A cheering assessment of the future of the planet.




An optimistic look at how humans are showing greater respect for the natural world.

“There is deep agreement across western nations that we are all connected to the Earth,” writes Outwater (Water: A Natural History, 1996, etc.), “and that the natural world must be respected and preserved for the future.” Beginning with Native Americans, the author details Americans’ interactions with a continent whose bounty seemed limitless and ripe for exploitation. Unlike European settlers, tribal communities revered nature’s gifts and sought to balance human and animal needs. Outwater believes that their relationship with nature “echoes the sustainable balance we are trying to create today.” In a spirited, fact-filled history, the author chronicles changing attitudes and practices over many centuries. As a response to the Industrial Revolution, Romantic philosophers, poets, and artists “embraced nature as a spiritual force.” With industry sullying the environment and fomenting diseases such as tuberculosis, clean air and water were seen as curative. The rise of science, technology, and intercontinental trade inspired a vogue for collecting and classifying nature. “In Victorian times,” Outwater notes, “studying nature and building a personal natural history collection was seen as an appropriate way to praise God.” Public collections—zoos, museums, botanical gardens—attracted curious visitors, and tourists flocked to natural wonders such as Niagara Falls and Yosemite. Investigating nature and appreciating its aesthetic qualities, however, competed with the exploitation of waterways, forests, and land to serve increasing populations, the rise of cities, and westward expansion. To provide a picturesque experience of nature for city dwellers, landscape architecture—a term first used by Central Park designer Frederick Law Olmsted—combined traditional gardening with city planning. Although Outwater recounts many instances of detrimental environmental policies—e.g., Ronald Reagan’s head of the Department of the Interior called the environmental movement “a left-wing cult”—she offers, in an appendix, a list of major environmental laws enacted from 1964 to 1973 that have led to significant protections. In many cases, restoration has occurred more quickly than anticipated.

A cheering assessment of the future of the planet.

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-08578-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller


A collection of articulate, forceful speeches made from September 2018 to September 2019 by the Swedish climate activist who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Speaking in such venues as the European and British Parliaments, the French National Assembly, the Austrian World Summit, and the U.N. General Assembly, Thunberg has always been refreshingly—and necessarily—blunt in her demands for action from world leaders who refuse to address climate change. With clarity and unbridled passion, she presents her message that climate change is an emergency that must be addressed immediately, and she fills her speeches with punchy sound bites delivered in her characteristic pull-no-punches style: “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.” In speech after speech, to persuade her listeners, she cites uncomfortable, even alarming statistics about global temperature rise and carbon dioxide emissions. Although this inevitably makes the text rather repetitive, the repetition itself has an impact, driving home her point so that no one can fail to understand its importance. Thunberg varies her style for different audiences. Sometimes it is the rousing “our house is on fire” approach; other times she speaks more quietly about herself and her hopes and her dreams. When addressing the U.S. Congress, she knowingly calls to mind the words and deeds of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy. The last speech in the book ends on a note that is both challenging and upbeat: “We are the change and change is coming.” The edition published in Britain earlier this year contained 11 speeches; this updated edition has 16, all worth reading.

A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-14-313356-8

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2019

Did you like this book?

An authoritative, engaging study of plant life, accessible to younger readers as well as adults.


A neurobiologist reveals the interconnectedness of the natural world through stories of plant migration.

In this slim but well-packed book, Mancuso (Plant Science/Univ. of Florence; The Revolutionary Genius of Plants: A New Understanding of Plant Intelligence and Behavior, 2018, etc.) presents an illuminating and surprisingly lively study of plant life. He smoothly balances expansive historical exploration with recent scientific research through stories of how various plant species are capable of migrating to locations throughout the world by means of air, water, and even via animals. They often continue to thrive in spite of dire obstacles and environments. One example is the response of plants following the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Three decades later, the abandoned “Exclusion Zone” is now entirely covered by an enormous assortment of thriving plants. Mancuso also tracks the journeys of several species that might be regarded as invasive. “Why…do we insist on labeling as ‘invasive’ all those plants that, with great success, have managed to occupy new territories?” asks the author. “On a closer look, the invasive plants of today are the native flora of the future, just as the invasive species of the past are a fundamental part of our ecosystem today.” Throughout, Mancuso persuasively articulates why an understanding and appreciation of how nature is interconnected is vital to the future of our planet. “In nature everything is connected,” he writes. “This simple law that humans don’t seem to understand has a corollary: the extinction of a species, besides being a calamity in and of itself, has unforeseeable consequences for the system to which the species belongs.” The book is not without flaws. The loosely imagined watercolor renderings are vague and fail to effectively complement Mancuso’s richly descriptive prose or satisfy readers’ curiosity. Even without actual photos and maps, it would have been beneficial to readers to include more finely detailed plant and map renderings.

An authoritative, engaging study of plant life, accessible to younger readers as well as adults.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-63542-991-6

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Other Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet