An impassioned call to action from one of the world’s foremost scientists. A book to be read by anyone on Earth who cares...

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ON THE FUTURE

PROSPECTS FOR HUMANITY

A renowned astronomer offers a cautiously optimistic take on the future of Earth and humanity—so long as we are willing to wisely use science and technology to protect the planet and its people.

Experts estimate that by 2050, the world will be host to 9 billion people, and “even by 2030 Lagos, Sao Paulo and Delhi will have populations above 30 million.” In these next few decades, we will also see advances in powerful technologies such as geoengineering, artificial intelligence, space exploration, and cybertech. These technologies have the potential to create enormous good for populations across the globe—and yet they also have the power for destruction on massive scales. In his measured and cleareyed analysis, Rees (From Here to Infinity: Scientific Horizons, 2011, etc.), who has served as the Astronomer Royal, a senior post in the U.K., since 1995, argues that both technological acceleration and restraint are needed for humanity to flourish in the long term. He pulls no punches in his criticism of the short-term thinking and localized politics that are common in today’s discourse. Moreover, he asserts that scientists and thought leaders must collaborate across disciplines and actively seek to engage members of the public. Only an expansive and inclusive plan can ensure that sustainable options exist for food and energy production. On the other hand, the author fears that without forward-thinking, sensible, and international initiatives to combat global threats such as climate change, nuclear weapons, and biological warfare, future generations may be left with “a depleted and hazardous world.” Rees is hardly the first to issue a stern warning about what lies ahead if complacency and consumerism rule, but his lucid, well-reasoned explanation of the stakes and inimitable prose lift this manifesto above the rest.

An impassioned call to action from one of the world’s foremost scientists. A book to be read by anyone on Earth who cares about its future.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-691-18044-1

Page Count: 260

Publisher: Princeton Univ.

Review Posted Online: June 12, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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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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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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