CHINA LAKE by Barret  Baumgart
Kirkus Star


A Journey into the Contradicted Heart of a Global Climate Catastrophe
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A unique, alarming portrayal of the American military-industrial complex, the crisis of climate change, and the nature of truth and despair.

In 2013, Baumgart was granted a rare visit to China Lake, a 1.1-million acre bombing range in California’s Mojave Desert, by way of a tour of the petroglyphs in the Coso Range. Accompanied by his mother, an ailing New Age climate change denier lured by the spiritual significance of the landscape, the author sought to investigate the military’s work in atmospheric alteration, examining our global climate crisis and its deep cultural roots through the lens of weather modification and geoengineering. Baumgart delves into the history of cloud seeding and its role as a Cold War weapon. Despite a dubious scientific reputation, related conspiracy theories, and public calls for caution, research in controlling weather progresses today at China Lake as modern cloud seeding is now used in the U.S. and around the world. Baumgart’s dreamlike, nonlinear narrative is composed of dizzying juxtapositions, illuminating the parallels and paradoxes of modernity and antiquity, devastation and healing, science and the supernatural. Resisting simple answers and constantly challenging assumptions, the author explores collective and personal anxieties surrounding human-nature relationships and the planet’s current peril, interwoven with childhood nostalgia and reflections on family, loss, and time. Summoning the absurd in the ordinary and exposing our rejection of our earthly home, he analyzes technocratic fixes to cultural problems and the unintended consequences of humans playing god, attempting not only to control nature, but to render it a weapon. Can man ultimately harness the world? Will the stars disappear? How will humanity respond to looming extinction? Can the Western world adopt a new narrative? How might we find meaning and cope with despair? In this striking, poetic literary debut, Baumgart examines these questions and others that are profoundly resonant in our time.

Nearly indescribable and utterly engrossing, this book is an urgent and terrifying cultural reflection, a startling look in the mirror.

Pub Date: May 1st, 2017
ISBN: 978-1-60938-470-8
Page count: 280pp
Publisher: Univ. of Iowa
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 2017


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