Following a critically and popular debut, the lab girl turns teacher in a course on climate change.
As most readers know, a bestseller gives a fledgling author a bigger megaphone. In her follow-up to Lab Girl (2016), Jahren (Geosciences/Univ. of Oslo) uses it to show how issues that are clearly important to her are crucial to all of humanity and the survival of the world as we know it. She doesn’t use scare tactics or shrill warnings; unfortunately, “we kind of stopped listening. By now we’re quite practiced at not listening to things scientists say over and over again.” The author cites warnings about the dangers of fossil fuels dating to the 1950s and the linking of fossil fuels and the threat of global warming “as early as 1856.” Few listened then, and now the crisis is urgent. In matter-of-fact detail and conversational prose, Jahren interweaves biographical information about her Midwestern girlhood and takes readers on a journey with her to her current home in Oslo, where she moved in 2016 “because I am worried about the future of science in America.” She methodically takes us through discussions of food, especially regarding changes in production and consumption, and energy and the planet as a whole, emphasizing one central point: “What was only a faint drumbeat as I began to research this book now rings in my head like a mantra: Use Less and Share More.” Over and over, the author shows how the world divides between those who consume and waste more and those who live on much less. She explores not only food scarcity, but also lack of electricity and sanitary water conditions. She clearly shows how the amount of waste created by the privileged could provide plenty for those less privileged. “The earth is sick,” she writes, “and we suspect that it’s something bad,” and a cure begins with individual action but will require significant shifts in values and practices.
A concise and personal yet universally applicable examination of a problem that affects everyone on planet Earth.