Meticulous almost to a fault, but flashing with human interest and keen environmental insight: an illuminating march through...

LEADVILLE

THE STRUGGLE TO REVIVE AN AMERICAN TOWN

Magazine journalist Klucas debuts with a patiently detailed unfolding of the environmental missteps that have marked the entire history of Leadville, Colorado.

The town sits atop an impressive array of mineral deposits: silver and gold, copper and manganese, molybdenite, and, of course, lead. This variety, explains Klucas, allowed Leadville to survive when other one-horse mining burgs went bust. During its heyday, the town hosted Oscar Wilde and Sarah Bernhardt at the opera, made a multimillionaire of Meyer Guggenheim, and generated enormous quantities of waste. Even during lean times, Leadville was a community tightly knit by friendship, camaraderie, and pride in its mining tradition. But tunnels often burped a gush of suspended metals into the Arkansas River, creating Technicolor hues. One spectacular belch coincided with the rise of environmental concern across the country, bringing the EPA, the CDC, and other federal agencies to Leadville’s door and earning it a reputation as the Rockies’ Poison Central. At this moment, the story gets really interesting, and the author’s clarifying touch pays off. The defenders of the environment came on like gangbusters, alienating the citizenry to such an extent that they found the EPA more toxic than the tailings. Klucas shows that all concerned parties acted in their own worst interests: the regulators creating a stultifying bureaucracy, the mine operators treating the problem as a legal rather than an engineering issue, the Colorado attorney general filing an absurd class-action lawsuit. “Any law that invites this much litigation is poorly drafted,” one judge commented, referring to the Superfund’s severe liability provisions and general clumsiness. “Why should you pass a law that is so complicated that everyone spends more on lawyers than they do on the technical side solving the problem?” Character sketches provide a refreshing break from all the legal squabbling and stalling; Klucas makes even the drab players as bright as the river.

Meticulous almost to a fault, but flashing with human interest and keen environmental insight: an illuminating march through environmental politics at a turning point in green awareness.

Pub Date: Nov. 22, 2004

ISBN: 1-55963-385-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Shearwater/Island Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2004

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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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The book is not entirely negative; final chapters indicate roads of reversal, before it is too late!

SILENT SPRING

It should come as no surprise that the gifted author of The Sea Around Us and its successors can take another branch of science—that phase of biology indicated by the term ecology—and bring it so sharply into focus that any intelligent layman can understand what she is talking about.

Understand, yes, and shudder, for she has drawn a living portrait of what is happening to this balance nature has decreed in the science of life—and what man is doing (and has done) to destroy it and create a science of death. Death to our birds, to fish, to wild creatures of the woods—and, to a degree as yet undetermined, to man himself. World War II hastened the program by releasing lethal chemicals for destruction of insects that threatened man’s health and comfort, vegetation that needed quick disposal. The war against insects had been under way before, but the methods were relatively harmless to other than the insects under attack; the products non-chemical, sometimes even introduction of other insects, enemies of the ones under attack. But with chemicals—increasingly stronger, more potent, more varied, more dangerous—new chain reactions have set in. And ironically, the insects are winning the war, setting up immunities, and re-emerging, their natural enemies destroyed. The peril does not stop here. Waters, even to the underground water tables, are contaminated; soils are poisoned. The birds consume the poisons in their insect and earthworm diet; the cattle, in their fodder; the fish, in the waters and the food those waters provide. And humans? They drink the milk, eat the vegetables, the fish, the poultry. There is enough evidence to point to the far-reaching effects; but this is only the beginning,—in cancer, in liver disorders, in radiation perils…This is the horrifying story. It needed to be told—and by a scientist with a rare gift of communication and an overwhelming sense of responsibility. Already the articles taken from the book for publication in The New Yorker are being widely discussed. Book-of-the-Month distribution in October will spread the message yet more widely.

The book is not entirely negative; final chapters indicate roads of reversal, before it is too late!  

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 1962

ISBN: 061825305X

Page Count: 378

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1962

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