vampire Slayer - "the earth is doomed." Speaking of which, I'll probably be looking at Kolbert's "The Sixth Extinction" soon. (less)
Based only on the title I was hoping this book might have some practical application to my work in libraries and doing reader’s advisory. Nope. What I...moreBased only on the title I was hoping this book might have some practical application to my work in libraries and doing reader’s advisory. Nope. What I experienced was a book with varying levels of comedy and philosophy. For instance, the author uses a two-part rating system to refer to books referenced in the work from “Book I have read/skimmed/forgotten – Extremely Positive Opinion” to “Book I am unfamiliar with – Extremely Negative Opinion.” That’s about as funny as it got for me. The philosophical parts range from the purpose of a book, what it means to have “read” a book, and how other people experience a book and how that differs from our own experience.
What I came away with is a reminder that what I get out of a work has been and often continues to be different than what others get from it. Ultimately, I think the author (a fairly pedantic sounding literature professor comes through the translation) is saying you are free to take from a book and pass along what you’ve gleaned from the experience of reading or not reading whatever you like. You, though, may have a different experience. If you’re short on time, don’t bother reading it. Just make something up about it. (less)
I read this in combination with Jules Verne’s “Around the World in 80 Days.” Obviously, this work owes a lot (or everything?) to Verne’s work, but thi...moreI read this in combination with Jules Verne’s “Around the World in 80 Days.” Obviously, this work owes a lot (or everything?) to Verne’s work, but this book is so much more interesting thanks to a lot of character development and biographical background not just of the two main figures but of many other people involved in making these dueling around the world trips possible. Add to that a great collection of interesting facts (time zones in the US were established by the railroads, comparative conditions of travel from country to country, contemporary journalism practices) and great descriptions of what Bly and Bisland and others experienced and you get a truly excellent and satisfying historical travel and adventure story.(less)
The apocalypse is a story that’s been retold in many variations, all of which are generally dire or extremely righteous, but this has to be one of the...moreThe apocalypse is a story that’s been retold in many variations, all of which are generally dire or extremely righteous, but this has to be one of the most absurdly funny versions there is. Two long-time angelic/demonic civil servant equivalents who have “gone native,” which is to say that they’ve grown to appreciate the Earth the way it is, help to lay out the story of the arrival and misplacement of the anti-Christ in rural and idiosyncratic England. Pretty much everybody and everything is lampooned in a combined Gaiman/Pratchett style, including the military (riffing on Dr. Stangelove’s “Peace is our Profession” motto), the mindless public, self-righteous individuals, inept parents, telephone solicitors, cassette tapes, economy cars and computers, new agers, and Hell’s Angels. It’s not High Art, but it’s a lot of fun and somewhat though provoking at the same time. (less)
I read this because many other books I've read on climate change reference James Lovelock, and I remember getting a very brief introduction to the Gai...moreI read this because many other books I've read on climate change reference James Lovelock, and I remember getting a very brief introduction to the Gaia theory back in the 1980s. While this is a somewhat rambling and depressing book, what has stuck with me is his mention of cognitive dissonance, which is basically the practice of trying to mentally reconcile conflicting information. I was experiencing a lot of cognitive dissonance while listening to this book, and I'm still processing what to believe.
First, Lovelock claims that nuclear is the only form of energy that can help get some portion of humanity through climate change, but most other works I've been looking at rely on other renewable energy forms (wind and solar PV and solar thermal) as energy sources of the future because of problems with nuclear that Lovelock discounts as fiction (diminishing sources of uranium, toxicity of spent fuel, cost of making nuclear plants and processing fuel, potential for terrorism). He compares numbers of people killed as a result of nuclear energy since its commercial use began in the 1950s (under 100 if you counter Chernobyl) to the numbers of people killed processing coal and other fossil fuels (thousands). Another statement that causes some dissonance is his claim that the respiration of all humans and their pets and livestock make up for about 25% of the carbon released into the atmosphere. It's claims like this that make me rethink what I've read elsewhere, but I don't have that much time to research which of his claims are true.
Locklock's focus is on Gaia (the earth as a self-regulating organism, comprised of many parts including humans) and its survival, which allows him to write off several billion human deaths as a correction to the overall organism. However, he broaches the ethical issues of trying to stave off global heating and the upcoming refugee problems as people try to move from hot, uninhabitable areas to the oases, one of which he things will be the British Isles.
Overall, it's a difficult work because the subject matter is fairly depressing, but also because it's filled with claims that you have to stop and question and because it's an odd mix of science book, biography, and political manifesto.(less)
If you've read "Quiet" you're familiar with a lot of what is dealt with in this book. However, this book offers some additional useful practical techn...moreIf you've read "Quiet" you're familiar with a lot of what is dealt with in this book. However, this book offers some additional useful practical techniques for the reader to put into practice. That said, I could have gone with a much briefer "field guide."
One thing that bothered me about my experience with this audio book is that it really sounded like it was narrated by a text to speech program. Inflection and tempo could have been done a lot better. On a broader note, though, it sounded like the producers of the audio version didn't consider editing the presentation for audio, leaving in a lot of quiz or fill in the blank sections to be read like "Question 1. Fill in the blank. Question 2. Fill in the blank...." Also, there seem to be some missing or mis-read words in the production. The author introduces some humorous bits that are delivered so flatly in the audio version that you have to wonder if humor was intended or if the writing was just bad.
I will try to find the print version of the book to check out what the format is like and to see if any editing did occur, but I'll also look for the useful tips and see if they might be condensed into a few pages that I could share with others.
"If only..." That's one of the repeated lines toward the end of the book as we ponder everything that's happened to the main character. How things cou...more"If only..." That's one of the repeated lines toward the end of the book as we ponder everything that's happened to the main character. How things could have gone much differently for him if only so few or so many events hadn't cascaded they way they did.
I loved Joyce's "Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry," and was looking forward to getting drawn into another compelling work. However, this book never grabbed my attention the way Harold did, at least not until the end when I finally developed empathy for the main character.
Part of me would like to go back and re-experience this work now that I know how it ends, but there are too many other things to read. Maybe Joyce's next work will grab me faster.(less)
Gilding is evidently in between the strong environmentalist and climate change denying camps. He's worked for Greenpeace but has also been an environm...moreGilding is evidently in between the strong environmentalist and climate change denying camps. He's worked for Greenpeace but has also been an environmental consultant for many a major corporation. So, I tend to think of him as coming from a somewhat fair and balanced place.
This book is disturbing in its implications that climate change as well as issues related to overpopulation and overconsumption will have dramatic and inevitable impacts on the world, its environment, its species, and our economic and social systems. Gilding says that you don't have to believe the changes are coming, but the world must prepare to do something about the changes once they start happening in a way that catches people's attention.
One way is what he outlines as the "one degree war" where he compares a global response to climate change and resource scarcity to the global response to WWII. This is a comparison he makes frequently with, I think, convincing reasoning. His idea is that global governments will lead the charge in demanding changes to manufacturing and creating regulations that will help keep temperature rise to one degree. He acknowledges that many people are pessimistic that such changes can occur given the utter failure to respond to climate change thus far despite decades of evidence and warnings, but he is ultimately somewhat optimistic about the possibility, in part because to be pessimistic is to admit failure and simply write off the future of the world. Note that even his optimistic view still has perhaps a billion people (1,000,000,000) starving and becoming refugees that destabilize the world as we've come to know it.
As part of this "optimism," Gilding spends the last third or so of his book painting scenarios of success and recommending things that can be done now to help lessen the effects of the impending changes. These are the parts I find inspiring, though in the 3 years since the book's publication I see that some of his recommendations have failed to catch on or have actually failed, like a company called E+co, which was supposed to improve energy efficiency in developing countries and provide good return on investment but which suffered major losses and had to be reorganized. Still, I hope to look at some of his other recommendations and predictions and see how they've done since his writing.
One final thought - Gilding sees an "end to growth" as inevitable given that we're using resources faster than the Earth can sustain. This changed to a steady state economy is intriguing and sounds quite logical if only enough people would embrace it. I'm ready to give it a try.
Overall, this is an important, if somewhat flawed (could use some editing), book that shows at least one path by which civilization can lessen the impacts of the coming changes. I hope my political representatives and leaders of companies I support will read (enough of) it to start thinking about what they can do to prepare for the future.(less)
One of the seminal works in the climate community and one that I wish more people would read and consider.
McKibben introduces the work by saying that...moreOne of the seminal works in the climate community and one that I wish more people would read and consider.
McKibben introduces the work by saying that the world we've known and that has sustained civilizations for ten thousand years is a thing of the past because of climate changed by increased greenhouse gases, especially Carbon Dioxide (CO2). Thus, he entitles his book Eaarth, to show us that we still have a planet that is a lot like the old planet, but different enough that we're going to have to change they way we think about our futures. He then goes on to point out what we might be facing, based on climate models, how we know that things might be changing, based on reports and predictions that were made over 40 years ago that were correct, but just took a bit longer than expected to happen, and how we might cope with the changes in ways that reduce our impact on the world and reduce the impact of climate change on us.
This work has been followed by works by other authors with more specific actions, predictions, and recommendations, but this is the one that caught people's attention several years ago when it came out and inspired a new generation of people to act independent of larger entities. I might be pessimistic in thinking that everyone who would have read this book and acted has already read it and acted, and that the movement might have stalled. However, I just got around to reading it and will likely make lifestyle and other changes to lessen my impact on the globe and share this message with others.(less)
This is my first fiction work by Kingsolver, and I must say I enjoyed very much of it. The work follows Dellarobia Turnbow, an Appalachian farm woman...moreThis is my first fiction work by Kingsolver, and I must say I enjoyed very much of it. The work follows Dellarobia Turnbow, an Appalachian farm woman who put aside her dreams and got married in high school after an unexpected pregnancy. It’s about 10 years after that and life in her area is pretty dire. Failing farms, people out of work, stores and shops closing, foreclosures. Enter into this a “miracle” that turns out to be a sign of potential environmental disaster and draws the attention of the outside world and you have the basic framework for this book.
I describe it this way because there are several threads that get woven into the framework, including romance, family relationships, dreams deferred, environment/climate change, religion v. science, self-reflection, and how people look at others outside of their groups. Some of the threads appealed to me more than others, and others, like the romance, seemed contrived.
Where I find the most joy in this book are the clever turns of phrase that Kingsolver employs to describe the commonplace. Just to pick one describing Dellarobia’s morning experience: “She took a quick inventory of the things Hester would hold against her this morning: breakfast dishes in the sink, Cordie in just a diaper and shirt. She’d tried to get her dressed, but the child had pelted her all morning with a hail of “no;” she felt like a woman stoned for the sin of motherhood.” (less)
Here's a book I initially judged by the cover and overestimated. It's a nice looking book, but it doesn't have many recipes that I'm interested in. I...moreHere's a book I initially judged by the cover and overestimated. It's a nice looking book, but it doesn't have many recipes that I'm interested in. I might come back to it for a few seasoning ideas for Indian flavors or to try some supposedly (though not really) low calorie desserts.(less)