A thoughtful history of, and popular guide to, the great African desert. (Maps, photos throughout)

SAHARA

A NATURAL HISTORY

A fully versed and admiring portrait of the Sahara, by travel-writer de Villiers (Water, 2000, etc.) and Hirtle (with de Villiers, Into Africa, not reviewed).

The authors explain that the Great Emptiness really isn’t empty: not only is it full of sand and wind and stone, but it’s also “full of creatures frequently deadly, full of refugees in secretive mountain fastnesses, full of traders and traffickers and travelers and trickery.” The writers break down their exploration of the region in two: place and people. As a place, they write in an evocative geography, the Sahara is three million square miles of ergs, regs, and inselbergs; of dunes that hop, that are blood red, that can run for 40 miles and climb 1,000 feet; is home to blind fish and crocodiles, vipers, kraits, and adders, lizards and gazelles, and maybe djinns; boasts mountains that are both sanctuaries and weather-makers; and has water, lots of ancient water buried deep. There’s also a fair share of humans and their histories, from Neolithic rock painters through the Garamanites, Berbers and Beni Hilal, the Fulani theocracies, Moor, Chaamba, Tuareg, and Tubu. And there are their towns, cities, and empires—Agadez, Timbuktu, Kano, the kingdoms of Old Ghana, Mali, Kanem-Bornu—and the caravan routes that linked them all to the interior, where salt, gold, and slaves were plucked and transported. De Villiers and Hirtle are careful to preserve the poetry of the desert—both the indigenous representations and the narratives provided by early Arab and European travelers—while at the same time making the place real for those to whom it is mostly a land of pure image: a sandy waste, a barren waterless sea.

A thoughtful history of, and popular guide to, the great African desert. (Maps, photos throughout)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-8027-1372-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Walker

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2002

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A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

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NO ONE IS TOO SMALL TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

A collection of articulate, forceful speeches made from September 2018 to September 2019 by the Swedish climate activist who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Speaking in such venues as the European and British Parliaments, the French National Assembly, the Austrian World Summit, and the U.N. General Assembly, Thunberg has always been refreshingly—and necessarily—blunt in her demands for action from world leaders who refuse to address climate change. With clarity and unbridled passion, she presents her message that climate change is an emergency that must be addressed immediately, and she fills her speeches with punchy sound bites delivered in her characteristic pull-no-punches style: “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.” In speech after speech, to persuade her listeners, she cites uncomfortable, even alarming statistics about global temperature rise and carbon dioxide emissions. Although this inevitably makes the text rather repetitive, the repetition itself has an impact, driving home her point so that no one can fail to understand its importance. Thunberg varies her style for different audiences. Sometimes it is the rousing “our house is on fire” approach; other times she speaks more quietly about herself and her hopes and her dreams. When addressing the U.S. Congress, she knowingly calls to mind the words and deeds of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy. The last speech in the book ends on a note that is both challenging and upbeat: “We are the change and change is coming.” The edition published in Britain earlier this year contained 11 speeches; this updated edition has 16, all worth reading.

A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-14-313356-8

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2019

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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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