In this well-written, significant book, Biello insists that humans, the world's most successful invasive species, have the...

THE UNNATURAL WORLD

THE RACE TO REMAKE CIVILIZATION IN EARTH'S NEWEST AGE

In his first book, Scientific American editor Biello argues that it is not a lack of money or technology that prevents our addressing environmental and societal ills but rather a lack of motivation.

The author, who hosts the ongoing PBS documentary Beyond the Light Switch, believes we are writing a new chapter in the history of the Earth, much of it composed in ignorance. We are terraforming our own world without conscious design, exerting global influence without the exercise of global responsibility. The linchpin of his book is the Anthropocene, the idea of a geologic epoch in which humankind represents the world-changing force of nature for the first time. Biello's stance and sympathies are quite clear, but he thankfully avoids polemics. His approach is unusually balanced; he is keen to show that every coin has a second face, not least the face of hope vs. despair. As the author notes, we must mature as a species, ditch short-term thinking, and recognize that we are now influencing outcomes in ways we can't foresee. It is our fate—not just the planet's—that hangs in the balance. Biello advocates a fundamentally new perspective on where we live and how, assuring that we have the tools to address almost any challenge, if not yet the will. His book is also an expansive ecological “history” of past, present, and future. Exceptionally well-researched if occasionally repetitive, the book is crammed with astonishing facts and fascinating speculations. Biello examines the inefficiencies of our neo-fossil age, the nature and origins of the city, wildness (as opposed to “wilderness”), humanity's role in the pace of extinctions, the appalling lack of electricity and clean water in much of the world, a new space race, waste as the foundation of modern society, and varied concepts of geoengineering.

In this well-written, significant book, Biello insists that humans, the world's most successful invasive species, have the ability to engage in planetary protection and human survival, but it will require wisdom, innovation, and restraint.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4390-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Sept. 17, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

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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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As much a work of philosophy as of physics and full of insights for readers willing to work hard.

THE ORDER OF TIME

Undeterred by a subject difficult to pin down, Italian theoretical physicist Rovelli (Reality Is Not What It Seems: The Journey to Quantum Gravity, 2017, etc.) explains his thoughts on time.

Other scientists have written primers on the concept of time for a general audience, but Rovelli, who also wrote the bestseller Seven Brief Lessons on Physics, adds his personal musings, which are astute and rewarding but do not make for an easy read. “We conventionally think of time,” he writes, “as something simple and fundamental that flows uniformly, independently from everything else, uniformly from the past to the future, measured by clocks and watches. In the course of time, the events of the universe succeed each other in an orderly way: pasts, presents, futures. The past is fixed, the future open….And yet all of this has turned out to be false.” Rovelli returns again and again to the ideas of three legendary men. Aristotle wrote that things change continually. What we call “time” is the measurement of that change. If nothing changed, time would not exist. Newton disagreed. While admitting the existence of a time that measures events, he insisted that there is an absolute “true time” that passes relentlessly. If the universe froze, time would roll on. To laymen, this may seem like common sense, but most philosophers are not convinced. Einstein asserted that both are right. Aristotle correctly explained that time flows in relation to something else. Educated laymen know that clocks register different times when they move or experience gravity. Newton’s absolute exists, but as a special case in Einstein’s curved space-time. According to Rovelli, our notion of time dissolves as our knowledge grows; complex features swell and then retreat and perhaps vanish entirely. Furthermore, equations describing many fundamental physical phenomena don’t require time.

As much a work of philosophy as of physics and full of insights for readers willing to work hard.

Pub Date: May 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-1610-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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