I have always said that I’m an environmentalist but not a naturalist. I’m an environmentalist largely because I had so much pleasure outdoors as a kid: camp on the ever-magnificent Lake George in New York, climbing and hiking in the Adirondacks, skiing in the Green Mountains, traveling around the American West one memorable summer, playing ball in the fall and spring. I was blessed that way. My wife and daughter have imbibed much of that love of the great outdoors. I have never gained, however, a great deal of a grasp of the inner workings of the natural world. Birders are all around me in Central Park during migration, but I can’t tell a hawk from a handsaw. The wonders of nature nevertheless never cease to astonish me. An article from last year absolutely mystified me with this fact: A species of beetle in South Africa, feeding on animal dung, like others of their cousins which are found on all the continents except Antarctica, roll their dung balls in a straight line at night by orienting with the Milky Way. Astonishing. The flash of color from a male Red-winged Blackbird once captivated me so thoroughly hitchhiking at dusk in Wisconsin that I realized it was my totem animal. When I watch trees waving in the wind, it seems to me that they are dancing in joy at the sunlight and air. Continue reading
I wrote about Cadillac Desert, the classic book about water in the American West, in September. Scores of millions of people depend on the waterworks that were built up over the 20th Century there, and many millions more benefit from the bounty of fruits and vegetables that grow there, much of it in California, where agriculture accounts for 80% of overall use. The story of Cadillac Desert, though, is that there has been a tremendous price paid for all that concrete, steel, energy, and the treasure needed to build and operate the waterworks. Environmental destruction has been catastrophic, lives were lost when dams broke, thousands of small farmers and their communities were destituted because the water too often benefited Big Ag, and the American taxpayer was bilked out of billions over time. Continue reading
The first part of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) has been out for a couple of weeks. Looking at the physical science, AR5 covers the full range of how greenhouse gases are changing the face of our planet.
One area that is getting more attention this time around is the ocean. As you can see here, for instance, as carbon Continue reading
Last week, there was a rally and March in New York City to send yet-another message to President Obama that the Keystone XL pipeline is a bad idea for the U.S. and for the planet. This picture juxtaposes two things of which we need more: loud and focused activism on climate change and superb green buildings like the Bank of America Tower. I’ve written here a few times about the KXL project. I’ve also had the privilege of interviewing one of the architects of the BofA Tower, Bob Fox, for my book. This building is also known as One Bryant Park and is one of the most advanced green buildings of its size in the world.
The salience of the opposition to the Keystone XL project is growing. One more indication is Elizabeth Kolbert’s eloquent essay in this week’s New Yorker: Lines in the Sand.
Well, the first review is in: The venerable Publishers Weekly, reaching thousands of publishers, librarians, writers, folks in print, film and other media, as well as agents, has given a thumbs up. The review notes that the book “…takes a broad look at efforts to combat the effects of climate change and finds much that is encouraging.” Later, it characterizes the book as “…a helpful synopsis of the world’s efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change.”
I mentioned Bill McKibben’s recent blockbuster article at Rolling Stone in passing the other day. If you didn’t know about the reality of the climate crisis before reading the article, you do now. This article may well have the impact that Elizabeth Kolbert’s Field Notes from A Catastrophe had a few years back. If you were only “concerned” or “cautious” – in the parlance of Yale’s ongoing “Six Americas” study – you’re going to be moved into the “alarmed” category. Continue reading