Environmental journalist McGraw (The End of Country: Dispatches from the Frack Zone, 2011) engages a handful of citizens—scientists and outdoorsmen, conservative and liberal—to gain a sense of our understanding of climate change.
It comes as no great surprise that climate change remains a contentious issue, drawn as it is from party lines rather than investigation, and the author examines what “may be the most consequential [issue] of our time.” McGraw is an aw-shucks reporter who wears his emotions on his sleeve, and he makes use of hyperbole to make a point, not as a position statement, as do the partisans who have hijacked and stymied the debate. The author may have found that there is reason to despair on the legislative level, but fortunately, he also found more openness to finding common ground among common folks and those who are in the trenches trying to decipher climate change. There is reason to be impressed by the grass-roots response, from evangelical Christians (“our Christian values—to love others as Christ loved us, to love our neighbors as ourselves and to care for creation—demand that Christians take action”) to New Jersey fishermen who have experienced “the increased acidity” of the sea, which is making “oyster shells weaker, while the carbon that caused it seemed to be making the oyster’s deadly enemy, the crab, grow to monstrous size.” Whether it is a freethinking Montana sportsman, a man who has farmed in southern Illinois for the last five decades or scientists—drawn mostly from Pennsylvania State University—who are gathering the data necessary to make informed decisions about how best to proceed, the author provides plenty of reasons for optimism because it is clear that people are not ignoring the issue.
McGraw discovers that the respectful middle of the road is the most likely place to find a bridge to a sustainable energy future.