“Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science” by Philippe Squarzoni (Abrams Comicarts, 2014)

Climate Changed

Except for those who choose not to face reality (and perhaps are ignoring some other realisms staring them in the face), climate change is taking place right now, and as each season and year passes, more signs seem to be made of its build-up to the inevitable that is quickly approaching in our near future. In Climate Changed, French author and artist Philippe Squarzoni seeks to educate not just the reader on the happenings of climate change, but also himself.

Climate Changed is partly a graphic novel of science and partly one of philosophy, as Squarzoni begins his tale with what a beginning really is, exploring the idea as himself in his own story, trying to decide where to begin to talk about climate change. As he gets started in this important story, he combines the facts with understanding and how he deals with them. There’s the juxtaposition of what scientists and experts are saying, as well as what the graphs and charts show to be an ongoing reality with Squarzoni in his own life agreeing to do various jobs and projects and then assessing the climactic affect he alone will have in doing said jobs.

Climate Changed is a sobering read, as it should be. It paints a bleak picture, because the future is now looking pretty bleak. Climate change is a reality and is happening right now and will continue to get worse as the years pass. It’s a fact. Not enough people are doing anything to really change it, and until we start having serious changes, such as water levels rising and forcing millions of people to leave their homes and move to higher ground; then changes will start to be made, but by then it will be too late.

As for the ending, there is no quick fix or easy solution. It’s already too late for that and it’s getting worse by the year. Right now it will take centuries for the world to return to how it was during pre-industrial times. Squarzoni spends the book showing the facts, but also grappling with his own personal demons over this. And at this point, that is what it has become a question of: not what can we do to stop climate change, because it’s already too late, but how do we live with ourselves, and what do we tell our children and grandchildren who are going to experience its effects far worse than us.

Originally written on August 14, 2014 ©Alex C. Telander.

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“Deep Future the Next 100,000 Years of Life on Earth” by Curt Stager (Thomas Dunne, 2011)

Deep Future

The only people who haven’t come to accept the fact that global warming and climate change is happening are those who are not facing reality, deluding themselves; and while many of us have ideas, thoughts and concepts of what climate change may bring over the next century, Deep Future goes one giant step further for Earth.  Curt Stager is an ecologist, paleoclimatologist and science journalist, who has written for National Geographic and Science magazine.  In Deep Future he goes into detail on what effect climate change will have on our planet not just over the hundred years, but over the next hundred thousand.

Stager makes clear two things early on in the book.  One is that the likelihood of the world falling into an ice age any time soon are pretty much impossible, as the required level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was far exceeded some time ago, regardless of whether the Gulf Stream stalls or not.  The other is that we are now living in a new age, which is coming to be known as the Anthropocene, better known as the Age of Humanity or the Age of Humans.  It is the age in which everything we have done and everything we do has a long-lasting effect on our planet.  Eleven detailed chapters with titles like: “Beyond Global Warming,” “Oceans of Acid,” “The Rising Tide,” and “An Ice-Free Arctic,” Stager doesn’t hold back in giving the grim news of the future of our planet.  The point that he makes clear is that this isn’t going to happen tomorrow; it’s going to take hundreds and thousands and tens of thousands of years.  We are also coming towards the end of our fossil fuels, meaning we will eventually not be able to continue heating up the planet any more.  A plateau will be reached in the far future, and then the earth will eventually return to normal in the very distant future.

While many of the devastating effects discussed in Deep Future will not come to fruition for a long time, they are nevertheless fascinating and disturbing to discover, and Stager is sure to keep readers informed of what they can do now to alleviate some of these seemingly inevitable events.

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Originally written on March 4, 2011 ©Alex C. Telander.

“An Ocean of Air: Why the Wind Blows and Other Mysteries of the Atmosphere” by Gabrielle Walker (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2007)

An Ocean of Airstarstarstarstar

Each and every day the people of the world go about their daily activities: going to school, going to work, going to help someone; all with little idea of the great ocean of air above them that has trillions of molecules constantly performing crucial reactions – much like the population below – with the aim of keeping this planet (and its people) healthy and alive.  An Ocean of Air by Gabrielle Walker is an excellent 235 page book that teaches you everything you could ever want to know about our atmosphere, its many layers, and the very air we are constantly breathing.  Part science book, part history book; An Ocean of Air provides a whole semester’s worth of knowledge and learning in just a single volume.

Walker is an award-winning scientist with a Ph.D. in Chemistry from Cambridge University.  As well as having served as climate-change editor for Nature and features editor for New Scientist, she is a visiting professor at Princeton University and has presented many programs for BBC Radio.  In An Ocean of Air, she breaks down the atmosphere into its components, explaining each in detail and in clear layman’s language, making it easy to understand for any reader.  Along with the science, she also goes into the history of when this air molecule or atmospheric layer was discovered, how and by whom.  Apart from learning the makeup of our atmosphere, the reader is also learning of great scientists and inventors of the past who were able to discover so much about something that is essentially invisible.

The book is split into two parts.  The first part, “Comfort Blanket,” explains what the air we breath consists of; the fascinating evolution of oxygen and why we cannot live without it, but at the same time it leads to our inevitable deaths; and how wind is formed and develops into the fierce and destructive hurricanes and tornadoes around the world.  The second part, “Sheltering Sky,” is where Walker explains the various levels of our atmosphere, their history and discovery, from stratosphere to ionosphere – which is constantly being bombarded with radiation from the sun, but causes a reaction that protects the complex life below.  It is here that Walker launches into the crux of the book, explaining the history of global warming from the invention of CFCs and the depletion of the ozone layer, to our present which is just beginning to look towards and understand the possibility of a doomed future.

Just as anyone can be amazed at the complexity of the human body and how it keeps living and moving with the millions of different processes and reactions taking place constantly, our atmosphere is seemingly just as complex and in some ways fragile.  Walker keenly points out that while carbon dioxide levels have spiked in Earth’s history, they are now at a level never recorded before, and continuously increasing.  Her intent is to inform and educate readers on what is happening to the atmosphere, and therefore the world, and with a further reading section, one can learn how to do their little bit to help this ailing planet.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on July 13th 2007 ©Alex C. Telander.

“Field Notes From a Catastrophe” by Elizabeth Kolbert (Bloomsbury, 2007)

Field Notes From a Catastrophestarstarstar

In Field Notes From a Catastrophe – dramatic title aside – Kolbert, a staff writer for the New Yorker, offers readers not a telling off story about how the human race is steadily destroying the planet, but an up to date factual guide to the reality of the world.  Kolbert simply offers the details and facts from first hand sources which can only be taken as truth and harsh reality.

Split into two parts, the first, “Nature,” offers four case studies into different parts of the worlds on the state of global warming and how it is affecting that particular area.  Starting in Alaska where a scientific group researching the effect of the melting ice in the Arctic are for the first time unable to find a large enough iceberg and able to travel further north than ever before; on to the real world rising temperatures and its effects on the planet; to the melting glaciers of Iceland where life is changing for both the people and the animal and plant life; to an apparent evolution of a species of butterfly and toad in the last fifty years.  “Nature” serves as a solid foundation on the current state of the world, segueing to the second part, “Man,” where the realities of our role in the current state of the world is fully revealed.  Again, with little opinion or evaluation on Kolbert’s part, just the statement of facts.

It is in these last six chapters of the book that the reader sees how the planet has been changed, what history tells us, how this is a unique period in the history of the planet, and how exactly we are to blame for it.  Juxtaposed with this are the steps that are being taken around the world to try to change this, as Kolbert returns time and time again to the United States and the Bush Administration’s blind eye to global warming, the greenhouse effect, and rising global temperatures.  And when the Under Secretary of State for Democratic and Global Affairs, Paula Dobriansky,  is asked to respond to these presidential decisions that seem to be made against the advice of the scientists and the will of the people, the repeated response – much like that on domestic and foreign policy – is: “We have a common goal and objective . . . Where we differ is on what approach we believe is and can be the most effective.”

Elizabeth Kolbert makes the reality clear and unquestionable.  The facts are there, the sources for the facts are also there to be checked and confirmed.  All that’s left is to accept blame and do something about it.  The question is: by the time the world gets around to reacting on a global scale, will it be too late?  There seems to be a focus in today’s day and age on the now, the current generation.  This idea is no more prevalent than in governments and administrations.  There’s little forethought or prediction on the part of our children and grandchildren; on the future generations who will be born into a world worse than ours and will have to fight harder to get by.  It makes me sad and long for 2009, when hopefully big changes will be made.

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Originally written on April 28th 2007 ©Alex C. Telander.

“Sixty Days and Counting” by Kim Stanley Robinson (Spectra, 2007)

Sixty Days and CountingStarStarStar

Kim Stanley Robinson has released the conclusion to his trilogy, Sixty Days and Counting, just in time!  The hardcover is out and the paperback will be out at Christmas, if not, early next year: just in time for everyone to buy it, read the trilogy, and decide who to vote for in the Presidential elections of November 2008.  Again, Robinson is not looking to wow and amaze readers with shocking scifi events, but keeping true to the close reality of his world.

The Gulf Stream is working well again, President Chase is just taking office, knowing that the absolute worse may have been averted for a little while, but that there is still very much to do.  Selecting a cabinet composed of the many characters we have come to know over Forty Signs of Rain and Fifty Degrees Below, we know this administration is on our side and looking out for the world and its people.  It is here Robinson really shines using his amazing knowledge of science and physics in coming up with ways to deal with the immense carbon dioxide volume being both pumped into the atmosphere and already there causing world temperatures to rise.  The United States bands together with countries around the world, such as Russia and China, in the development of a fast growing lichen that will spread through a forest fast under the right conditions, and has an astonishing carbon absorption rate.  Working in conjunction, the world slowly begins to heal itself.  On a subplot level, Frank Vanderwal, who is now an assistant to a cabinet member, is looking for his quasi-girlfriend whose former husband was instrumental in a plot to rig the election that failed.  It becomes a game of cat and mouse, as Frank and his girlfriend try to stay ahead of the chasing husband.

By the end of the book, some simple matters are resolved, while the world is a little calmer in their nonstop fight to “cool down” global warming.  The one final consolation is Tibet being declared independent once more from the Chinese, and the close friends of the main characters who moved to DC at the beginning of the series because their island, Khembalung, was drowning due to rising ocean levels, have been vindicated.

Robinson’s message is clear at the end: global warming cannot be completely stopped, and to slow it down will be a long and arduous struggle that will last through our lives and into our children’s and grandchildren’s lives; but there is hope for this planet, so long as we act now and soon.  The series will make the next presidential election a very interesting time.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on April 8th, 2007 ©Alex C. Telander.

Kim Stanley Robinson will be interviewed in episode 28 of Bookbanter available March 15.  Check out the Bookbanter website for more information.

“Fifty Degrees Below” by Kim Stanley Robinson (Spectra, 2005)

Fifty Degrees BelowStarStarStar

Kim Stanley Robinson returns with the second in his trilogy on the current state of global warming and its possible ramifications.  Robinson does a great job in making his world seem very much like our own, but his sequence of events are a lot more “down to earth” than The Day After Tomorrow.

Forty Signs of Rain ended with a flash flood drowning most of Washington DC and leaving the main characters to fend for themselves, having to travel around by boat.  Some time has passed and the waters have receded and life is back to normal in DC.  All that remains are faded muddy water lines on famous monuments to prove that the flood actually happened.  But the mentality of the world is a little different now, as the weather begins to deteriorate: increased storms, hurricanes (with obvious similarities to Hurricane Katrina and that terrible Fall), droughts, and fluctuating temperatures.  Meanwhile the main characters continue their plight to alert the world about global warming and to come up with ways to fight it, while the current administration struts blindly on, not caring.

Then the world changes.  The crucial Gulf Stream that circulates around the Atlantic via the Gulf Coast, which keeps a balance of cold and warm waters, as well as setting an equilibrium of sorts with the weather, stalls.  Having never happened before, the world is not sure what the results will be.  Time slowly passes and nothing happens.  Then the weather begins to change and the temperature drops and drops and drops.  In the winter the western world is freezing, and DC reports a record temperature of fifty degrees below.  Everyone’s lives are changed, as they accept the reality of global warming, even the current administration, soon to be out of office, accepts this fate, knowing they can do nothing in the immediate future to help.  It is the National Science Foundation, working with different groups around the world, that comes up with a possible solution: dumping many of tons of salt into the north Atlantic to restart the Gulf Stream.  It takes some time to mine the salt fields throughout the world and load the giant cargo ships with the precious material, but the plan is eventually successful and the catastrophe that would only have gotten worse is averted.  But everyone knows this isn’t it, that there is more in store for the world at the hand of global warming.

Fifty Degrees Below ends with the successful election of Senator Phil Chase, the important environmental politician who the main characters have been working with in support of the agenda to prevent global warming.  It is in the concluding book of the series, Sixty Days and Counting, where all will need to be somehow resolved, and the new president will have to make some big changes to get the world back on its feet again.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on April 5th, 2007 ©Alex C. Telander.

Kim Stanley Robinson will be interviewed in episode 28 of Bookbanter available March 15.  Check out the Bookbanter website for more information.

“Forty Signs of Rain” by Kim Stanley Robinson (Spectra, 2004)

Forty Signs of RainStarStarStar

This is a series about global warming and what it might do to our planet, except it isn’t set in the distant future, like The Day After Tomorrow; this series is set a decade in the future at the most.  While no date is given, the world is much like ours with its citizens enjoying the frivolities of life, the administration cares nothing about the planet, the Arctic is breaking up and melting while pieces of Antarctica are falling off into the ocean.  Our main characters are Charlie Quibler, a Senate environmental staffer, and his wife Anna who works for the National Science Foundation.

Four fifths of the book are spent with the characters and their ordinary lives with their children.  Charlie is a stay at home dad, working with a phone and an Internet connection, looking after young Joe who needs constant supervision, while Anna works hard every day in her office.  As the book progresses the reader learns of our current reality: melting of the ice caps, rising sea levels, and increase in weather activity.  In the last part of the book, the storms come to Washington DC with severe rainfall, there is flooding, the Potomac overflowing and soon the streets become flooded rivers and boats become the only form of transportation.  The book ends with Charlie traveling home by boat with a great finishing line: “Are you going to do something about global warming now?” he says to his Senator.

What makes Forty Signs of Rain, especially for a science fiction novel, more enjoyable and realistic than most books I’ve read is the author makes his characters constantly doing ordinary things like meeting new people, interacting with them, cleaning the house, shopping, the father looking after the children.  The details of ordinary life that you and I go through every day are in this book and presumably the others in the series; it makes it very human.  Robinson was mostly setting the stage in the book, making it seem much like ordinary life, and then with the onslaught of global warming, things are kicked into high gear and I can’t help but think when this big change or catastrophe is going to happen to us.  With the Fall of constant hurricanes hitting the southeastern United States most notable with Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and with the severely cold winter we’ve had here in California, as well as record breaking warm temperatures on the east coast for this time of year, I can’t help but wonder if we are not already in high gear.  Perhaps these books will serve as a guide for when things really start to go bad with global warming.  Next in the series if Fifty Degrees Below.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on January 21st, 2007 ©Alex C. Telander.

Kim Stanley Robinson will be interviewed in episode 28 of Bookbanter available March 15.  Check out the Bookbanter website for more information.