A powerful and timely collection on a topic that cannot be ignored.

TALES OF TWO PLANETS

STORIES OF CLIMATE CHANGE AND INEQUALITY IN A DIVIDED WORLD

The founder of Freeman’s and executive editor of Literary Hub gathers poems, essays, and short stories about global warming and inequality penned by writers from around the world.

Climate change is the most urgent crisis now facing humanity. But as Freeman (Dictionary of the Undoing, 2019, etc.) notes in his introduction, “large numbers of the world’s most powerful residents cannot grasp what it means.” Assembling the creative work of respected writers from both the developed and developing world, Freeman offers a sobering meditation on the future challenges that everyone will face. In her bleakly stark poem “Tracking the Rain,” Margaret Atwood reflects on how extreme drought is making itself felt in rich countries like her native Canada and how predictive technologies have been rendered useless by the randomness associated with climate change. In “Machandiz,” Edwidge Danticat takes up the theme of planetary overheating. With the devastating clarity that has become her literary hallmark, she observes the struggle of people from her native Haiti to survive political and economic problems now compounded by the brutal onslaughts of nature. “The Well,” a short story by Indonesian novelist Eka Kurniawan, tells the tragic story of how drought and floods destroyed possibilities for union between a boy and a girl from a tiny Indonesian village. Had nature been “kinder,” none of the losses that make their love impossible would have occurred. South Korean writer Krys Lee offers a thought-provoking fictional take on the consequences of living in a damaged environment. Citizens of an unnamed Asian city live with the ever present knowledge that the poisoned air they breathe through purifying masks and indoor filters may one day kill them. Fierce and provocative, this diverse collection shows that climate change is not just a problem for developing nations. One day, it will become a matter of life and death for rich and poor alike. Other contributors include Lauren Groff (U.S.), Aminatta Forna (Sierra Leone), and Sjón (Iceland).

A powerful and timely collection on a topic that cannot be ignored.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-14-313392-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Jan. 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science...

A SHORT HISTORY OF NEARLY EVERYTHING

Bryson (I'm a Stranger Here Myself, 1999, etc.), a man who knows how to track down an explanation and make it confess, asks the hard questions of science—e.g., how did things get to be the way they are?—and, when possible, provides answers.

As he once went about making English intelligible, Bryson now attempts the same with the great moments of science, both the ideas themselves and their genesis, to resounding success. Piqued by his own ignorance on these matters, he’s egged on even more so by the people who’ve figured out—or think they’ve figured out—such things as what is in the center of the Earth. So he goes exploring, in the library and in company with scientists at work today, to get a grip on a range of topics from subatomic particles to cosmology. The aim is to deliver reports on these subjects in terms anyone can understand, and for the most part, it works. The most difficult is the nonintuitive material—time as part of space, say, or proteins inventing themselves spontaneously, without direction—and the quantum leaps unusual minds have made: as J.B.S. Haldane once put it, “The universe is not only queerer than we suppose; it is queerer than we can suppose.” Mostly, though, Bryson renders clear the evolution of continental drift, atomic structure, singularity, the extinction of the dinosaur, and a mighty host of other subjects in self-contained chapters that can be taken at a bite, rather than read wholesale. He delivers the human-interest angle on the scientists, and he keeps the reader laughing and willing to forge ahead, even over their heads: the human body, for instance, harboring enough energy “to explode with the force of thirty very large hydrogen bombs, assuming you knew how to liberate it and really wished to make a point.”

Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science into perspective.

Pub Date: May 6, 2003

ISBN: 0-7679-0817-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2003

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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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