FIRE AND FLOOD

THE TRUE HISTORY OF OUR EPIC FAILURE TO CONFRONT THE CLIMATE CRISIS—AND OUR NARROW PATH FROM HERE

A fine history of the battle against climate change that does not strain to predict victory.

Less a polemic than a history of carbon emissions emphasizing the major discussions and missed opportunities since climate change became a mainstream issue.

Linden, author of The Winds of Change: Climate, Weather, and the Destruction of Civilizations and other books, proceeds chronologically. He reports that while the 1980s saw tremendous progress in scientific understanding, there was still little public interest in climate change. Dedicated environmentalists focused on smog, poisoned rivers, whaling, and endangered species, largely neglecting the more pressing problem of global warming, and the ignorance continued into the 1990s. “The Kyoto Protocol, a limp attempt to reduce fossil fuel emissions, was enacted in 1997 but did not enter into force until 2005,” writes the author. “Despite the promises following 1988, nothing happened in the 1990s to reduce dependency on fossil fuels.” The first decade of the millennium was the warmest yet recorded, but the public ignored numerous warnings, and the business community continued its successful campaign to downplay the gravity of the situation, with climate change denial flourishing. Few elected officials make climate change an issue because it doesn’t help their election chances, and collective action is severely lacking. The issue has become especially partisan in the U.S., with Republicans solidly in the denial column and Democrats among the believers—at least rhetorically. By 2010, writes Linden, “the message from nature was loud and clear: climate change was already here and promised to get more dangerous and expensive.” Leaders vowed to lower carbon emissions, but they continue to rise. As in many similar books, Linden attempts to end on a positive note; his concluding chapter, “A Narrow Path to a Livable Future,” is modestly successful. Experts predict trillions of dollars in investments in renewables and a host of new jobs over the next 30 years. Restoring wetlands, reducing farm emissions, and halting deforestation will make a difference. Linden reports many commercial efforts to suck carbon from the air, but none have proven effective.

A fine history of the battle against climate change that does not strain to predict victory.

Pub Date: April 5, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-984882-24-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2022

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ELON MUSK

Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.

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A warts-and-all portrait of the famed techno-entrepreneur—and the warts are nearly beyond counting.

To call Elon Musk (b. 1971) “mercurial” is to undervalue the term; to call him a genius is incorrect. Instead, Musk has a gift for leveraging the genius of others in order to make things work. When they don’t, writes eminent biographer Isaacson, it’s because the notoriously headstrong Musk is so sure of himself that he charges ahead against the advice of others: “He does not like to share power.” In this sharp-edged biography, the author likens Musk to an earlier biographical subject, Steve Jobs. Given Musk’s recent political turn, born of the me-first libertarianism of the very rich, however, Henry Ford also comes to mind. What emerges clearly is that Musk, who may or may not have Asperger’s syndrome (“Empathy did not come naturally”), has nurtured several obsessions for years, apart from a passion for the letter X as both a brand and personal name. He firmly believes that “all requirements should be treated as recommendations”; that it is his destiny to make humankind a multi-planetary civilization through innovations in space travel; that government is generally an impediment and that “the thought police are gaining power”; and that “a maniacal sense of urgency” should guide his businesses. That need for speed has led to undeniable successes in beating schedules and competitors, but it has also wrought disaster: One of the most telling anecdotes in the book concerns Musk’s “demon mode” order to relocate thousands of Twitter servers from Sacramento to Portland at breakneck speed, which trashed big parts of the system for months. To judge by Isaacson’s account, that may have been by design, for Musk’s idea of creative destruction seems to mean mostly chaos.

Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2023

ISBN: 9781982181284

Page Count: 688

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2023

BEYOND THE GENDER BINARY

From the Pocket Change Collective series

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.

Artist and activist Vaid-Menon demonstrates how the normativity of the gender binary represses creativity and inflicts physical and emotional violence.

The author, whose parents emigrated from India, writes about how enforcement of the gender binary begins before birth and affects people in all stages of life, with people of color being especially vulnerable due to Western conceptions of gender as binary. Gender assignments create a narrative for how a person should behave, what they are allowed to like or wear, and how they express themself. Punishment of nonconformity leads to an inseparable link between gender and shame. Vaid-Menon challenges familiar arguments against gender nonconformity, breaking them down into four categories—dismissal, inconvenience, biology, and the slippery slope (fear of the consequences of acceptance). Headers in bold font create an accessible navigation experience from one analysis to the next. The prose maintains a conversational tone that feels as intimate and vulnerable as talking with a best friend. At the same time, the author's turns of phrase in moments of deep insight ring with precision and poetry. In one reflection, they write, “the most lethal part of the human body is not the fist; it is the eye. What people see and how people see it has everything to do with power.” While this short essay speaks honestly of pain and injustice, it concludes with encouragement and an invitation into a future that celebrates transformation.

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change. (writing prompt) (Nonfiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09465-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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