Humanizing the crisis of climate change helps a science educator see at least a ray of hope while sounding the alarm.
“We got ourselves into this mess,” writes Gardiner, whose jargon-free style has served her well in her previous books about science for children. “It’s time for some quick thinking to get ourselves out of it.” She admits that the challenges are formidable; not everyone agrees on the causes and extent of the mess or whether we’re even in much of a mess at all (though she shows that most scientists do). Even agreement on the problem—on how bad things could get and how soon—wouldn’t necessarily result in agreement on solutions. Nevertheless, the author places her faith in human agency and resilience, figuring that if the human race is the cause of the crisis, the human race might well provide the solution. She walks readers through a series of climate calamities—erosion, earthquake, flood, volcano—and shows how tragedy has brought out the survivalist spirit that has allowed communities to endure the worst and prevail. She suggests that even if we can’t predict the future, science is always improving in assessing probability. She also insists that remaining in denial is worse than whatever we might individually choose to do. “What is important to remember is that inaction is an action,” she writes. “Deciding to make no change is a decision….Deciding to not decrease the amount of carbon dioxide we are putting into the atmosphere is a decision to warm the atmosphere.” Personalizing the possibility of impending disaster can make if feel more real for readers, and stressing the actions an individual can take might diminish hopelessness. Yet many of the solutions Gardiner suggests seem like a drop in the bucket compared to the impact of corporations and governments on the environment, beyond the command of any individual and the scope of this book.
A book that suggests that doing whatever you can is better than doing nothing.