A welcome anthology whose constituent pieces, all well written, retain every bit of their urgency.

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THE BILL McKIBBEN READER

PIECES FROM AN ACTIVE LIFE

An active life indeed—and, as prolific author/environmentalist McKibben (Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future, 2007, etc.) writes, even a charmed one.

McKibben got out of college in the early years of the Reagan administration and fell immediately into the welcoming arms of the New Yorker, whose editor, William Shawn, sent him out to live on the streets with the army of homeless that sprang up during that time. He escaped the “velvet prison” when new owner Si Newhouse arrived and Shawn was forced to resign, in the meantime having become aware of the physical realities of the world—that water comes from somewhere, that food doesn’t just magically appear, that everything connects to everything else. The result, ever since, has been a string of books, sometimes middling (Hope, Human and Wild: True Stories of Living Lightly on the Earth, 1995) and sometimes quite fine (Long Distance: Testing the Limits of Body and Spirit in a Year of Living Strenuously, 2000), that reckon with the real world in the strictest sense of the term. McKibben has emerged as a sharp but courtly social critic whose surveys are at once obvious and subtle: the experiment with watching 1,700 hours of cable TV that led to The Age of Missing Information (1992), for instance, that revealed to him the source of our autism in the medium’s insistent message, “You are the most important thing on earth.” Well, you’re not, says McKibben. The earth scarcely acknowledges us, but it needs our help all the same. As this collection of book excerpts and magazine pieces reveals, he has been well ahead of the curve in recognizing that fact and spreading the word: A decade ago he was arguing that global warming—an appellation that sounds pleasant enough—needed “a new, scarier name,” such as “Hell on Earth,” while two decades ago he was writing presciently of the various strains of damage that would yield what he called “the end of nature.”

A welcome anthology whose constituent pieces, all well written, retain every bit of their urgency.

Pub Date: March 4, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-8050-7627-1

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2007

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

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NO ONE IS TOO SMALL TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

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

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Exemplary writing about the world and a welcome gift to readers.

HORIZON

Distinguished natural history writer and explorer Lopez (Outside, 2014, etc.) builds a winning memoir around books, voyages, and biological and anthropological observations.

“Traveling, despite the technological innovations that have brought cultural homogenization to much of the world, helps the curious and attentive itinerant understand how deep the notion goes that one place is never actually like another.” So writes the author, who has made a long career of visiting remote venues such as Antarctica, Greenland, and the lesser known of the Galápagos Islands. From these travels he has extracted truths about the world, such as the fact that places differ as widely as the people who live in them. Even when traveling with scientists from his own culture, Lopez finds differences of perception. On an Arctic island called Skraeling, for instance, he observes that if he and the biologists he is walking with were to encounter a grizzly feeding on a caribou, he would focus on the bear, the scientists on the whole gestalt of bear, caribou, environment; if a native of the place were along, the story would deepen beyond the immediate event, for those who possess Indigenous ways of knowledge, “unlike me…felt no immediate need to resolve it into meaning.” The author’s chapter on talismans—objects taken from his travels, such as “a fist-size piece of raven-black dolerite”—is among the best things he has written. But there are plentiful gems throughout the looping narrative, its episodes constructed from adventures over eight decades: trying to work out a bit of science as a teenager while huddled under the Ponte Vecchio after just having seen Botticelli’s Venus; admiring a swimmer as a septuagenarian while remembering the John Steinbeck whom he’d met as a schoolboy; gazing into the surf over many years’ worth of trips to Cape Foulweather, an Oregon headland named by Capt. James Cook, of whom he writes, achingly, “we no longer seem to be sailing in a time of fixed stars, of accurate chronometers, and of reliable routes.”

Exemplary writing about the world and a welcome gift to readers.

Pub Date: March 20, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-394-58582-6

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018

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