Thursday, December 30, 2010

Field Notes from a Catastrophe

Field Notes from a Catastrophe by Elizabeth Kolbert is a direct indictment of U.S. handling of the climate change crisis during the Bush regime. I thought I was a pretty hip environmentalist, but I never knew that we knew what was going on with the climate as far back as 1979, during the Carter administration. In fact, since that time, the Nation Academy of Science has published more than 200 studies on the subject.

On the subject of climate change denialists, Kolbert deals with them briefly and succinctly. The first person to indicate that there was a natural fluctuation in the Earth’s climate (which there does exist) indicated that we will be reaching the climate change levels that we are now approaching in 4,860. If that doesn’t alarm everyone reading this review, check and see if you are still alive! Another climate scientist predicts that by the year 2100, most of Earth will be destroyed. He adds, however, that this is “extreme sort of view.”

Animals and objects are affected by climate change, not just people. The Comma butterfly has had a “remarkable” increasing range, while the Golden toad is soon to be extinct because no one has seen it in the past decade. If Alaska’s permafrost thaws, it will be the first time that ground has been unfrozen in a 120,000 years. We have no idea what that kind of change will mean for us a species. We are beginning “a completely new climate regime.”

During the Bush years policies which made nonsense such as “We Act, We Learn, We Act Again.” During an interview with Bush’s former undersecretary Paula Dobriansky the aforementioned quote was uttered, the author gathered that these "actions" did nothing to reduce actual carbon emissions. I agree!

The exposure of such information may cause us to feel hopeless, but this is not a completely depression book. The author joyfully highlights the efforts of cities like Burlington, Vermont which is the U.S. city most actively combating climate change. She also highlights the U.S. mayors climate protection agreement for which mayors of cities and towns all across the country have decided to voluntarily equip their city to meet or exceed the Kyoto protocols.

I would rate this book an 8 out of 10. It’s funny at times, well-told, well-researched. The author maintains a particularly humorous demeanor throughout the book in a style similar to Barbara Ehrenreich (see review 27).

Still, in the end, no amount of sugarcoating and personal responsibility can avoid the fact that we are heating up the planet to the highest temperatures its ever reached “since our species evolved. “ Even though Bush is thankfully out of office, read this book. It will make you mad enough to make Obama do something.

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