A debut environmental book examines the global-warming crisis in the age of Donald Trump.
Produced amid the environmental catastrophes of 2018—including a disastrous wildfire season, extreme heat records, and devastating hurricanes—this work presents a brisk walk-through of the ecological calamities, from declining biodiversity to the dangers of fracking. Written in a matter-of-fact style, the volume promises to “sort through the current condition of Earth as assessed by various global monitoring systems and organizations” and “discuss the major environmental problems facing our planet and its inhabitants.” Burns successfully offers a thorough, well-researched account of the impact of climate change and the political struggles in the Trump era, from Scott Pruitt’s reign over the EPA to the impact of Koch brothers–funded misinformation campaigns. The author intersperses her brief history of global warming and exploration of the present political situation with an impressive selection of quotations from sources ranging from 350.org founder Bill McKibben and Greenpeace to Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports. One chapter takes a deep dive into Trump’s Twitter archive, cataloging his climate-related tweets, from his disdain of clean energy to his love of coal. Other chapters provide brief descriptions of environmental groups and their advocacy work. Burns, who is a nurse, cites a wide array of ongoing litigation—like a complaint in a California court in response to the “Trump administration’s repeal of a 2015 Bureau of Land Management rule that set up fracking safety and oversight standards.” Unfortunately, the author spends too much time summarizing other writings without supplying enough analysis that is substantially new. It is refreshing, then, when Burns writes more personally, as when she recalls her experiences with pollution in Chicago (“I knew we were getting close to the Windy City when the smell changed to something toxic”) and shares her understanding of the public health issues relating to global warming (“I may be better versed in anatomy than I am in atmospheric science, but it’s still an easy line for me to draw from climate change to human health”).
A helpful resource for those curious about the climate-change fights, this work delivers a readable account of a weighty subject.