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Lions Roar : September 2010
SHAMBHALA SUN SepteMBer 2010 79 once frozen realm of ice caps and high mountain glaciers—has melted or is currently doing so. Tropical regions have expanded two degrees north and south, changing rainfall patterns and causing droughts, fires, and floods. Furthermore, these geo- graphically vast features are metamorphosing rapidly and we’re the cause. We humans have acted as geologic agents at nongeo- logic time scales. McKibben’s central point is a corollary to this formulation: global change is no longer merely a threat; catalyzed by fast, in- satiable growth, it’s our reality. He articulates what has so far not been proclaimed loudly, if at all. The time for warning about warming has passed; we already live on a drastically altered plan- et. In this way, McKibben’s book moves beyond another readable volume on the subject, Elizabeth Kolbert’s 2006 Field Notes From a Catastrophe. A staff writer for the New Yorker (as McKibben once was), Kolbert delves into the science more than he, and puts it poetically. In contrast, McKibben, provides the plain facts in deliberate fashion, motivated by his simple conviction that, “We need to see clearly. No illusions, no fantasies, no melodrama.” FroM THE gET-go, Bill McKibben admits that the title of his new book, Eaarth, with two a’s, is weird. Yet it concisely conveys McKibben’s meaning: that Eaarth is simultaneously familiar and completely new. In McKibben’s view, humans have changed Earth so funda- mentally that it’s no longer the planet on which civilization de- veloped over the last ten thousand years. Hence the homophone: we live on “Eaarth,” not “Earth.” “Eaarth,” McKibben says, represents the “deepest of human failures,” but we’re going to have to learn to live on this “tough new planet.” Bill McKibben is the author of numerous books, including The End of Nature (1989), the first book for laypeople about climate change. He is the founder of 350.org, a global warming awareness campaign that coordinated a widespread day of political action that included 1,500 Buddhist monks and nuns forming a human “350” against a Himalayan backdrop. He deserves our attention. A well-built book, Eaarth is di- vided into four readable chapters. In the first two, McKibben details the present condition of “Eaarth” and describes how we created it. Seawater has become acidic as oceans absorb atmospheric carbon. The cryosphere—Earth’s Attention Eaarthlings Reviews Eaarth: Making a Life on a tough New Planet By Bill McKibben Times Books/Henry Holt & Company, New York, 2010. 253 pp. $24 REviEwEd BY Jill SCHNEidERmaN Jill S. SCHNEidERmaN is a professor of earth science at vassar College and a 2009 recipient of a Contemplative Practice Fellowship from the Center for Contemplative mind in Society. She is editor of For the rock record (University of California Press, 2009) and The Earth Around Us (westview Press, 2003). pHoTo©EdWArdBUrTYNSKY,coUrTESYoFNIcHolASMETIvIEr,ToroNTo