I’ve read in the past one or two of Bill McKibben’s articles in maybe Mother Jones, but this is the first of his books I’ve read. I think it’s also the first book I‘ve read about environmental issues. Eaarth is indeed a great introduction about what we have done to the planet, particularly here in U.S. If we listen to loud mouths like Sarah “drill baby drill” Palin, Glenn Beck, and other non-scientific minded and intellectually deprived individuals, we’re not going to understand the full scope what is taking place on this planet right now.
McKibben explains well how the earth we once knew is no longer. It is now eaarth, and we better learn how to deal with the new reality. He opens with the “New World” chapter: “Imagine we live on a planet. Not our cozy, taken-for-granted earth, but a planet, a real one, with dark poles and belching volcanoes and a heaving, corrosive sea, raked by winds, strafed by storms, scorched by heat. An inhospitable place. A different place. A different planet. It needs a new name: eaarth.”
This is the vain of the entire essay of a book. At first it’s a bit frightening to read. Just what he describes in words without pictures makes you really start thinking about what has been and is being done (by powerful corporations!) in the name of progress. He doesn’t use a lot of jargon or scientific terminology. He simply explains how the choices we have made in producing things have led to forms ecological destruction.
Most of what he says shouldn’t be new to us by now, but I think in his book he frames the issues in a political and economic context to understand them from global and local perspectives. Thus we need the people we elect to political offices to be crystal clear and take a stand about saving the planet—not just for future generations, but for right now.
He also calls for localism, where we do indeed produce and consume locally. And surprisingly he also has some very useful ideas and examples of how the Internet can be useful for the type of changes we need to make.
I think for many of us, the poor economic conditions we’re facing are causing us to rethink our priorities. I personally don’t just hop in my car anymore and go driving around town. And I‘m always on my family about conserving energy around the house. But that’s just me. There’s so much more that needs to be done and is being done, especially around the world.
McKibben doesn’t give a doomsday message, but his reportage and analysis is not without warnings. It’s probably too bad that it is going to take more Katrinas, heat waves, terrible storms, etc, before we really understand what ecologists like McKibben are talking about. And even then, people won’t listen because they think they have too much to lose by admitting that the earth is being wrecked by our over consumption (80% of it by us in the U.S.) and production of goods. He points out that there are many things we can do, but what we can’t do is “refreeze the arctic or regrow the rain forest.”(!)
The book is a very engaging read, though the four chapters are much too long. He should have broken them up more. Nevertheless, he’s certainly educated me, and I‘ll be reading much more about these issues.