The world as we knew it Dispatches from a changing climate

Book - 2022

Including essays by Lydia Millet, Alexandra Kleeman, Omar El Akkad and others, this collection from literary writers around the world offer timely, haunting first-person reflections on how climate change has altered their lives.

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  • Introduction
  • From This Valley, They Say, You Are Leaving
  • Starshift
  • A Brief History of Breathing
  • What We Don't Talk About When We Talk About Antarctica
  • Iowa Bestiary
  • How Do You Live with Displacement?
  • Faster Than We Thought
  • Unearthing
  • Leap
  • Come Hell
  • After the Storm
  • Walking on Water
  • Mobbing Call
  • Moments of Being
  • Until This Snow Reaches the Ocean
  • Season of Sickness
  • The Development
  • Cougar
  • Signs and Wonders
  • Acknowledgments
  • Text Permissions
  • About the Contributors
  • About the Editors
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Brady, the executive director of Orion magazine, and Catapult editor Isen bring together in this powerful collection 19 essays on the climate crisis. In "What We Don't Talk About When We Talk About Antarctica," Elizabeth Rush describes researching a trip to Antarctica with the National Science Foundation, and reading other writers' accounts of the frozen continent. Beyond the frequent language of conquering and pioneering, she finds that "what remains is what the ice demands: that we work together in order to survive." In "How Do You Live with Displacement," Emily Raboteau compiles a diary of the first three months of 2020, each entry a chronicle of what "people in my network said about what they were losing," and in "After the Storm," Mary Annaïse Heglar spotlights the link between escalating natural disasters and racial inequality in the United States as she recalls visiting a Hurricane Katrina--ravaged South. The pieces create a moving mix of resolve and sorrow, painting a vivid picture of an era in which "climate change is altering life on Earth at an unprecedented rate," but "the majority of us can still remember when things were more stable." The result is a poignant ode to a changing planet. (June)

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Review by Library Journal Review

Nineteen essays on climate change from established writers (including Omar El Akkad, Rachel Riederer, and Kim Stanley Robinson) are gathered in this inspiring collection by Brady, executive editor of Orion magazine, and Isen, editor in chief of Catapult magazine. The contributions range widely, but most focus on regional climate conditions during the past few decades, including prolonged droughts in Arizona; invasive fish in Dominican waters; air pollution in Bangkok; a melting glacier in the Antarctic; and devastation caused by increasingly powerful hurricanes. Other essays detail the plight of impoverished people as temperatures climb; the spread of tick-borne diseases in the United States; Ugandan sacred lands lost to a hydroelectric project; the moral choice of whether to have kids in these times; the shifting of the California monsoon; and anticipation of the flooding of Florida. The final essay, by Australian novelist Delia Falconer, registers surreal "signs and wonders," reported by the media piecemeal, as human-caused disruptions of our biosphere. VERDICT These personal testimonies detail the effects of climate change on the writers and their communities now. Concerned readers may be inspired to take action.--David R. Conn

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Review by Kirkus Book Review

Prominent writers reflect on the personal impact of climate change. In focusing on how climatic shifts have been felt, mourned, and protested, this essay collection, edited by Brady and Isen, sketches an ecological transition point for humanity: a moment when older adults can recall a more secure past but not avoid confronting an increasingly ominous and insecure future. In "Faster Than We Thought," Omar El Akkad offers a poignant consideration of how the Qatar of his youth is steadily becoming both unrecognizable and uninhabitable: "Sometime within the next century, stories of life in this place--the stories that constitute almost the entirety of my childhood--will sound, to new generations, like fiction. The tether between what is and what used to be, constantly stretching under the weight of history and progress, will not stretch any more. It will snap." These essays investigate the myriad consequences of fast-developing, dramatic events, such as massive floods or powerful storms, and slower, more mundane happenings, such as incursions by invasive species and the gradual loss of land to rising sea levels. As the contributors make frighteningly clear, all these phenomena presage enormous challenges for life on Earth. Among the most powerful pieces are those that consider the intersection of scientific and spiritual assessments of climate change, as in Lacy M. Johnson's "Come Hell," a contemplation of how Christians in American farm country have reckoned with extreme and unpredictable weather; Rachel Riederer's "Walking on Water," which probes Indigenous responses to the construction of a giant dam, and the alarming disruptions to neighboring ecosystems, in Uganda; and Delia Falconer's "Signs and Wonders," an exploration of the complex dynamics of imaginative reactions to a biological apocalypse around the globe. Though there is a tilt toward American perspectives and many of the writers have a connection to New York City, overall, the book presents a diverse portrait of environmental awareness and distress. A collection of testimonials, by turns disheartening and inspiring, on the radical climate transformations now well underway. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.