A unique view of climate change glimpsed through the world's resources that are disappearing.
The world itself won't end, of course. Only ours will: our livelihoods, our homes, our cultures. And we're squarely at the tipping point.
Longer droughts in the Middle East. Growing desertification in China and Africa. The monsoon season shrinking in India. Amped-up heat waves in Australia. More intense hurricanes reaching America. Water wars in the Horn of Africa. Rebellions, refugees and starving children across the globe. These are not disconnected events. These are the pieces of a larger puzzle that environmental expert Jeff Nesbit puts together
Unless we start addressing the causes of climate change and stop simply navigating its effects, we will be facing a series of unstoppable catastrophes by the time our preschoolers graduate from college. Our world is in trouble - right now. This Is the Way the World Ends tells the real stories of the substantial impacts to Earth's systems unfolding across each continent. The bad news? Within two decades or so, our carbon budget will reach a point of no return.
But there's good news. Like every significant challenge we've faced--from creating civilization in the shadow of the last ice age to the Industrial Revolution--we can get out of this box canyon by understanding the realities, changing the worn-out climate conversation to one that's relevant to every person. Nesbit provides a clear blueprint for real-time, workable solutions we can tackle together.
JEFF NESBIT was the director of public affairs for two federal science agencies. He was once profiled in The Wall Street Journal as one of the seven people who ended the Tobacco Wars. He was also a national journalist, communications director for former Vice President Quayle, and the director of a Washington, DC-based strategic communications business. Now the executive director of Climate Nexus, he is also a contributing writer to The New York Times, Time, U.S. News & World Report and Axios. He lives in New York and San Francisco.
His new book, THIS IS THE WAY THE WORLD ENDS, from St. Martin's Press will be available Sept. 25, 2018. Bill McKibben calls it a "touchstone book for understanding the world we're daily creating." Senator John Kerry says it is an "enlightening - and alarming - explanation of the climate challenge as it exists today." Sierra Club leader Michael Brune said the book "challenges us to save not just our world but our humanity.:"
Nesbit's previous book with St. Martin's Press, POISON TEA, was well-received by critics. The New York Times called it a "refresher course in Civics 101." Pulitzer Prize winner Elizabeth Kobert said: "Poison Tea is compelling, richly reported, and utterly chilling."
In addition to his non-fiction work, Nesbit has also written more than 20 inspirational novels with Tyndale, Zondervan, Thomas Nelson, Guideposts, Summerside Press, David C. Cook, Hodder & Stoughton, Harold Shaw (part of Random House) and Victor Books. His latest fiction series, with New York Times best-selling author Dr. Kevin Leman, is the Worthington Destiny series.
In Washington, he was a senior public affairs official in the U.S. Senate and federal agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration; a national journalist with Knight-Ridder and others; head of a strategic communications consulting firm for more than a decade; director of communications for former Vice President Dan Quayle at the White house; and the director of legislative and public affairs at the National Science Foundation from 2006-2011.
A distressing book. We already know this, of course. But the book includes many horrific facts and events up to 2018, the publication date. More than I knew.
The topics include migrating species, the Third Pole (the melting of Himalayan glaciers that provide water to billions), bumblebees, coral reefs, the Sahel and the spreading Saharan desert, hurricanes/typhoons, monsoons in Bangladesh, human migration, and water scarcity in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Syria, Jordan, Somalia, Pakistan, India, China, and California.
Most of these countries did not attract my attention, till now. At least as far as climate change goes. But, no more. The book is all text so I often consulted maps on the internet.
In the closing chapters, the author provides hope. Really? Because his publisher insists on a hopeful ending? To sell books? But the author seems to believe there's hope, as he lays out the solutions that are already happening. Like large companies who are ahead of the government in their quest to reduce water use. And how Tesla, for example, is developing super-efficient batteries for electric vehicles.
The ending was an antidote to despair. But time is short. So we will see...
One of the things a reader might hope for when reading about current and very likely environmental catastrophes is some guidance from the author about what the reader can do to help remedy the situation. The ability to take meaningful action is a buttress against despair when reading such a book. While the author makes some suggestions aimed at institutions and government agencies, there are no suggestions given to the common reader who is not working for or with large institutions and/or government agencies. I find that to be a real fault with the book, and it makes me question who the intended reader for the book is. I suspect the hope is that the book will be read by and influence people in positions of power. That is fine, and it also limits the book's effectiveness for me, a common citizen.
I also question the author's praise for environmental leadership of companies like Nestle, Monsanto, Amazon and Walmart. Nestle has repeated gone into local communities in the United States and gotten agreements from local officials allowing them bottle local water for free and then sell it- no doubt in part to those same communities. While I have no proof, given the things Nestle executives have said and their actions attempting to control access to local water supplies, I suspect they know that water shortage crises are coming, and rather than have a humanitarian response I suspect their intent is to control water supplies and make money trying to sell bottled water to desperate people.
Lauding Monsanto for environmental activism is a complete joke because Monsanto manufactures Roundup, an extremely toxic pesticide. Amazon pays its workers low wages so that many employees work under harsh conditions and have difficulty making a living while Jeff Bezos is one of the richest men on earth. Walmart is famous for underpaying its employees, who then seek and receive welfare assistance that you and I pay for because the family who owns Walmart refuses to consistently pay a living wage.
To mention these companies and laud them for their environmental activism without noting their negatibve behaviors toward people and the environment is not fair and unbiased reporting.
Reading this book I felt like I was in an airplane flying over the problems and concerns discussed in the book. I really wanted and needed some grounding to connect with these issues in a very personal way rather than wanting to give in to the feeling of wanting to crawl into a fetal position and mutter about how hopeless it all seems to be. I am going to make some unusual suggestions here that I am sure will be criticized as more appropriate for children's books than for a book aimed at adults. When you tell me about an animal that is endangered I would like to see a picture of that animal. Make it real for me. Give me a URL where I can go and see what the life of that animal is like. Give me something close to direct contact with that animal so I get connected to and care about its fate more than I will if I just read text about it.
For the countries and communities where there are water shortages, give me more than an airplane view. Make that real too. I would like to see pictures of people in those communities who are fighting for the lives of their communities and environment. Point me to a URL where I can see a film clip of local environmental activists making a difference. (Hopefully I will be convinced that I can make a difference too.) When it is discussed in the book that local farmers who mingled crops with trees were successful, when just planting rows of trees were not- show me one of those farms where that worked. Let me see a film of someone talking to the farmer about what he did, how he feels about it, and how the success of his work benefits himself, his family, his commnity, his country.
More than anything I amazed that Mr. Nesbit mentions Nestle multiple times and gives them a complete pass regarding their water grabbing activities in Southern California and the Great Lakes area. How could he not know about how communities have struggled to keep Nestle out their water supply in multiple locations around the United States? And if he did know- why doesn't he mention it? Certainly taking water for free and then selling it is an environemtal concern.
Summary: This book is going to appeal if the Environment is #1 on your issue list, you have never traveled the world, and you know nothing of politics or economics. Otherwise, it's a skip unless you are interested in trying to understand what the environmentalists don't understand.
There are those that felt that Nesbit wasn't deep enough in his research. I both agree and disagree. I disagree in the sense that he clearly did a lot of research about various areas of the world. That's why I bumped him from 2.5 to 3 stars.
However, I agree wholeheartedly that in his zeal for thinking about the environment, he failed to do enough research in the solutions area mostly because I think he fundamentally doesn't understand fairly relevant aspects of policy decision making or economics. And, I mean this in the nicest possible way.
THE GOOD: I think the chapters do describe how current conditions will in fact destabilize a number of places in the middle east. We should care, to the extent that an unstable Middle East is a problem. Similarly, there are a number of nations that have destroyed their environment potentially irreparably (Somalia, Saudi Arabia, etc). This is described somewhat well.
The Neutral: (missed opportunities & Challenges) He could go further into the science of what it might mean to fix it. I.e. water tables are directly related to rainfall or other streams of water that might fix the lack of an aquifer being filled. This could have been solved by adding a map of the aquifers, and a bit more detail about the body of water that fills it or the levels of rainfall and what it might mean would have to increase. This is highly important, b/c the chapters before Nesbit addresses drought all relate to excessive rainfall/hurricanes, and flooding.
If he had gone this route he would also have had to explore what is being done in both cases in the way of innovation to modify weather. That I am highly curious about, but I don't yet see great books written on it.
Instead, he talks about the polar caps melting and temperatures rising. He also postulates that CO2 changes will escalate exponentially rather than linearly. Maybe. Or maybe the poles shifted 4 degrees 10 years ago to face closer to the sun. Hard to say.
THE BAD At any rate, the net effects of the polar shift are always too loosely defined to make policy makers want to change anything. The reason for that is the same reason this book falls flat for me. The disconnect between how environmental shifts effect daily life and the various aspects of what it means to govern and strategically plan for a country are lost.
For example, in the book, China is talked about for its role in building the pathway from Peru to Brazil. All sorts of stuff is said about soybeans and net imports and exports. But a lot of it is half truths and slightly obscuring the decision making rationales that might help future environmentalists. Yes, China was a net exporter of soybeans in 1995. That was because it finally got smart on the silliness that was proliferated by the UN , namely that Export Expansion was the only way to grow your nation. During the Post Deng period, it decided that was BS, created a bunch fo special economic zones and decided that instead it would use a different method and that unlike the Mao period, feeding people was going to become important. After that time, most of its policy all deal with getting food from nearly anywhere it can and increasing the land available in China for Agriculture. It's not just expansion for expansion's sake. China is afraid of hungry people and shortages on domestic stability. Stockpiling is important to them for that reason. Similarly, Soybeans from Brazil is actually as much about Brazil as it is about China. Brazil is still coming out of some rough periods due to policies that date back to the cold war. The fact is China gets loads of its food from the closer areas of SE Asia.
In this regard, he missed a HUGE possible point which is the deforestation of SE Asia, i.e. the Oldest and most dense rainforest in the world. He also seemed to not understand the more important arguments as relates to forestation. Yes. He touched on the planting of the correct trees vs. stupidly planting any trees. But transformation of rainforest to farmland means that per hectare you have less organisms and less CO2/Oxygen producing plantlife. Those numbers are astounding and far better shown in Asian than in Brazil. It's also a bit more relevant from a population, land mass and effect on weather patterns perspective than poor planting of trees in the desert. Similarly, the net affects on the ability to weather climate change are also far easier to show in SE Asia. One can pick your favorite Indonesian Island or take all of SE Asia to demonstrate it and the cost of insuring against it from a government spend to a pure insurance term. I'm saying this, b/c I would have liked for someone to actually research that and I was hoping this book might.
Instead, this book focuses on water and uses the research from food companies as the primary way of thinking about it. Oh Man...... who do you think is cutting down this rain forest. It's weird. All the propoganda to save the rainforest (which I support) has made people really ignorant about what that means. You think that railroad that China is building in Brazil is the main culprit. How about all those plantations? Similarly, I wish people that talk about rainforest would take a little extra time to learn about the difference between rainforest, plantation, and this whole silliness that planting trees is the same thing.....
To be effective as an environmentalist, to really win over policy makers, you have to really understand WHY a country makes the choices it does. It's not just because the world wants to delay the choice. It's also not because they just don't want to pay for it. Instead, it's because it's unclear what you're being asked to do.
For example, we talk about battery storage and how that will be great for allowing "green" energy. I wonder how many environmentalists have ever thought about how "green" energy is made. It likely still might make sense in dollars and cents, but the work isn't done. And part of the problem is that you got to find cobalt and some of the new materials in order to make it. That material is not found at walmart. Instead, you got to mine it. Now cobalt reserves are primarily limited except if you are getting dirty cobalt. That isn't necessarily the material we use to stabilize a lithium battery. They way some of it is mined, does happen in some pretty heinous conditions (think child labor).
Ok.... so clearly innovation will need to continue here, because there will be other special interest groups that have a problem. But I just wish all environmentalist would take a minute and describe the research that solves the problems. More collaboration and understanding why their view of a better greener world might be antagonistic to competing interests. Similarly, any blueprint or solution proposal ought to describe any problems created by removing current practices and what a real transition might entail from an executive perspective. If they come up to an answer that it's just a luxury expense, they haven't thought hard enough about the problem.
He talks about the idea that china is becoming green b/c it's requiring electric or hybrid cars. Uhm... kind of... it's actually b/c China doesn't have huge oil and gas reserves like the US. It's doing it b/c it's trying to be another axis of power. It purchases fossil fuels from everyone but if that number is a lot smaller all the better for GDP. It cares about GDP, because that has been its stated way of keeping it's country stable and minimizing civic unrest. This is relevant, b/c if you really want to have a book with a real "blueprint" you have to think in terms of what is in the best interests of a country, spell it out, and then really be activist toward it.
Given the land to population ratio in China, it is NOT in its best interest to source food domestically. And externally Soybean is a good solution because - and I have no idea how this was missed - Soybean is a cheaper source of protein than meat. I have NO idea how you can understand in an earlier chapter that meat takes more power and resources and yet miss that this might be how China is seeing the stockpiling of soy. But again, I think one focuses on environmental issues, they often miss these aspects of politics and economics that would help them be more persuasive. We are all guilty of this when we are impassioned.
But this protein shortage is a real thing for China that it has tried to address and largely succeeded. Possibly if you look at the average height changes decade to decade in China starting with the Mao period it will become easier to see why food is not just some luxury that China has decided in recent years to enjoy due to becoming wealthier.
This book doesn't quite do it for me, b/c I can't figure out what he's asking countries to do. Is he saying move to better energy sources? If yes, I'd love to have him go further into how to do it faster.... should we mine more aggressively? Should we divert funding from something to something else? How's it get done? I'm interested. But I can't figure it out in this book. Is it, take a portion of the military budget and re-allign it with XYZ specific environmental benefit. I can't tell. Similarly, is he saying that we need to stabilize the environmental situation in the middle east in Africa or otherwise, we will need to help them fight their wars? I think that one is a powder keg. But I can't tell if that's what he's saying and his argument sure does come close to it as an implication.
This book is not my cup of tea. But if you think everything I said above is baseless and immaterial, that is your right, I know tons of people who focus on the environment who agree with you, and you will love this book.
“The gate that we face at present is not a question of surviving or conquering the planet. We have done all that and more. Now, today, we do not need to save the planet. We have conquered Earth. It is ours. The question before us, the gate we must pass through, is whether we can save ourselves as a vanquished Earth begins to turn against us. In the end, the planet will be fine. We might not be.”
I live in Western Japan. During this summer we: experienced an earthquake, scorching hot temperatures that killed dozens , and three large typhoons (one of which knocked out my power and water for 2 days). I grew up on the Eastern Coast of the United States so I’m no stranger to extreme winds and rain but the sheer frequency of the storms is something new and very different. In “This is how the world ends” Jeff Nesbit takes us on a tour of disaster. Some have already happened, some remain right around the corner, some only slightly longer that that, but the disasters are not slowing down any time soon. It is difficult to synthesize the first part of this book simply because the potential and existing catastrophes are so numerous that there simply isn’t space to write about them all. Droughts, wildfires, earthquakes, floods, deforestation, species extinction, the death of pollinators such as the bumblebee (this is a very, very bad thing) are all continuing apace. Nesbit details at the end of the book some remedies to at the very least slow down impending catastrophe but is, perhaps rightly so, doubtful as to whether the political will exists to act. As such, this book reads almost like a post mortem where the cause of mankind’s death (As Nesbit says in the quote that prefaces this review, it’s not about humans saving the earth, as the earth in time will recover as it always has, but more about saving ourselves) was due to excess, hubris, and not a little stupidity. This is at times an infuriating read simply because what is before our eyes presents such a seemingly clear and present danger and yet we (I’m looking at you America) continue to put our heads in the sand. To be fair, some are making seemingly herculean efforts to do something but are meeting with fierce resistance:
“On the science side, the CIA set up a classified climate center in 2009 to assess both near- and long-term threats from coming wars over natural resources. Republicans immediately attacked it and threatened to block funding for it. The only time the head of the secretive CIA center ever talked publicly was on background to two graduate students, Charles Mead and Annie Snider at the Medill National Security Reporting Project at Northwestern University, who wrote about its launch and why the CIA’s leadership felt it was important at the time. The CIA senior analyst told Mead and Snider that he’d sat at his desk while torrential rains had flooded Pakistan, the worst natural disaster in Pakistan’s history, and realized that it was a warning to the national intelligence community. It has the exact same symptoms you would see for future climate change events, and we’re expecting to see more of them, the senior CIA analyst said. ‘We wanted to know: What are the conditions that lead to a situation like the Pakistan flooding? What are the important things for water flows, food security radicalization, disease and displaced people?’ Three years later, his CIA center was gone. Republican members of Congress mounted a sustained assault on it for years during appropriations battles. ‘The CIA’s resources should be focused on monitoring terrorists in caves, not polar bears on icebergs”’ Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) said when the CIA center was announced. The former CIA director Leon Panetta fought for years to keep the center open but closed it in 2012 under continued and withering pressure from leading Republican members of Congress.”
One of the more fascinating aspects of this book is not the detailing of disastrous climate change that’s coming and already here, but rather the likely fallout from it. In particular, he devotes a significant portion of the book to “climate refugees”. This was a term I was unfamiliar with, but what distinguishes it from what we typically would consider a typical refugee, is that climate refugees aren’t fleeing political or religious persecution but rather a lack of resources. Additionally and importantly, climate refugees are not afforded the same legal protections as standard refugees (in part because governments are terrified to set a precedent that would have far reaching implications). Climate refugees are in fact not something that are a probability as water runs scarce and lands grow dry, they are here already. Nesbit looks at the uprisings in places such as Syria, Yemen, and Egypt and meticulously traces the massive devastations over the last few years to food and water riots that occurred several years earlier. Yes there was longstanding dissatisfaction with the regimes in these places, but it was when people were no longer able to access the essentials of life that action was taken. Some countries such as Saudi Arabia and China have taken notice. In a little reported story, the Saudis, recognizing the lack the water for grains to feed their people did this:
“In 2008, then king Abdullah ordered Saudi food companies to find and purchase foreign land with access to fresh water. The king offered to subsidize their operations. The head of the American embassy in Riyadh wrote in the confidential cable that the effort was needed as a way of maintaining political stability in the kingdom. That’s how the Saudis came to Arizona and bought fifteen square miles of desert in order to pull fresh water from the Colorado River in an effort to grow water-intensive alfalfa for export back to the kingdom. The Saudi rulers didn’t want to risk a revolution, like the Arab Spring, fueled by lack of food and water that might compound other problems, such as political or climate instability. This $47.5 million transaction is an example of the Saudis efforts to continuously secure its supply of high-quality hay and ensure the country’s dairy business, as well as conserving the nation’s resources”
They were not alone:
“China essentially purchased America’s largest pork producer, Smithfield Foods, in 2013 through a company that had the full financial and political backing of its government. A quarter of all pigs raised in America, a process that consumes vast amounts of water to grow the grains that serve as feed for the pigs raised for slaughter, are now part of China’s efforts to feed its own people.”
This is the new norm. It’s chilling reading and Nesbit warns it’s only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. What happens for example when (not if) the sea level rises an additional meter in a place like Bangladesh for example? Millions would be displaced and would have to flee somewhere. India would be the closest but India has also walled off Bangladesh on all sides to prevent such a migration. Where do they go? India has also threatened to cut off a vital supply of water that runs into Pakistan. China has threatened to cut of Himalayan water that supplies both India and Pakistan. The human migration and misery that would occur were any of these events to occur would dwarf anything we are seeing now. For all of these reasons, this is a vitally important book. It is short, perhaps too short, but the vision of the present and future it lays out is one we cannot afford to look away from.
Current knowledge of impending tragedies, well organized and clearly presented. *** 10/20/19 - Quotes staying with me: p157 - "Part 6 - The Future" "As the number of refugees increases ... will the growing trend of nationalism cause countries to seal their borders?" p159 - "The people of Bangladesh have nowhere to go. It is likely to get much worse in the future, on several fronts. ... Bangladesh is one of the countries most at risk for even modest sea level rise. If seas rise just one meter, up to 20 percent of the country will be permanently covered in water ... "If (or when) that day arrives, however, Bangladeshis will face a nearly impossible problem. The country is surrounded on three sides by India and on the fourth by the ocean to its south. ... "India, however, began to build an eight-foot-high, barbed-wire border fence, along the entire length of its 2,544-mile-long, winding, porous border ...
p160 - "In the spring of 2017 ... India's political leadership announced that they intended to close the entire border with Bangladesh for good. ..." "India's decision to close off its border completely to Bangladesh--whether feasible or not--is a perfect reflection of decisions being made now by world leaders everywhere in the face of growing nationalist calls from voters to seal off their borders as civil wars and environmental calamities drive a flood of refugees to seek new homes. "'In 1989, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, there were only 15 border walls around the world. Today, there are 70 of them.' Reuters reported in 2017.'"
I'm marking this DNF at about page 85. There are a few things that are really bothering me about this book. First of all, there's little substance to the arguments. It seems like all we get is soundbites - just whatever sounds most alarming with only cherry-picked factoids backing it up. Please tell us a little about the studies being cited and why they are more reliable than studies from the naysayers. I'd love to see some of the anti-climate change arguments refuted with sound science. Instead we get a lot of pathos over scientists breaking down in interviews because they don't know how to get their message across, or graduate students weeping after being shown pictures of coral die-offs. That might make for an emotional appeal but if the author wants the reader to take climate change seriously he should as well.
Another thing that bothers me is how irritatingly repetitive the book is. The same thing is said in slightly different ways in paragraph after paragraph, chapter after chapter. It sounds like a high school student trying to pad his essay with b.s. and stretch it out in order to reach a teacher-decreed minimum page length. All the repetition wouldn't be necessary if there were some supported facts backing up the assertions. And I mean facts with substance, not just factoids. For instance he laments the loss of ice on Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa. The naysayers will tell you this is not due to climate change or global warming but farmers cutting down the vegetation around the mountain. Or another weird example is when we're told that ice in the Himalayas (aka, the "third pole") is melting at unprecedented rates, and rock that has been covered in ice since WWII has been exposed. Since WWII? That's only 73 years ago, why is it significant?
Please do not think I'm coming to this with a 'denier' attitude. I have faith that the scientists are correct, and that we are causing these changes and that we need to be worried right now! But if it's as bad as this author says, we should see some proof instead of just taking it on faith. There's a lot of contention in the arguments for and against climate change, and we need a more solid understanding of the studies instead of just throwing out numbers and percentages. The author tells us that 'science gets everything right in the end, it just takes time' but anyone who's read histories of science ought to know that science also makes a lot of mistakes along the way. When the facts are missing, it's either preaching to the choir or the totally-uninformed. And if that's all this book has to offer, I'm moving on to other reading.
This is a book everyone-especially law makers - should read.
The beginning portion of the book delivered information that most of us know or should have known: There is irrefutable evidence of dramatically climate change. The ice at the poles - including the "third pole" the Himalayas, as well as uncounted glaciers in mountainous areas and Greenland are melting. The average earth temperatures have been rising steeply since the dawn of the industrial revolution and burning of fossil fuels. The oceans are warming and becoming more acidic due to more dissolved CO2. Thousands of species are in danger of extinction (including many pollinators) and many more are moving towards the poles and cooler weather. Coral reefs are dying in many parts of the world and disrupting the whole ecology of the reefs and beyond. The percentage of CO2 in the atmosphere is increasing. Severe and more frequent weather events occur throughout the world-including fiercer storms, droughts, floods and fires. All of this should be common knowledge by now.
The information that follows may be new to most people. Not only may our ability to provide adequate food for the human population be at risk because of warming climates and loss of pollinators, but by lack of water. Aquifers are diminishing at a rapid pace due to careless use and waste especially for agriculture, and have disappeared entirely in some parts of the world, the Sahara desert is invading the Sahel, the Saudis rely on expensive desalinization plants for water- but most developing countries can't afford this . The major source of water for India and Pakistan, as well as Tibet are the melting glaciers of the Himalayas. The frozen water in this area is not being replaced by new snow and ice.
Finally, the most frightening aspect of these changes involves wars for water rights, massive displacement of people. In other words, if there seems to be a refugee problem now, it will multiply as people leave their homelands because of the inability to grow food and feed their families. And if it seems that these mass migrations will cause havoc in the future, we are reminded that wars and unrest, killing and famine, the spread of diseases and destruction of governments, have and are already occurring. While it is rare to find any politicians willing to make any attribution of these events to climate change, it has become clear that the mess in Somalia, South Sudan, Yemen and Syria were all partly due to prolonged drought that brought farmers and herders into cities where they were not able to find work or provide for their families.
While there are solutions that yet may halt destructive climate change, there seems to be no political will to make any of the necessary changes. Several paths include a carbon tax, regulations on fuel efficiency, development of renewal energy sources and massive reduction on the reliance on fossil fuels.
Few people understand how serious and current these issues are. They see problems in the far future. But it is happening now and we need to take action NOW, if we want to leave a livable world for our children and grandchildren.
More interesting than I predicted. The author presents what is happening on the Earth right now and what can happen in the future. He also talks about some things were seeing in human conflicts right now. I got a clearer picture on why Saudi Arabia, Syria, Yemen, and Somalia are having serious conflicts. He predicts that Yemen might be the first nation to run out of water. The most powerful are hoarding the water for useless projects in agriculture and for themselves. Qat is a plant that is highly addictive and men in Yemen are famous for wasted time in qat addiction. Most of Yemen’s water is going to grow qat. Saudi Arabia is trying to grow wheat rather than save water for people. Other areas are in serious jeopardy. What happens to the US is another problem discussed. The powerful are trying to deny rights to the many and hoarding resources. So what do we do?
This book needed a good, ruthless editor. The author repeats himself endlessly. This makes for a frustrating read. The author should have cut about two thirds of his redundant padding. Then it would have been readable, even compelling. The blurb tells me he was "director of public affairs for two federal science agencies and a senior communications official at the White House." Perhaps these gigs created an urge for useless verbiage.
I've read many climate change novels in recent years and while this may not add much new information, it does a better job of organizing that information than most. I like that he starts with the truths, that is what irrefutably (although I'm sure there are still naysayers) is happening right now on our planet. He then discusses the repercussions of climate change, such as droughts, disappearing water, rising seas, increased heat waves and how it affects the world's geopolitical design. At the end, he offers some fairly straight-forward ideas for changing our current course. These are supposed to promote hope, however, knowing the current political atmosphere it is highly unlikely any of these ideas will come anywhere near fruition. If you are just picking up a book on climate change for the first time, this is definitely a good primer but I think it is time for me to take a break from this sort of book because even the smallest hope of change seems like an impossibility at this point. I received a digital ARC of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Jeff Nesbit’s book gives us up-to-date information and analysis regarding the climate crisis, including what is happening right now and what will happen very soon. He connects the dots between human-caused ravages to our environment, the increasing numbers of environmental refugees, and the increasing incidents of geopolitical conflict related to these issues. Water is a constant theme in the book; sometimes too much water, but mostly not enough. We are using up our drinkable water. Add to that the heat domes (as high as 175F), the movement of some species toward the north or south poles while other species are becoming extinct, the dying out of pollinators that we humans need to keep our food crops going, the acidification of the oceans, conflict over who controls water resources, and on and on. The increasing numbers of human environmental refugees is a tale of woe and suffering. We must conclude that everything is connected, everything is under assault, and we are causing it all.
Nesbit also does an inventory of how the climate crisis is affecting several specific countries. As an Arizonan, I was distressed to learn that the Saudis had been profligate in their use of underground water in their own country to the point that their aquifers are empty now. So they came to western Arizona, bought up fifteen square miles of La Paz County, Arizona, and began growing a water-intensive hay crop to ship home, to feed cattle, and to provide beef to their own people. In the process, the Saudis sucked up huge amounts of Colorado River water, the major source of water for cities in the American Southwest and southern California. The Saudis are hardly the only affluent country that has gone/is going to another country and using up or destroying natural resources.
Nesbit has a few hopeful words at the end of the book about progress we’ve made, how the corporations are acting now even if the politicians are not, how the major problems of fossil-fuel based transportation and utilities are being addressed. However, his book is short on advising us, the common citizens, about what we can do and how we can contribute to solutions. Look elsewhere for that. Despite this, I'm giving the book five stars because Nesbit has done an excellent job of describing the problem. If this book doesn't convince you of the immediate threats, nothing will. The big question remains: are we doing enough fast enough? Nesbit makes a compelling argument that we humans are the ones who have caused all the problems. The Earth will survive. But if we don’t act fast enough, we could easily become one of the species that becomes extinct. Yes, it's that bad.
If you do not think that climate change is an immediate and deadly problem for humans, you need to read this book. And if you don't think humans are instrumental in the changes happening, you need to read this book.
The oceans are 30% more acidic now than they were at the beginning of the industrial revolution. (42) That's because the oceans have absorbed 525 billion tons of carbon dioxide since then. (41) That came home to where I live in the Pacific Northwest as it has meant problems in oyster production. (46) Coral reefs are in trouble. Half of them have been lost in the last 30 years. (77) That's serious as the reefs are home to a quarter of all marine species. (77)
The arctic sea ice has declined by 30% in the last twenty five years. (54) “More than half of the world's wetlands have disappeared.” (141) Fresh water is ending up in the sea. We are seeing more and more refugees because of lack of water and arable land. Water scarcity is leading to armed conflict.
Greenhouse gases are at levels never seen before in human history. The last four years were the hottest in human history. Rainfall and drought patterns are changing with extreme heat and extreme precipitation. Animals and plants are moving to the poles. (233)
Warnings from scientists are often ignored by U.S. politicians. (7) Perhaps that is because the U.S. is just beginning to see the effects of climate change. “The evidence is overwhelming and irrefutable,” Nesbit writes. (7) “...[C]limate change is happening and humanity is the primary cause.” (8)
I highly recommend this book. We Americans need to understand what is happening in the rest of the world.
As an author of dystopian fiction, I love that there are five books entitled "This is the Way the World Ends" on Goodreads. Because clearly, I'm not the only one who wonders which of the many forms of our destruction our civilization will take. The horsemen of the apocalypse are not mythical creatures descending from the sky, they are physical phenomenon we are creating (good job, humanity, good job).
For those of you who don't ponder dystopian thoughts on a regular basis and would like to start, Nesbit's compilation of current disasters is a lovely place to start. Want to live where 20-30 inches of rain can fall in a day? Nesbit has your place. How about living where storms or fire will soon destroy all that you own? He has it covered. Do you currently worry about when the world will run out of fresh water? You will after you read this book, and for the record, it is soon. Very soon.
Nesbit elegantly and simply explains the scientific basis for these seemingly unconnected physical events, making it obvious that across the spectrum of politics on the planet, we should all realize that our current activities, if left uncorrected, will lead to our demise.
To paraphrase Rebecca Brown, the Seattle-based legendary rock star of creative writing, "We're doomed."
For anyone who wonders what is happening to our world as it heats up, why it is that we have so many refugees, why more storms are devastating when they come, this book will help make sense of all of this. The weather patterns are changing, and changing rather drastically. The author gives a good overview of the drought situation in the Middle East, the growing deserts in Africa and China, heat waves in places that are already approaching danger levels for survival of living beings. All of this is referenced in copious footnotes. Though this is frightening and seems overwhelming, the author is able to point out some very hopeful signs at the end of the book. Some people in positions of power may want to ignore all of this, but there is still a large body of work being done to deal with these problems. It goes on in science fields, in the boardrooms of big business and in some forward-thinking countries. This is a book that will give the reader a good feel for the interrelatedness of all of humankind and what is happening to our home here on earth.
Really appreciated the primer on climate change. The author described what is happening in the sky, water and land; provided concrete examples of current political and social upheaval resulting from water and food scarcity; proposed what we can expect in the immediate future if we don’t do anything; and offered promising and simple solutions: carbon tax and infrastructure improvements.
The examples and solutions were respectively tangible and actionable. He didn’t make emotional pleas as other authors I’ve read and (although I recognize he left out a lot of science and nuance), the message resonated with me.
I think this book focuses on important geopolitical issues that the climate change is causing. I only give it two stars because it gives almost no advice on what the average reader can do (if anything) about these larger issues. The book could have been better written, and gone into more depth into the issues it presents. Also the subtitle is false. It offered very little info about America, and instead focused on the Middle East and Africa. Likely the subtitle was added just to entice American readers to pick it up.
This definitely reads a bit more pop-science than others I’ve picked up on the topic recently, but it’s very readable and frames climate change as both important environmentally (imp. for dems) and economically (imp. for repubs) which makes it accessible to everyone without the automatic shutdown political ideologies can bring on.
A bit introductory, but it focuses on some topics that aren't so common. If the Himalayas as the Third Pole is old news to you, the book might not be helpful, but it covered topics that were new to me, particularly the geopolitics section. However, a large portion of the end is devoted to solutions in a way I did not find convincing.
Lots of repetition. Arguments aimed at folks who aren’t sold on climate change, so there’s a lot of inch deep and mile wide going on here with all the problems that go along with it. Seems more motivated by individual action vs top-down coordinated action, largely to appeal to the folks who’ve been hesitant to take these issues seriously.
There are better written books with better background + politics out there, I wouldn’t recommend this one.
Some books are scary. As a child The Hobbit scared me. As an adult I could understand that the likelihood of running into Sméagol was slim and the story turned from scary to fantastical. While the powers that be may want you to believe that climate change is a modern day fantastical Sméagol, this book will open your eyes ... and terrify you in a way Tolkien never could.
I was shocked by this book. How did I not know that 200,000 people die annually in Bangladesh due to river erosion. That seems like the kind of thing people would be talking about, everywhere, all the time.
This book touches on many points, all of them important. From bumblebees to the fresh water crisis. It is important that we all know and understand the state our planet is in. We use to wonder "What kind of world are we leaving for our grandkids". We are ruining our planet at such an expediential rate that we don't have to wonder, we know that in 7 years the fresh water crisis will be at our doorstep. We know that the animals we use to draw and read about in Elementary school will be gone... extinct. How did we get to a point where killing off an entire species is something that is happening over and over again. As a kid I learned about the dodo bird, and how we killed all of them, and we all wished we could have seen a real live dodo bird... now replace dodo bird with Elephant. That's Earth now.
What happens on the other side of the planet will ripple over to us, it's not a debate. It is fact and it's happening right now.
Well-written with excellent references and endnotes. I could not put the book down and read this book without stopping. This was a timely and thought-provoking book that should be read by everyone today.
I had high hopes for this books. I had listened to an interview with the author and thought it had promise so bought it. It turned out to be a long categorized list of talking points. Essentially it's preaching to the choir. People who buy this book will most likely climate change believers and will be looking for more science and back ground. Unfortunately this book was very light on both and was laced with passive aggressive political commentary. ( when will people learn that a club is not a good way to convince people to come to your side?). There was some good geo political discussion relating to current and future water disputes.
I was hoping for more science on the atmospheric and geologic systems that are in play. For the most part these were addressed in passing.
Incredibly repetitive. Clearly not written by a scientist because each topic scratches the surface of issues then repeats the same talking points for an entire chapter. The main call to action only comes at the end and felt like an afterthought.
Nesbit chronicles the changes in climate which are most likely to affect humans. His focus on specific "hot spots" and some of the geopolitical effects of the crises developing in them is especially interesting.
I understand that this is supposed to be a thousand-foot view of the impacts of climate change, but I don't think Nesbit is the right person to write this book. This book reads as dilettantish in the extreme. Its crimes, in order: 1) non-expert policy recommendations and 2) awful writing.
1) Non-expert policy recommendations: I appreciate the author's effort to take a global look at the impacts of climate change in Syria, Yemen, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and China, among others. However, I worry about the reliability of his assessments on areas that I don't cover, because on the areas I do understand, his assessments were wildly misinformed.
First, let's talk about China. I will be the first to admit that China is in big trouble on the environmental front, but he conflates the damage from climate change with the damage from poor resource management policy while simultaneously advocating for mercantilism. He goes on for several pages about how China has to import a lot of soybeans because China is running out of water due to climate change. This is a massive oversimplification and a linking of two disparate things. First, China does have to import a lot of soy beans. Why is that a bad thing? The international trade system is built on the idea of specialization. If country A (like the US) can grow soybeans better than country B (China), then just buy them! China does not now, and has really never, specialized in growing food. China has been flirting with food insecurity since at least the 1800s due to a mismatch between its massive population and limited arable land. This fundamental mismatch has been exacerbated over the last few decades by higher standards of living, poor integration of agricultural technology and efficiencies, massive air, soil, and water pollution, and a (slowly) growing population, in addition to climate change. It's not all the fault of climate change, and to imply such is at best disingenuous. Its important to keep in mind that China has been a major food importer since at least the 1960s, well before climate change was making itself so obvious. That's just the national hand that China was dealt.
Additionally, Nesbit's claim that engaging with North Korea on environmental and climate change issues could lead to a breakthrough on nuclear security is frankly bunk. He ignores both the US nonproliferation bottom line and the Kim regime's demonstrated insensitivity to massive human suffering. He also repeatedly notes that only 20% of North Korea's land is arable, implying this is due to climate change. This is just factually wrong. North Korea has ALWAYS had very limited arable land. North Korea's economy depends mostly on mineral wealth - the south was traditionally the breadbasket of Korea. To blame North Korea's historically limited agricultural endowment on climate change is just bunk. Either he's being disingenuous to support his thesis or he just doesn't know - either way, unimpressive.
2) The writing was awful. The book contained massive generalizations and overuse of metaphors (black sky, 'passing through gates', multiple, chapter-long extended metaphors like "The Anvil" and "Our Next Gate"). He also likes to italicize adverbs for emphasis, which makes me think one of his interns may have ghost-written most of the book. It was also repetitive - on page 273, Nesbit notes that 'we have conquered the world' four times. FOUR TIMES IN ONE PAGE. Did I mention four times? Four times. Annoying, isn't it?