A book that suggests that doing whatever you can is better than doing nothing.

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TALES FROM AN UNCERTAIN WORLD

WHAT OTHER ASSORTED DISASTERS CAN TEACH US ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE

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.

Pub Date: April 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-60938-553-8

Page Count: 170

Publisher: Univ. of Iowa

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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Whether you call this a personal story or nature writing, it’s poignant, thoughtful and moving—and likely to become a...

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H IS FOR HAWK

An inspired, beautiful and absorbing account of a woman battling grief—with a goshawk.

Following the sudden death of her father, Macdonald (History and Philosophy/Cambridge Univ.; Falcon, 2006, etc.) tried staving off deep depression with a unique form of personal therapy: the purchase and training of an English goshawk, which she named Mabel. Although a trained falconer, the author chose a raptor both unfamiliar and unpredictable, a creature of mad confidence that became a means of working against madness. “The hawk was everything I wanted to be: solitary, self-possessed, free from grief, and numb to the hurts of human life,” she writes. As a devotee of birds of prey since girlhood, Macdonald knew the legends and the literature, particularly the cautionary example of The Once and Future King author T.H. White, whose 1951 book The Goshawk details his own painful battle to master his title subject. Macdonald dramatically parallels her own story with White’s, achieving a remarkable imaginative sympathy with the writer, a lonely, tormented homosexual fighting his own sadomasochistic demons. Even as she was learning from White’s mistakes, she found herself very much in his shoes, watching her life fall apart as the painfully slow bonding process with Mabel took over. Just how much do animals and humans have in common? The more Macdonald got to know her, the more Mabel confounded her notions about what the species was supposed to represent. Is a hawk a symbol of might or independence, or is that just our attempt to remake the animal world in our own image? Writing with breathless urgency that only rarely skirts the melodramatic, Macdonald broadens her scope well beyond herself to focus on the antagonism between people and the environment.

Whether you call this a personal story or nature writing, it’s poignant, thoughtful and moving—and likely to become a classic in either genre.

Pub Date: March 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0802123411

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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An authoritative, engaging study of plant life, accessible to younger readers as well as adults.

THE INCREDIBLE JOURNEY OF PLANTS

A neurobiologist reveals the interconnectedness of the natural world through stories of plant migration.

In this slim but well-packed book, Mancuso (Plant Science/Univ. of Florence; The Revolutionary Genius of Plants: A New Understanding of Plant Intelligence and Behavior, 2018, etc.) presents an illuminating and surprisingly lively study of plant life. He smoothly balances expansive historical exploration with recent scientific research through stories of how various plant species are capable of migrating to locations throughout the world by means of air, water, and even via animals. They often continue to thrive in spite of dire obstacles and environments. One example is the response of plants following the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Three decades later, the abandoned “Exclusion Zone” is now entirely covered by an enormous assortment of thriving plants. Mancuso also tracks the journeys of several species that might be regarded as invasive. “Why…do we insist on labeling as ‘invasive’ all those plants that, with great success, have managed to occupy new territories?” asks the author. “On a closer look, the invasive plants of today are the native flora of the future, just as the invasive species of the past are a fundamental part of our ecosystem today.” Throughout, Mancuso persuasively articulates why an understanding and appreciation of how nature is interconnected is vital to the future of our planet. “In nature everything is connected,” he writes. “This simple law that humans don’t seem to understand has a corollary: the extinction of a species, besides being a calamity in and of itself, has unforeseeable consequences for the system to which the species belongs.” The book is not without flaws. The loosely imagined watercolor renderings are vague and fail to effectively complement Mancuso’s richly descriptive prose or satisfy readers’ curiosity. Even without actual photos and maps, it would have been beneficial to readers to include more finely detailed plant and map renderings.

An authoritative, engaging study of plant life, accessible to younger readers as well as adults.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-63542-991-6

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Other Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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