A touch scattered but of interest to anyone concerned with climate change and our long, lamentable history of ignoring it.

OUR BIGGEST EXPERIMENT

AN EPIC HISTORY OF THE CLIMATE CRISIS

Broad-ranging history of the catastrophic crisis that is well underway.

Bell, a climate activist based in London, opens her account with a moment that will come as news even to readers versed in the literature: when a scientist and women’s rights activist named Eunice Newton Foote demonstrated in 1856 that “an atmosphere heavy with carbon dioxide could send temperatures soaring.” The results of Foote’s experimental work were presented to the American Association for the Advancement of Science and then shelved until 2011, when a petroleum geologist chanced upon it. As Bell writes, it would not be the first time that data would be ignored. Her narrative zigzags among the Enlightenment and the present and points between, tracing how ideas about the climate as a world system came to be codified. Some of the narrative feels like a data dump, but the author’s account takes on greater force in her discussions of the near past and present, when inescapable evidence mounts to indicate how badly we’ve erred in overlooking the deleterious effects of fossil fuels. And it is we, collectively, who have brought this on. Although “the climate crisis has been and remains a problem of elites’ making,” enriching a handful of mostly White men, it is a problem that has been aired in the past and then brushed aside time and again. Bell is at her best when recounting these frequent observations, many of which were taken positively, as when a Swedish glaciologist argued that the retreat of glaciers around the world was really an example of “climate embetterment.” It has become clear that it is not an improvement, and Bell warns that we have to remake the world’s economy while also adapting to the effects of climate change already in motion—“and we have a rapidly vanishing snippet of time in which to do all this.”

A touch scattered but of interest to anyone concerned with climate change and our long, lamentable history of ignoring it.

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64009-433-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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Another winner featuring the author’s trademark blend of meticulous research and scintillating writing.

ON ANIMALS

The beloved author gathers a wide-ranging selection of pieces about animals.

“Animals have always been my style,” writes Orlean at the beginning of her latest delightful book, a collection of articles that originally appeared in “slightly modified form” in the Atlantic, Smithsonian, and the New Yorker, where she has been a staff writer since 1992. The variety on display is especially pleasing. Some essays are classic New Yorkerprofiles: Who knew that tigers, near extinction in the wild, are common household pets? There are at least 15,000 in the U.S. Her subject, a New Jersey woman, keeps several dozen and has been fighting successful court battles over them for decades. Lions are not near extinction, however; in fact, there are too many. Even in Africa, far more live in captivity or on reserves than in the wild, and readers may be shocked at their fate. Cubs are cute, so animal parks profit by allowing visitors to play with them. With reserves at capacity, cubs who mature may end up shot in trophy hunts or in stalls on breeding farms to produce more cubs. In “The Rabbit Outbreak,” Orlean writes about how rabbit meat was an American staple until replaced by beef and chicken after World War II, whereupon rabbit pet ownership surged. They are now “the third-most-popular pet in the country, ranking just behind dogs and cats.” Readers may be aware of the kerfuffle following the hit movie Free Willythat led to a massive campaign to return the film’s killer whale to the wild, and Orlean delivers a fascinating, if unedifying account. The author handles dogs like a virtuoso, with 10 hilarious pages on the wacky, expensive, but sometimes profitable life of a champion show dog. Among America’s 65 million pet dogs (according to a 2003 report), 10 million go astray every year, and about half are recovered. Orlean engagingly recounts a lost-dog search of epic proportions.

Another winner featuring the author’s trademark blend of meticulous research and scintillating writing.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982181-53-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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A welcome reference, entertaining and information-packed, for any outdoors-inclined reader.

THE MEATEATER GUIDE TO WILDERNESS SKILLS AND SURVIVAL

The bad news: On any given outdoor expedition, you are your own worst enemy. The good news: If you are prepared, which this book helps you achieve, you might just live through it.

As MeatEater host and experienced outdoorsman Rinella notes, there are countless dangers attendant in going into mountains, woods, or deserts; he quotes journalist Wes Siler: “People have always managed to find stupid ways to die.” Avoiding stupid mistakes is the overarching point of Rinella’s latest book, full of provocative and helpful advice. One stupid way to die is not to have the proper equipment. There’s a complication built into the question, given that when humping gear into the outdoors, weight is always an issue. The author’s answer? “Build your gear list by prioritizing safety.” That entails having some means of communication, water, food, and shelter foremost and then adding on “extra shit.” As to that, he notes gravely, “a National Park Service geologist recently estimated that as much as 215,000 pounds of feces has been tossed haphazardly into crevasses along the climbing route on Denali National Park’s Kahiltna Glacier, where climbers melt snow for drinking water.” Ingesting fecal matter is a quick route to sickness, and Rinella adds, there are plenty of outdoorspeople who have no idea of how to keep their bodily wastes from ruining the scenery or poisoning the water supply. Throughout, the author provides precise information about wilderness first aid, ranging from irrigating wounds to applying arterial pressure to keeping someone experiencing a heart attack (a common event outdoors, given that so many people overexert without previous conditioning) alive. Some takeaways: Keep your crotch dry, don’t pitch a tent under a dead tree limb, walk side-hill across mountains, and “do not enter a marsh or swamp in flip-flops, and think twice before entering in strap-on sandals such as Tevas or Chacos.”

A welcome reference, entertaining and information-packed, for any outdoors-inclined reader.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12969-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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