An encouraging and diligently researched call to action regarding the most pressing issue of our time.

THE FUTURE EARTH

A RADICAL VISION FOR WHAT'S POSSIBLE IN THE AGE OF WARMING

A weather and climate change journalist envisions a 30-year plan for reversing the effects of climate change.

“A new era of urgently paying attention to nature has arrived,” writes Holthaus; in the introductory chapter, “A Living Emergency,” he delivers an alarming global overview of our current climate conditions. Vividly detailing the severity of recent hurricanes, wildfires, droughts, floods, and other natural disasters that have devastated large sections of our planet, he relates how each can be directly attributed to increased carbon emissions and how the levels in 2019 “were the highest in human history.” “We can no longer deny that weather in every corner of the Earth is different now,” writes the author. “That change is because of us. And we have the power to choose a different path.” Despite the substantial obstacles created by our current political landscape, which is driven by the financial interests of major corporations, Holthaus finds hope in the diligent efforts of leading scientists and environmentalists, the new wave of progressively charged politicians and the concept of the Green New Deal, and youth organizations such as the Sunrise Movement. All emphasize the urgency of finding ways to go beyond simply transitioning to electronic cars; we must radically shift from an aggressive, profit-centric growth economy to a “regenerative economy” focused on sustainability. In the second half of the book, Holthaus outlines a detailed plan by decade, leading up through 2050. Writing in the past tense, he somewhat optimistically lays out the results of these measures as having already taken place—e.g., “2020-2030: Catastrophic Success” or “2030-2040: Radical Stewardship.” In the chapter titled “2040-2050: New Technologies and New Spiritualities,” the author concedes that even with emissions possibly reduced to “two-thirds of current levels,” temperatures “will likely continue to rise” and may require the use of controversial methods of geoengineering, which include the concept of “planet-cooling aerosol technology.”

An encouraging and diligently researched call to action regarding the most pressing issue of our time.

Pub Date: June 30, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-288316-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: HarperOne

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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A lucid (in the sky with diamonds) look at the hows, whys, and occasional demerits of altering one’s mind.

THIS IS YOUR MIND ON PLANTS

Building on his lysergically drenched book How to Change Your Mind (2018), Pollan looks at three plant-based drugs and the mental effects they can produce.

The disastrous war on drugs began under Nixon to control two classes of perceived enemies: anti-war protestors and Black citizens. That cynical effort, writes the author, drives home the point that “societies condone the mind-changing drugs that help uphold society’s rule and ban the ones that are seen to undermine it.” One such drug is opium, for which Pollan daringly offers a recipe for home gardeners to make a tea laced with the stuff, producing “a radical and by no means unpleasant sense of passivity.” You can’t overthrow a government when so chilled out, and the real crisis is the manufacture of synthetic opioids, which the author roundly condemns. Pollan delivers a compelling backstory: This section dates to 1997, but he had to leave portions out of the original publication to keep the Drug Enforcement Administration from his door. Caffeine is legal, but it has stronger effects than opium, as the author learned when he tried to quit: “I came to see how integral caffeine is to the daily work of knitting ourselves back together after the fraying of consciousness during sleep.” Still, back in the day, the introduction of caffeine to the marketplace tempered the massive amounts of alcohol people were drinking even though a cup of coffee at noon will keep banging on your brain at midnight. As for the cactus species that “is busy transforming sunlight into mescaline right in my front yard”? Anyone can grow it, it seems, but not everyone will enjoy effects that, in one Pollan experiment, “felt like a kind of madness.” To his credit, the author also wrestles with issues of cultural appropriation, since in some places it’s now easier for a suburbanite to grow San Pedro cacti than for a Native American to use it ceremonially.

A lucid (in the sky with diamonds) look at the hows, whys, and occasional demerits of altering one’s mind.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-29690-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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A handful of pearls amid a pile of empty oyster shells.

THE COMFORT BOOK

Bestselling author Haig offers a book’s worth of apothegms to serve as guides to issues ranging from disquietude to self-acceptance.

Like many collections of this sort—terse snippets of advice, from the everyday to the cosmic—some parts will hit home with surprising insight, some will feel like old hat, and others will come across as disposable or incomprehensible. Years ago, Haig experienced an extended period of suicidal depression, so he comes at many of these topics—pain, hope, self-worth, contentment—from a hard-won perspective. This makes some of the material worthy of a second look, even when it feels runic or contrary to experience. The author’s words are instigations, hopeful first steps toward illumination. Most chapters are only a few sentences long, the longest running for three pages. Much is left unsaid and left up to readers to dissect. On being lost, Haig recounts an episode with his father when they got turned around in a forest in France. His father said to him, “If we keep going in a straight line we’ll get out of here.” He was correct, a bit of wisdom Haig turned to during his depression when he focused on moving forward: “It is important to remember the bottom of the valley never has the clearest view. And that sometimes all you need to do in order to rise up again is to keep moving forward.” Many aphorisms sound right, if hardly groundbreaking—e.g., a quick route to happiness is making someone else happy; “No is a good word. It keeps you sane. In an age of overload, no is really yes. It is yes to having space you need to live”; “External events are neutral. They only gain positive or negative value the moment they enter our mind.” Haig’s fans may enjoy this one, but others should take a pass.

A handful of pearls amid a pile of empty oyster shells.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-14-313666-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Penguin Life

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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