An expert effectively debunks the false narrative of denialism and advocates communal resistance to fossil fuels.

THE NEW CLIMATE WAR

THE FIGHT TO TAKE BACK OUR PLANET

One of the world’s leading climate scientists embarks on a journey into the minds of climate change deniers to try to understand their motivations and strategies.

Outright climate change denial is no longer acceptable, writes Mann in this blunt, lucid work of climate politics. Lobbyists and publicists for the fossil-fuel industry used to be focused on refuting the scientific evidence—models too unreliable, data too short, natural variability too unknown—but the new climate war is a softer form of denialism that seeks to shift the responsibility for climate change from the corporations who are producing the greenhouse gases to individuals (following the lead of the gun and tobacco industries) in a devious form of deflective accountability. Yes, Mann writes, individuals must act responsibly when it comes to the environment, but the necessary big-picture change will require massive action on the policy level—e.g., the 1987 Montreal Protocol, which combatted ozone depletion, and the 1990 Clean Air Act. Consistently displaying his comprehensive command of climate science and the attendant politics, he clearly walks readers through the disingenuous arguments about carbon pricing; the mechanics of receiving governmental incentives for renewable energy; how the energy market lacks sufficient incentives to build a new infrastructure; solar and wind energy scare tactics in right-wing media; the pitfalls of “clean” coal and geoengineering; “doomism,” which “leads us down the same path of inaction as outright denial of the threat”; and carbon budgeting (“every bit of carbon we avoid burning prevents additional damage. There is both urgency and agency”). Mann is a cautious optimist—he even sees signs of accountability in some Republican lawmakers—and he hopes that the Covid-19 pandemic will teach us something about ideologically driven science denialism. The author recommends a “delicate middle ground”: Individual action includes pressuring “politicians to support climate-friendly governmental policies,” and collective action seeks to solve systemic problems.

An expert effectively debunks the false narrative of denialism and advocates communal resistance to fossil fuels.

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5417-5823-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

HAPPY-GO-LUCKY

Sedaris remains stubbornly irreverent even in the face of pandemic lockdowns and social upheaval.

In his previous collection of original essays, Calypso (2018), the author was unusually downbeat, fixated on aging and the deaths of his mother and sister. There’s bad news in this book, too—most notably, the death of his problematic and seemingly indestructible father at 96—but Sedaris generally carries himself more lightly. On a trip to a gun range, he’s puzzled by boxer shorts with a holster feature, which he wishes were called “gunderpants.” He plays along with nursing-home staffers who, hearing a funnyman named David is on the premises, think he’s Dave Chappelle. He’s bemused by his sister Amy’s landing a new apartment to escape her territorial pet rabbit. On tour, he collects sheaves of off-color jokes and tales of sexual self-gratification gone wrong. His relationship with his partner, Hugh, remains contentious, but it’s mellowing. (“After thirty years, sleeping is the new having sex.”) Even more serious stuff rolls off him. Of Covid-19, he writes that “more than eight hundred thousand people have died to date, and I didn’t get to choose a one of them.” The author’s support of Black Lives Matter is tempered by his interest in the earnest conscientiousness of organizers ensuring everyone is fed and hydrated. (He refers to one such person as a “snacktivist.”) Such impolitic material, though, puts serious essays in sharper, more powerful relief. He recalls fending off the flirtations of a 12-year-old boy in France, frustrated by the language barrier and other factors that kept him from supporting a young gay man. His father’s death unlocks a crushing piece about dad’s inappropriate, sexualizing treatment of his children. For years—chronicled in many books—Sedaris labored to elude his father’s criticism. Even in death, though, it proves hard to escape or laugh off.

A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-39245-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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