A fine account, but suspiciously upbeat: Hallowell’s local-boy optimism notwithstanding, the wetlands still hang in a very...

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HOLDING BACK THE SEA

Southern Louisiana’s vast wetlands are on the skids, and Hallowell (Writing/CUNY) explains the reasons behind their impending demise—and the halting steps being taken to bring them back to life.

Down where the Mississippi empties itself into the Gulf of Mexico are the wetlands of Louisiana, a wild tangle of grass, bayou, marsh, and swamp that has sustained a unique culture for hundreds of years. As Hallowell (Green Perspectives, not reviewed) understands the place, it is also an indicator landscape, a measure of our environmental regard, for this poor cousin to purple mountain’s majesty has until recently been thought of as wasteland, and how we treat the disenfranchised aptly conveys our concern for the greater whole. We haven’t done too well by the wetlands. The entire coastal system is tilting into the Gulf and with it is sinking a whole way of life, from food to music, businesses to language. The reasons for the land’s subsidence are understandable: a “combination of the Mississippi’s levees, the rise in sea level, coastal erosion, and salt water intrusion,” but its “restoration is one thing in fact, another in practice, and highly subject to interpretation.” And not only is history in jeopardy, but so too are the 2,000 miles of oil and gas pipelines now exposed to the storm surge of passing hurricanes, not unknown in these parts. Hallowell lays before us the major players and their visions of the future, and he imparts a sense of the land’s mystery and its anarchy of life—human, plant, and animal. The wetlands emerge in his view as a kind of commons, a place where a variety of human agents work in concert with nature, from oil company canal diggers to shrimpers to Corps engineers to alligator hunters (all of whom he profiles in compact yet mellow style).

A fine account, but suspiciously upbeat: Hallowell’s local-boy optimism notwithstanding, the wetlands still hang in a very precarious balance. (8-page photo insert, not seen)

Pub Date: July 6, 2001

ISBN: 0-06-019446-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2001

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An intriguing meditation on the nature of the universe and our attempts to understand it that should appeal to both...

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SEVEN BRIEF LESSONS ON PHYSICS

Italian theoretical physicist Rovelli (General Relativity: The Most Beautiful of Theories, 2015, etc.) shares his thoughts on the broader scientific and philosophical implications of the great revolution that has taken place over the past century.

These seven lessons, which first appeared as articles in the Sunday supplement of the Italian newspaper Sole 24 Ore, are addressed to readers with little knowledge of physics. In less than 100 pages, the author, who teaches physics in both France and the United States, cogently covers the great accomplishments of the past and the open questions still baffling physicists today. In the first lesson, he focuses on Einstein's theory of general relativity. He describes Einstein's recognition that gravity "is not diffused through space [but] is that space itself" as "a stroke of pure genius." In the second lesson, Rovelli deals with the puzzling features of quantum physics that challenge our picture of reality. In the remaining sections, the author introduces the constant fluctuations of atoms, the granular nature of space, and more. "It is hardly surprising that there are more things in heaven and earth, dear reader, than have been dreamed of in our philosophy—or in our physics,” he writes. Rovelli also discusses the issues raised in loop quantum gravity, a theory that he co-developed. These issues lead to his extraordinary claim that the passage of time is not fundamental but rather derived from the granular nature of space. The author suggests that there have been two separate pathways throughout human history: mythology and the accumulation of knowledge through observation. He believes that scientists today share the same curiosity about nature exhibited by early man.

An intriguing meditation on the nature of the universe and our attempts to understand it that should appeal to both scientists and general readers.

Pub Date: March 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-399-18441-3

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2015

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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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