EARTH by Richard Alley


The Operators' Manual
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Alley (Geology/Penn State Univ.) brings the history of energy to light in this companion volume to a forthcoming PBS two-part special.

The author has a noble agenda—the deployment of good science as it pertains to human-caused and natural climate change—and it’s bracing when he freely admits that his expertise (“a geologist-turned-glaciologist-and-climatologist”) has been the happy beneficiary of oil-company largesse. True to its origins as a TV investigatory series, Alley presents the big picture, but with lots of detail. His voice is avuncular and learned; the pace is leisurely, but each chapter’s short segments are punchy with well-researched information. He follows the scientists at work—“after admiring a new idea for a few seconds, a scientist’s job is to test it, to see if it is consistent with the basic laws of science and if it makes successful predictions not yet conducted”—and in that service he explores climate modeling; tracks historical climate change through sedimentary evidence, drifting continents and planetary orbit; and examines sun-spot cycles and temperature fluctuations. A firm believer in the greenhouse effect, he encourages us not to delay in activating energy alternatives, whether they are economic incentives to cut carbon-dioxide emissions or the panoply of offerings that include, sun, wind, plant, wave, geothermal, tide and hydroelectric. Today’s technology makes these feasible, though their application will take time, so invest in them now, as a few generations down the road they will be crucial.

An engaging, energetic study of humans and how we use energy—and should use it in the future. Stay tuned for the PBS special.

Pub Date: April 18th, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-393-08109-1
Page count: 416pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 2011


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