A taut overview of humans’ environmentally shameful impact on the face of the Earth—plus its subsurface and supersurface.
From the “first flush”—that is, when Los Angeles experiences its first cleansing (read: deeply polluting) rain in autumn—to the “twenty-three thousand pieces of orbital debris larger than 4 inches (10 cm) across” currently being tracked by NASA, Kallen describes in aching detail the abuse we humans have heaped upon our nest. Scattered with sharp, supporting photographs, the text is a litany of malfeasance: landfill issues, incineration issues, chemicals and plastics degrading everything they touch except themselves, planned obsolescence, the petrochemical fiasco, the two-edged sword of recycling—stores offer free e-waste recycling, for instance, the better to lure in consumers to purchase new products. He dots the narrative with boxed items of especial infamy, such as “Black Monday,” the day in 1943 when downtown Los Angeles smog became a blackout. The one misstep in Kallen’s otherwise strong treatment of the topic is that he is, frankly, a downer. The tone is somber, and while there are examples of people taking positive steps, there aren’t enough to counter the gathering darkness.
We have met the enemy and it is us. But unless humans go extinct and nature goes her healing ways alone, we are the solution, a message grimly driven home. (Nonfiction. 10-16)