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THE LAST WINTER by Porter Fox Kirkus Star


The Scientists, Adventurers, Journeymen, and Mavericks Trying To Save the World

by Porter Fox

Pub Date: Nov. 2nd, 2021
ISBN: 978-0-316-46092-7
Publisher: Little, Brown

Think these last few years of climate change have been weird? You haven’t seen anything yet, Fox warns in this ominous though beautifully written book.

“Things on earth are never the same for long,” observes writer and traveler Fox, who divides his time between Brooklyn and, it seems, everywhere else in the world. Transitory, however, doesn’t always mean natural. The author worries in particular that winter is disappearing. For heat lovers, warm winters might be welcome, but winter has a regulatory function that is essential to our planet’s heating and cooling systems and to its water supply. A new aridity now dries our forests and makes them vulnerable to wildfire. “The eight most fire-ravaged years in recorded history had all seen historically low snowpacks,” writes Fox. Indeed, much of Siberia, which has lately been seeing summer temperatures above 100 degrees, burns in season; Fox notes that a recent fire covered an area as large as the country of Greece, which, of course, has been blazing away this summer. The author has traveled widely to interview ski bums, glaciologists, Indigenous hunters, and explorers, and he smoothly incorporate their takes into the narrative. He often writes with a light hand—e.g., “it struck me that if Jesus had made it to retirement age and happened to wander into Central Washington, I wouldn’t be surprised if he followed Ed’s lead, bought a snowmobile and a pair of skis, and spent sixty days a year skiing bottomless powder.” Jesus on skis is a nice conceit, but Fox’s work is deeply grounded in science, as when he notes that in the Alps, “nearly every glacier under 11,500 feet is predicted to vanish in the next twenty to thirty years.” It’s the kind of book John McPhee would write if he were abroad in wintry places, and we’re fortunate that Fox has taken his place.

An essential addition to the library of climate change and one that ought to spur readers to do something about it.