Solid research underlies a tragic story with explosive implications. (8 pages b&w photographs, not seen)




A Portland Oregonian science reporter investigates two recent volcanic eruptions in Colombia and skewers a scientist/survivor of the latter tragedy for misrepresenting his role and taking credit for the discoveries of others.

Bruce begins on the summit of Mt. Galeras, whose 1993 eruption killed nine people who were exploring the crater at the time: three sightseers and six scientists. But, she declares, it is not possible to understand that tragedy without knowing something of the prior, and far more destructive one that took place in 1985, when Nevado del Ruiz exploded and sent a surging river of mud 60 to 100 feet high through the towns of Chinchiná and Armero, killing more than 23,000 people. Bruce tells the story of that disaster in great and grim detail, with an interruption for some geological history of Colombia, then returns to Galeras and describes some of its prior eruptions. She also introduces seismologist Bernard Chouet, one of the heroes of this tale, whose pathfinding discoveries of “long-period events” have proved the most accurate predictors of eruptions. And we meet the principal villain, Stanley Williams, a vainglorious chemist specializing in volcanic emissions. Bruce cites other volcanologists who disdain Williams’s belief that the chemical composition of volcanic gases has predictive value, then chronicles the January 1993 scientific conference near Galeras and the fateful expedition into the crater led by Williams, whom the author blames for insufficient safety precautions and for unsavory self-aggrandizement after the incident. (Williams repeatedly told representatives of the news media—whom he contacted aggressively—that he had been the only survivor. For his own version of the story, see p. 248.) Bruce portrays Williams as unrepentant and academically dishonest—serious charges, well documented. By contrast, two heroic scientists, Patty Mothes and Marta Calvache, risked their lives, descending into the smoking crater to look for survivors. The author includes much sanguinary detail of wounds and carnage (visible brain matter and cooked flesh) and sometimes permits a hackneyed phrase to impede her otherwise swift narrative (e.g., “Seconds seemed like hours”).

Solid research underlies a tragic story with explosive implications. (8 pages b&w photographs, not seen)

Pub Date: April 2, 2001

ISBN: 0-06-019920-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2001

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A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

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A collection of articulate, forceful speeches made from September 2018 to September 2019 by the Swedish climate activist who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Speaking in such venues as the European and British Parliaments, the French National Assembly, the Austrian World Summit, and the U.N. General Assembly, Thunberg has always been refreshingly—and necessarily—blunt in her demands for action from world leaders who refuse to address climate change. With clarity and unbridled passion, she presents her message that climate change is an emergency that must be addressed immediately, and she fills her speeches with punchy sound bites delivered in her characteristic pull-no-punches style: “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.” In speech after speech, to persuade her listeners, she cites uncomfortable, even alarming statistics about global temperature rise and carbon dioxide emissions. Although this inevitably makes the text rather repetitive, the repetition itself has an impact, driving home her point so that no one can fail to understand its importance. Thunberg varies her style for different audiences. Sometimes it is the rousing “our house is on fire” approach; other times she speaks more quietly about herself and her hopes and her dreams. When addressing the U.S. Congress, she knowingly calls to mind the words and deeds of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy. The last speech in the book ends on a note that is both challenging and upbeat: “We are the change and change is coming.” The edition published in Britain earlier this year contained 11 speeches; this updated edition has 16, all worth reading.

A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-14-313356-8

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2019

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An authoritative, engaging study of plant life, accessible to younger readers as well as adults.


A neurobiologist reveals the interconnectedness of the natural world through stories of plant migration.

In this slim but well-packed book, Mancuso (Plant Science/Univ. of Florence; The Revolutionary Genius of Plants: A New Understanding of Plant Intelligence and Behavior, 2018, etc.) presents an illuminating and surprisingly lively study of plant life. He smoothly balances expansive historical exploration with recent scientific research through stories of how various plant species are capable of migrating to locations throughout the world by means of air, water, and even via animals. They often continue to thrive in spite of dire obstacles and environments. One example is the response of plants following the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Three decades later, the abandoned “Exclusion Zone” is now entirely covered by an enormous assortment of thriving plants. Mancuso also tracks the journeys of several species that might be regarded as invasive. “Why…do we insist on labeling as ‘invasive’ all those plants that, with great success, have managed to occupy new territories?” asks the author. “On a closer look, the invasive plants of today are the native flora of the future, just as the invasive species of the past are a fundamental part of our ecosystem today.” Throughout, Mancuso persuasively articulates why an understanding and appreciation of how nature is interconnected is vital to the future of our planet. “In nature everything is connected,” he writes. “This simple law that humans don’t seem to understand has a corollary: the extinction of a species, besides being a calamity in and of itself, has unforeseeable consequences for the system to which the species belongs.” The book is not without flaws. The loosely imagined watercolor renderings are vague and fail to effectively complement Mancuso’s richly descriptive prose or satisfy readers’ curiosity. Even without actual photos and maps, it would have been beneficial to readers to include more finely detailed plant and map renderings.

An authoritative, engaging study of plant life, accessible to younger readers as well as adults.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-63542-991-6

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Other Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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