Eaarth

Eaarth, by Bill McKibben

Since he first heralded our era of environmental collapse in 1989’s The End of Nature, Bill McKibben has raised a series of eloquent alarms. In Eaarth, he leads readers to the devastatingly comprehensive conclusion that we no longer inhabit the world in which we’ve flourished for most of human history: we’ve passed the tipping point for dramatic climate change, and even if we could stop emissions yesterday, our world will keep warming, triggering more extreme storms, droughts, and other erratic catastrophes, for centuries to come. This is not just our grandchildren’s problem, or our children’s–we’re living through the effects of climate change now, and it’s time for us to get creative about our survival. McKibben pulls no punches, and swaths of this book can feel bleak, but his dry wit and pragmatic optimism refuse to yield to despair. Focusing our attention on inspiring communities of “functional independence” arising around the world, he offers galvanizing possibilities for keeping our humanity intact as the world we’ve known breaks down. —Mari Malcolm

The world as we know it has ended forever: that’s the melancholy message of this nonetheless cautiously optimistic assessment of the planet’s future by McKibben, whose The End of Nature first warned of global warming’s inevitable impact 20 years ago. Twelve books later, the committed environmentalist concedes that the earth has lost the climatic stability that marked all of human civilization. His litany of damage done by a carbon-fueled world economy is by now familiar: in some places rainfall is dramatically heavier, while Australia and the American Southwest face a permanent drought; polar ice is vanishing, glaciers everywhere are melting, typhoons and hurricanes are fiercer, and the oceans are more acidic; food yields are dropping as temperatures rise and mosquitoes in expanding tropical zones are delivering deadly disease to millions. McKibben’s prescription for coping on our new earth is to adopt maintenance as our mantra, to think locally not globally, and to learn to live lightly, carefully, gracefully—a glass-half-full attitude that might strike some as Pollyannaish or merely insufficient. But for others McKibben’s refusal to abandon hope may restore faith in the future. (Apr.)

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