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Earth Odyssey: Around the World in Search of Our Environmental Future
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Earth Odyssey: Around the World in Search of Our Environmental Future

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  280 ratings  ·  33 reviews
Like many of us, Mark Hertsgaard has long worried about the declining health of our environment. But in 1991, he decided to act on his own concern and investigate the escalating crisis for himself. Traveling on his own dime, he embarked on an odyssey lasting most of the decade and spanning nineteen countries. Now, in Earth Odyssey he reports on our environmental ...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published December 28th 1999 by Broadway Books (first published 1998)
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Nov 05, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Somewhat dated by the time I got around to reading it but his insights about political inaction in the face of any crisis that appears to threaten the status quo and economic bottom line seems apropos off into infinity as far as I can puzzle out. His hands on research was very interesting, his skewering of Gregg Easterbrook made me wince and laugh simultaneously kind of like Matt Taibbi does all of the time. While I think his suggestions for solutions in his conclusion build up quite a head of ...more
Sarah Sammis
Oct 10, 2008 rated it really liked it
We are going through a drought here in Northern California. Since this summer we've been asked to use no more than 100 gallons of water per day. We took the request seriously and let the summer heat kill our patio garden. One hundred gallons still seems like an extravagant amount of water but according Mark Hertsgaard in Earth Odyssey, the typical American household uses 186 gallons a day, nearly twice what we've been asked to cut back to!

In 1991 Mark Hertsgaard traveled around the world to see
Dec 03, 2008 rated it really liked it
Employing a refreshingly anthropological approach with just a few statistical crumbs couched between the cracks, Herstgaard explores international environmental concerns in context of socioeconomic and political cultures throughout the world. He introduces us to many faces and places whose contributions to environmental degradation are all too human, while casting dark shadows on the few institutions which have the means, but fail to lead the way out. Sometimes heart-wrenching, frequently ...more
Dec 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
This book is an older book, published in the late 90s, about global environmental problems as told through the author's travels around the world. What I found most interesting about it were the various governmental / corporate promises made and estimates about how the environmental trends would pan out by or around 2010. Some have turned out better than expected, but most promises have been broken and most trends have turned out to be worse than expected.
Jason Carr
Mar 15, 2017 rated it liked it
Great book, but outdated.
Mar 06, 2018 rated it it was ok
Interesting read. Though now dated, much of the information and forecasting has come to pass.
Steven Peberday
Jun 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Read this book about 2000 i think. There's some very thought provoking areas on industrial pollution. One i'd like to read again to see if it's stood the test of time. At the time an excellent read.
Dec 26, 2010 rated it liked it
In the 1990s, an American journalist visited many environmentally blighted places: a refugee camp in South Sudan, Russian villages downstream of Kombinat Mayak, Bangkok, Chinese and Brazilian countryside, and many more. The air and water are terribly polluted, and people are sick. For several years, not a single boy from several villages around a heavily poluted river in North China has been able to pass the army physical examination; in a village in Amazonia, children routinely die of ...more
This is an important book. I gave it 4 out 5 star for primarily two reasons: 1) Some chapters, like the ones about China, are at times repetitive and meandering. 2) SOME of Hertsgaard's claims do not stand up to the test of time and now seem so exaggerated, they cause the reader to question the truth in what Hertsgaard writes. This shadow cast over his writing is unfortunate, since there is so much important information in this book.
David Kroodsma
Nov 16, 2008 rated it liked it
I read this book because it is by a guy who spent seven years traveling the world to write a book about the environment.

Mark is a good writer, and I admire many passages in this book. Likewise, he has fantastic passages about some of the people he meets. I also really like the section where he takes the long-run perspective, talking about the history of the earth and how we find ourselves at this point in civilization. In general, when he talks about history, I like it.

His organizing question,
Apr 18, 2008 rated it really liked it
I read this book a few years ago but, with the recent discussion on global warming and especially George Bush's recent (April '08) global warming goal nonstatement, I have been thinking about issues raised in this book. This is a great introduction to the global environment and issues facing the global community. I want to reread the book and then write a real review. Right now I want to recommend the book to anyone who cares about people, the Earth or both! We should ALL be environmentalists. ...more
May 10, 2007 added it
Recommends it for: non-fiction, scientists, environmentalists, anybody who is interested in environmental issues
Skipped ahead to the Russia chapter -it's very interesting to me -esp. since Dr. Natalia Mironova and some other Russians are mentioned in this chapter and we just had an international nuclear accountability workshop with Natalia and others in April 2007.
Worse than Chernobyl is Mayak, another little known nuclear facility in the Urals in Russia. Before glasnost (and "open" sharing of information) there were 4 accidents at Mayak -accidents that were WORSE than Chernobyl but aren't known because
Sep 01, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I read this book when i was pretty young, right when it came out, and i think it is what sparked my activism, just the stories of his travels and the hardships and realities of the rest of the world compared to white north americans.

i recently re-got this book and debate about reading it again because i probably wont like it as much. I think this came out in 1996 or something and he said then that the world was already ten years late on turning back the clock on global warming and if we stopped
Aug 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
A very blunt report of the environmental outlook of humanity and commentary on our global gamble with long-term planetary health. I think it was overall optimistic - we as a species have all the right tools to establish a health progress to fixing our environmental footprint, but thus far markets remained skewed, and we lack the political will to put these tools into action. This book was written in 1999 and still remains relevant today. I believe anyone interested in environmental issues should ...more
May 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
What Mark Hertsgaard uncovers here is just really coming to light in the mainstream press (over the past three years or so),he was revealing back in 1999!
This read is not dated, as you can use the time of it's release (1999) and compare the writers warnings to what you see happening around you today. I like the way the writer deals patiently and respectfully with the people that he meets in his travels. The backgrounds of the nuclear research facilities in the US and in Russia is chilling.
Apr 22, 2008 added it
Shelves: non-fiction
They need a category for tried to read and failed. What is it about this book? Highly recommended by Sievert Rohwer, who I respect enormously and who actually went so far as to provide a free copy to all attendants of the 2001 AOU meeting. I admit to having found myself self-righteously espousing ideas from the first chapter (and only chapter I read). Just couldn't get any further. Suspect it might have to do with the inexcusably hideous cover.
Apr 01, 2008 rated it it was amazing
The title sounds like a "green" annoying preaching type - but it is to the contrary and almost reads like a fiction in that his tales of discovery and people that he encounters is quite entertaining. His thoughts combined with extrememly interesting information that is unknown to most is intruiging and balanced.
Colette Pezley
Oct 06, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone who cares about the fate of our planet.
Wonderful book. Author writes about first hand experiences in third world countries while simultaneously digging deep into the problems that people face in each country due to environmental problems, what has been done to mitigate them, and what should be done. Inspired me.
Amber Leigh
Aug 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best books that I have ever read and the very best environmental book even though it was written in the 90's. It was a very well documented first hand look at the world issues, and beautifully written.
Mar 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
A quest for answers to the questions that really matters. Makes you think closer about your own daily actions. Action makes reaction. You know. Chapter three is one of those that is right on the painful spot!
May 15, 2011 added it
The environmental problem is two-fold: the poor focus on survival and advancement more than preserving the environment, and the rich are unwilling to curtail their overconsumption - focuses on China, little bits on Sudan and Brazil
Lindsay Jubeck
May 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Read this, please. Well-written,fascinating, scary
Richard Kravitz
Jul 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
Excellent book. Pretty depressing though, especially frikkin' China and the mass pollution they produce.
Feb 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing
An entertaining read on a most disturbing subject.
Nov 25, 2007 rated it really liked it
This book is interesting because the author travels around the world and interview individuals about the greatest environmental issues in their country. It's a wake-up call with hope.
Feb 24, 2008 rated it really liked it
This book will make you a better person. It opens your eyes to what it truly means to be a good steward of this Earth. It is depressing at times but the author has some great ideas for changes.
Nov 20, 2007 rated it really liked it
I learned that technology is both a blessing and a curse in terms of the environment
May 16, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Toma by: friend
Shocking book about a one man's journey around the globe, describing the state of the planet where ever he goes.
Aug 05, 2007 rated it really liked it
Good first-hand account of how the rest of the world lives and uses resources.
Frederick Bingham
Jan 01, 2012 rated it it was ok
A book about overpopulation, pollution, famine, disease, war, global warming, ozone destruction, etc. It was too depressing to read.
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Described by Barbara Ehrenreich as "one of America's finest reporters," Mark Hertsgaard has written for the "New Yorker", "Vanity Fair", and "Time", and is author of four books, including "Earth Odyssey". He has traveled the world seeking answers to the question of how to keep humanity alive in the face of global warning. A Soros fellow, he recently attended the Copenhagen Conference, widely ...more