Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
In this sobering wake-up call, Gessner (Quiet Desperation, Savage Delight), a creative writing professor at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, recounts his 2021 cross-country travels to locales hit hard by climate change. Surveying the ravages of a warming planet, he tells of visiting 91-year-old environmentalist Ken Sleight at his farm near Pack Creek, Utah, where wildfires destroyed Sleight's home and cleared the way for a devastating flash flood a month later, calamities that sapped Sleight's "spirit to fight on." In Paradise, Calif., Gessner hears from weary residents who were still struggling to rebuild their lives after 2018's Camp Fire even as they were "again under threat of evacuation, this time from the nearby Dixie Fire." Throughout, Gessner waxes poetic on the existential questions posed by climate change, as when he writes of the impossibility of wrapping one's head around the scale of the problem: "We are all small.... For us there is only the trying." The focus on individuals impacted by global warming highlights the despair and other intangible costs of extreme weather, and spirited prose enlivens the proceedings ("The ocean spits forth foam as if rabid, and then builds up with great humpbacked power"). It's a meditative and elegiac look at a country on the brink. (June)
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Review by Kirkus Book Review
A climate change polemic that attempts to be less apocalyptic than most. Early on in his latest book, award-winning nature writer Gessner, author of All the Wild That Remains, presents a droll cartoon illustrating how to write a nature essay in six panels: "Find something. Contemplate it. Express awe. Quote Thoreau. Describe threats. End hopefully." Despite admitting that "my faith in number six is wavering," he aims to describe what the world will be like when his daughter reaches his age, in 2063. A veteran journalist, he has no trouble finding bad news. Climate change has damaged places he has lived--hurricanes in North Carolina, fires in Colorado--and he chronicles his travels to Norfolk, Virginia, where Atlantic tides are already rolling through downtown, and southern Louisiana. The latter has become a poster child for environmental ruin after a massive oil spill followed by a steady annual ooze and five recent hurricanes that have left a landscape of abandoned towns, crumbling homes, a forest of oil rigs that continue to provide close to 20% of U.S. oil production, and countless dead birds and other wildlife. Perhaps uniquely in the U.S., few quarrel with estimates that the region will be underwater within a century. Despite a few bright spots--e.g., Glen Canyon's lake in Arizona is not doing badly--the future looks grim, as the environment remains a low priority for most Americans and the subject itself has been swept up in witless sectarian politics. Gessner quotes veteran geoscientist and climate activist Orrin Pilkey: "What we are experiencing, along with the rising sea, is a tsunami of anti-intellectualism. Science is at a new low in the public's view….I think the coal and oil companies, aided by politicians, have done fundamental damage to science in this country. It's true we are not always right. But we deserve to be listened to." Excellent environmental journalism, light on optimism. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.