An environmental scolding by climate activist Stephenson.
Yes, we’ve trashed the planet. Yes, we’re too busy doing our own thing to care. Yes, “it’s homicidal. It’s psychopathic. It’s fucking insane.” From a pulpit alongside Walden Pond, former Atlantic and Boston Globe editor Stephenson preaches these things righteously. The problem is, as he recognizes, that anyone likely to read this book is already likely to be converted, and it’s not the choir that needs the sermon. So it is that the author enlists other voices, climate and environmental activists who are doing interesting and useful things in the world, such as a New Orleans activist who has been chronicling the legacy of environmental racism along what’s called Cancer Alley and a Harvard Divinity student who’s done jail time for his direct actions. The project could have been a nicely Terkel-ian oral history, and such a book is much needed, but Stephenson is inclined to interpolate to the point that, most often, a paragraph of talking is followed by a paragraph of gloss. That gets tiresome, and it’s unfortunate, since some of the (mostly young) people being profiled have much to say, including one who quite rightly notes that many environmental issues pack more than one problem: racial injustice, economic inequality, food insecurity, and other issues often go hand in hand and resist easy solutions. Stephenson is to be commended for bravery in offering case studies that may well inspire monkey-wrenching, if not the constitutional convention one activist hopes for. He also risks being ridiculed for a few rhetorical stretches, as when, a stack of qualifiers to the side, he likens the environmentalists of today to the abolitionists of 1850s America. He gets points for acknowledging those stretches but demerits for having committed them in the first place.
Earnest and well-meaning but unlikely to sway climate deniers, Monsanto lobbyists, and others in need of convincing.