An ingenious, if highly speculative, save-the-planet proposal that emphasizes science over politics.

BRAVE GREEN WORLD

HOW SCIENCE CAN SAVE OUR PLANET

How future technology can clean up the environment.

Physicist Forman and science writer and biologist Asher note the interesting datum that each day, a human “expends eight times the amount of energy released when a single stick of dynamite explodes”—but at a much slower rate. Slowness allows living organisms to metabolize with superb efficiency and produce waste products—mostly water, carbon dioxide, heat, and organic matter—that are not discarded but become energy sources for other organisms. In stark contrast, human creation and consumption dump waste into landfills or the atmosphere. The authors propose an alternative that replenishes resources and passes waste on to other industries for further use—a “circular economy” instead of our ruinous linear one. They emphasize that we must learn to grow material organically, just as wood, bone, silk, and others are grown in the real world: “How incredible would it be if a smartphone could be grown like an apple on a tree?” Using many dazzling illustrations, they deliver a capsule but definitely not dumbed-down education on the biology and thermodynamics that engineers must understand as they change the world. Skeptical readers will discover that two technologies that support the circular economy are already well along in development: additive manufacturing (3-D printing) and synthetic biology, which reprograms DNA “to give us complete control over the chemical tasks that biological cells can perform on our behalf.” The end result of these advancements, write the authors, will be a transformative, interconnected global system. Whereas the internet connects us to information, this “synthernet” would connect to the materials around us; allow us to recycle nearly everything, including our out-of-date smartphone; and then build the latest “biosmartphone” to order. Humans are superb problem-solvers, and the authors make a convincing case that technology will mitigate at least some of the devastation we are inflicting on the Earth. Readers unfamiliar with heterotic computing, photolithography, and other technical terms will appreciate the glossary.

An ingenious, if highly speculative, save-the-planet proposal that emphasizes science over politics.

Pub Date: March 30, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-262-04446-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: MIT Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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Unsentimental nature writing that sheds as much light on humans as on eels.

THE BOOK OF EELS

OUR ENDURING FASCINATION WITH THE MOST MYSTERIOUS CREATURE IN THE NATURAL WORLD

An account of the mysterious life of eels that also serves as a meditation on consciousness, faith, time, light and darkness, and life and death.

In addition to an intriguing natural history, Swedish journalist Svensson includes a highly personal account of his relationship with his father. The author alternates eel-focused chapters with those about his father, a man obsessed with fishing for this elusive creature. “I can’t recall us ever talking about anything other than eels and how to best catch them, down there by the stream,” he writes. “I can’t remember us speaking at all….Because we were in…a place whose nature was best enjoyed in silence.” Throughout, Svensson, whose beat is not biology but art and culture, fills his account with people: Aristotle, who thought eels emerged live from mud, “like a slithering, enigmatic miracle”; Freud, who as a teenage biologist spent months in Trieste, Italy, peering through a microscope searching vainly for eel testes; Johannes Schmidt, who for two decades tracked thousands of eels, looking for their breeding grounds. After recounting the details of the eel life cycle, the author turns to the eel in literature—e.g., in the Bible, Rachel Carson’s Under the Sea Wind, and Günter Grass’ The Tin Drum—and history. He notes that the Puritans would likely not have survived without eels, and he explores Sweden’s “eel coast” (what it once was and how it has changed), how eel fishing became embroiled in the Northern Irish conflict, and the importance of eel fishing to the Basque separatist movement. The apparent return to life of a dead eel leads Svensson to a consideration of faith and the inherent message of miracles. He warns that if we are to save this fascinating creature from extinction, we must continue to study it. His book is a highly readable place to begin learning.

Unsentimental nature writing that sheds as much light on humans as on eels.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-296881-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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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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