A powerful and provocative synthesis: first-rate science journalism. (20 line drawings, maps)




Sailing from Woods Hole to Barbados, a science writer waxes lyrical, analytical, and admonitory about the ocean she loves.

In a wonderful account that reveals an eclectic, comprehensive intelligence, Cramer creates a primer of Atlantic studies. (Throughout, she refers to “Atlantic” rather than “the Atlantic,” granting our oldest ocean a sort of member-of-the-family status.) She begins with some basic statistics (Atlantic is 32 million square miles and 12,000 feet deep) and states directly the question that propels her entire argument: “What hope is there for the sea if we do not love, nurture, and protect its life-giving waters?” Indeed. In virtually every segment she sprinkles depressing data and dire forecasts about the health of Atlantic. We learn about the effects of global warming, of ignoring the hole in the ozone layer, of over-fishing (there are virtually no cod remaining in New England’s waters, and Georges Bank—once one of the world’s greatest fishing grounds—has been closed since 1992), of stealing beach property from sea turtles, of pouring millions of gallons of untreated North Carolina hog waste into the ocean, of failing to control the use of nitrogen fertilizers in the Midwest, of being abusive stewards of a resilient but vulnerable resource. Cramer explains ocean currents, observing that the most rapid inland rivers are downright sluggish by comparison; she explains the relationship between the world’s weather and the Atlantic’s attitude; she has a lovely chapter on the Sargasso Sea and absolutely stunning chapters on the geology of the Atlantic, which first opened about 152 million years ago and will depart in another 200 million. If the history of earth were compressed into an hour, she says, the Atlantic would have existed only for the last ten minutes. Cramer employs some striking illustrative details—e.g., she demonstrates the Atlantic’s circulation by telling about some plastic toys, frozen in the pack ice near the Bering Strait, that may one day float up on a New England beach.

A powerful and provocative synthesis: first-rate science journalism. (20 line drawings, maps)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-393-02019-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2001

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Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science...


Bryson (I'm a Stranger Here Myself, 1999, etc.), a man who knows how to track down an explanation and make it confess, asks the hard questions of science—e.g., how did things get to be the way they are?—and, when possible, provides answers.

As he once went about making English intelligible, Bryson now attempts the same with the great moments of science, both the ideas themselves and their genesis, to resounding success. Piqued by his own ignorance on these matters, he’s egged on even more so by the people who’ve figured out—or think they’ve figured out—such things as what is in the center of the Earth. So he goes exploring, in the library and in company with scientists at work today, to get a grip on a range of topics from subatomic particles to cosmology. The aim is to deliver reports on these subjects in terms anyone can understand, and for the most part, it works. The most difficult is the nonintuitive material—time as part of space, say, or proteins inventing themselves spontaneously, without direction—and the quantum leaps unusual minds have made: as J.B.S. Haldane once put it, “The universe is not only queerer than we suppose; it is queerer than we can suppose.” Mostly, though, Bryson renders clear the evolution of continental drift, atomic structure, singularity, the extinction of the dinosaur, and a mighty host of other subjects in self-contained chapters that can be taken at a bite, rather than read wholesale. He delivers the human-interest angle on the scientists, and he keeps the reader laughing and willing to forge ahead, even over their heads: the human body, for instance, harboring enough energy “to explode with the force of thirty very large hydrogen bombs, assuming you knew how to liberate it and really wished to make a point.”

Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science into perspective.

Pub Date: May 6, 2003

ISBN: 0-7679-0817-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2003

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

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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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