An intrepid band of scientists chases after carbon lurking beneath Arctic permafrost that threatens to destroy the world.
Teaming up with experts from the Woods Hole Research Center, science writer Scigliano (Seeing the Elephant, 2006, etc.) and photographer Linder (Science on Ice, 2011, etc.) tell the bleak true story of Arctic regions whose permafrost has trapped deadly carbon. (“Permafrost soils are rich in carbon—the legacy of the grasslands, peatlands, and forests of past epochs, protected by freezing from microbial breakdown.”) Now, with Earth’s temperature rising, these greenhouse emissions threaten to unleash untold devastation on the planet: “As it thaws, the Arctic’s permafrost has the potential to upend the lives of people living in seaside condos in Miami, in exurban dream houses overlooking scenic wildlands in California...and in flimsy houses perched precariously on slippery hillsides in Haiti and on the floodplains of Bangladesh.” But far from being a despairing portrayal, this work celebrates some undergraduate researchers, directed by a group of experienced and knowledgeable scientists from Woods Hole, as they travel to Arctic regions studying this potential catastrophe with an enthusiasm and engagement that prove courageous and inspirational. Here, in the Arctic taiga (forests) and tundra, these researchers are depicted in their daily investigative pursuits in Scigliano’s text—written with scientists/debut authors Holmes, Natali, and Schade—and Linder’s color photographs. The young team members display such a passion and joy in their love of science and the exacting and repetitive work of gathering important information that they will capture readers’ hearts and minds through the many beautifully shot images and lucid prose that support this illuminating venture. Enhanced by sidebars that skillfully detail the lives and backgrounds of the young band and their mentors from Woods Hole, this volume is a tribute to the years of amassing compelling research into this problem that threatens to release more greenhouse emissions than humans will know what to do with. The book demonstrates the demanding activity of collecting data that is an antidote to the depression and helplessness many feel in the face of climate change. In its splendid design, well-written text, and revealing photos of the Arctic world and those who probe the impact of thawing permafrost on the climate, this book perfectly captures this critical issue and those who are meeting the challenge.
This wondrous and timely work—featuring stunning photos—explores a crucial environmental problem that endangers the planet.