A sharp summary of energy potentialities, where the good and the bad reside in human hands, hearts, and minds.

ATMOSPHERE OF HOPE

SEARCHING FOR SOLUTIONS TO THE CLIMATE CRISIS

Flannery (An Explorer's Notebook: Essays on Life, History, and Climate, 2014, etc.) argues for renewed optimism in human capabilities to reverse the destabilizing effects of climate change.

For years, the author has been in the forefront of spreading the warning of climate change’s dire consequences to a broad audience. “This book describes in plain terms our climate predicament,” he writes, “but it also brings news of exciting tools in the making that could help us avoid climate disaster.” Flannery sees a decided change in governmental responsibility since the Copenhagen Accord of 2009, which suggested the possibility of international political cooperation, and the marginalization of the deniers, whom he finds “perverse. Even grotesque.” The author makes it abundantly clear where we stand—that we are far from achieving the 2 percent solution to global warming—but that there is also diverse, effective, and innovative activity toward cutting carbon dioxide emissions. This is occurring on the individual front—through digital interconnectedness and direct action such as disinvestment campaigns—and through the adoption of a long-view, “third way” of implementing projects that stimulate natural systems to draw the gas out of the air and oceans at a faster rate than we produce it. Flannery crisply outlines what is now known and conjectured about the human influence on climate change, exploring the long ragweed season, the nutritional degradation of crops, and the acidification of the oceans. There are roadblocks to alternative energy sources—as Ralph Nader noted, “the use of solar energy has not been opened up because the oil industry does not own the sun”—but Flannery also finds that money will drive the wind and solar power sources as they rapidly become more efficient. He also puts fracking under great scrutiny, and he makes an intriguing case for the capture and storage of the byproducts of the damage already done.

A sharp summary of energy potentialities, where the good and the bad reside in human hands, hearts, and minds.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8021-2406-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2015

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A quirky wonder of a book.

WHY FISH DON'T EXIST

A STORY OF LOSS, LOVE, AND THE HIDDEN ORDER OF LIFE

A Peabody Award–winning NPR science reporter chronicles the life of a turn-of-the-century scientist and how her quest led to significant revelations about the meaning of order, chaos, and her own existence.

Miller began doing research on David Starr Jordan (1851-1931) to understand how he had managed to carry on after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake destroyed his work. A taxonomist who is credited with discovering “a full fifth of fish known to man in his day,” Jordan had amassed an unparalleled collection of ichthyological specimens. Gathering up all the fish he could save, Jordan sewed the nameplates that had been on the destroyed jars directly onto the fish. His perseverance intrigued the author, who also discusses the struggles she underwent after her affair with a woman ended a heterosexual relationship. Born into an upstate New York farm family, Jordan attended Cornell and then became an itinerant scholar and field researcher until he landed at Indiana University, where his first ichthyological collection was destroyed by lightning. In between this catastrophe and others involving family members’ deaths, he reconstructed his collection. Later, he was appointed as the founding president of Stanford, where he evolved into a Machiavellian figure who trampled on colleagues and sang the praises of eugenics. Miller concludes that Jordan displayed the characteristics of someone who relied on “positive illusions” to rebound from disaster and that his stand on eugenics came from a belief in “a divine hierarchy from bacteria to humans that point[ed]…toward better.” Considering recent research that negates biological hierarchies, the author then suggests that Jordan’s beloved taxonomic category—fish—does not exist. Part biography, part science report, and part meditation on how the chaos that caused Miller’s existential misery could also bring self-acceptance and a loving wife, this unique book is an ingenious celebration of diversity and the mysterious order that underlies all existence.

A quirky wonder of a book.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6027-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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Unsentimental nature writing that sheds as much light on humans as on eels.

THE BOOK OF EELS

OUR ENDURING FASCINATION WITH THE MOST MYSTERIOUS CREATURE IN THE NATURAL WORLD

An account of the mysterious life of eels that also serves as a meditation on consciousness, faith, time, light and darkness, and life and death.

In addition to an intriguing natural history, Swedish journalist Svensson includes a highly personal account of his relationship with his father. The author alternates eel-focused chapters with those about his father, a man obsessed with fishing for this elusive creature. “I can’t recall us ever talking about anything other than eels and how to best catch them, down there by the stream,” he writes. “I can’t remember us speaking at all….Because we were in…a place whose nature was best enjoyed in silence.” Throughout, Svensson, whose beat is not biology but art and culture, fills his account with people: Aristotle, who thought eels emerged live from mud, “like a slithering, enigmatic miracle”; Freud, who as a teenage biologist spent months in Trieste, Italy, peering through a microscope searching vainly for eel testes; Johannes Schmidt, who for two decades tracked thousands of eels, looking for their breeding grounds. After recounting the details of the eel life cycle, the author turns to the eel in literature—e.g., in the Bible, Rachel Carson’s Under the Sea Wind, and Günter Grass’ The Tin Drum—and history. He notes that the Puritans would likely not have survived without eels, and he explores Sweden’s “eel coast” (what it once was and how it has changed), how eel fishing became embroiled in the Northern Irish conflict, and the importance of eel fishing to the Basque separatist movement. The apparent return to life of a dead eel leads Svensson to a consideration of faith and the inherent message of miracles. He warns that if we are to save this fascinating creature from extinction, we must continue to study it. His book is a highly readable place to begin learning.

Unsentimental nature writing that sheds as much light on humans as on eels.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-296881-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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