Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet by Bill McKibben

I am a bit late. Here it is 2014 and I am just now reading Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet by Bill McKibben. Being late, ironically, is what the first half of McKibben's book on the state of our planet is about. For several decades political and environmental leaders have been talking about actions to take to halt or at least slow the effects of global warming. Then in 2008, unprecedented amounts of polar ice melted, decades ahead of direst predictions. According to McKibben, that was the nail in the coffin of the old planet that we knew before 1970.

What's wrong? Lots! The amount of carbon in the air will not be as low again as it was on the old stable Earth and will keep rising for the foreseeable future on the new Eaarth. Worse still, the planetary systems cycle that has begun will release large amounts of methane. Ocean levels will rise, tropical zones will expand, and food production will drop as the planet grows hotter. It will get even worse if we continue our current energy consumption. We will have to find new ways to live.

The second part of McKibben's book is about making the best of a bad situation. While this sounds dreary, it is not. While we would love to turn back the clock, we can not, he insists, but we can make a livable world if we are smart. The difficulty will be ending our current consumer society and adjusting to an economy of no growth in manufacturing and consumption. The way is heralded by slow and local economies. Our food, sustainable energy production, and work need to be local. We also have to become good neighbors.

Of course, McKibben's ideas are too many to explain in a paragraph. The upshot is that McKibben thinks that we can (and have to) form more equitable and stable communities to survive. As individuals, we can be happier, if we reform before time runs out.

McKibben's book would be a great choice for book discussion groups.

McKibben, Bill. Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet. Times Books, 2010. 253p. ISBN 9780805090567.

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