An ardent message about environmental peril.



A personal and historical exploration of how plastic blighted the planet.

Walking her dog one day, poet and essayist Cobb found a piece of black plastic—the inside of a car’s fender—outside her yard, a jarring discovery that inspired this wide-ranging meditation on war, waste, consumerism, racism, love, and grief. Weaving memoir, history, and anecdote, the author considers the political, cultural, and especially ecological implications of plastic, which, since it was patented in 1907, now fills nearly every corner of the planet. “Featureless, flawless, eternal,” and made into everything from buttons to atomic bombs, plastic has become Cobb’s obsession. “I wanted it to speak to me. I wanted it to tell me something about how to live. How to live now, on this planet, in this real life, as a member of the human species.” Working at the Environmental Defense Fund, Cobb spends her days conveying information about “planetary trauma and emergency,” a job that she does “to make others feel sorrow and concern, but not despair.” She must feed their hope “that money can heal the world. That by giving some of their money away, the privileged can help to stem the tide of damage, waste, and plunder embedded in our global economy.” But Cobb is acutely aware that systemic change is the planet’s only hope. Tracking her carbon footprint when she flies or drives, the author bears striking witness to destruction: Birds and fish die from plastic detritus; decades after World War II, the stomach of an albatross was perforated by a plastic shard from a bombing raid. Cobb also shows how Black communities are especially vulnerable. In Freeport, Texas, home of Dow Chemical, cancers are on the rise; in Mossville, Louisiana, refineries poison land and water. “Most of the plastic ever made remains with us,” writes the author, “circulating through water, living bodies, and the atmosphere—and the waste keeps coming.”

An ardent message about environmental peril.

Pub Date: April 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64362-038-1

Page Count: 340

Publisher: Nightboat Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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


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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A straightforward, carefully detailed presentation of how ``fruit comes from flowers,'' from winter's snow-covered buds through pollination and growth to ripening and harvest. Like the text, the illustrations are admirably clear and attractive, including the larger-than-life depiction of the parts of the flower at different stages. An excellent contribution to the solidly useful ``Let's-Read-and-Find-Out-Science'' series. (Nonfiction/Picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: Jan. 30, 1992

ISBN: 0-06-020055-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1991

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