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Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future…

Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future (original 2021; edition 2021)

by Elizabeth Kolbert (Author)

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2181098,384 (4.21)15
Title:Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future
Authors:Elizabeth Kolbert (Author)
Info:Crown (2021), 256 pages
Collections:Your library

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Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future by Elizabeth Kolbert (2021)


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Kolbert is an excellent writer about environmental issues. As Kolbert states in her summary, "this has been a book about people trying to solve problems created by people trying to solve problems." The essays explore the situation with Asian carp in the Mississippi (something I read about in more detail in [Life and Death of the Great Lakes]), the efforts to stop New Orleans from sinking, the pupfish of Devil's Hole, cane toads and genetic engineering, and efforts to trap CO2 and stop or slow global warming, among others.

This book is readable, if worrying, and a good survey of different attempts being made currently to control/help/restore/fix the environmental mess we've made. It fit very well with my reading this year and gives a mention to the subject of my next book, [The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race]. It is not as good as Kolbert's previous book, [The Sixth Extinction], which I remember as being much more in depth and scholarly. This is closer to essays or nature writing - still good, but not as thorough as I prefer. ( )
  japaul22 | Oct 25, 2021 |
Kolbert explores aspects of what the natural world will look like as we enter fully into the anthropocene. You know about carbon, but did you know that human fertilizer plants and legume crops fix more nitrogen than the rest of the terrestrial ecosystem, or that we routinely cause earthquakes? People outweigh wild animals by eight to one, and it’s 22 to one if you add in domestic animals. The consequences of our changes are well underway. Louisiana has shrunk by over 2000 square miles since the 1930s, more than Delaware or Rhode Island. Debates over gene editing now must include that the alternative for animals is likely extinction, as well as that our previous attempts at moving genomes around the world in animals or plants have often been disastrous. She talks to a researcher who thinks we need to think about carbon dioxide like sewage: we understand that it wouldn’t help to punish people if they went to the bathroom too often, but we also don’t let them shit on the sidewalk. So she also talks to people who propose geoengineering mitigation solutions, though she characterizes at least some as being like “treating a heroin habit with amphetamines.” But most of her interviewees say some version of: geoengineering is like chemotherapy; you don’t use it because you have better options. One says: “We live in a world where deliberately dimming the fucking sun might be less risky than not doing it.” But only might be. ( )
  rivkat | Jul 23, 2021 |
In 'The Sixth Extinction,' Elizabeth Kolbert alerted us to the fact that we are entering a new period, the Anthropocene, or our 6th measured extinction on earth. This time, she points out, it is human-caused. In her new book, 'Under a White Sky,' she looks at what we have done to alter our planet, how that has become problematic, and possible interventions to our earlier interventions. In other words, what can new technologies do to fix our altered planet. Unfortunately, just leaving things be is out of the question. We no longer are living in a natural environment - it is more of a hybrid planet at this point, part natural and part human-designed - and so solutions will need to be engineered by us. Just like with her previous book, she travels the world, seeking out stories to report. So we head out to Chicago to look at the Asian carp threat, the Mojave Desert to check out fish preservation, Iceland to observe carbon capture methods, and Australia, where they are experimenting with alternatives to dying corals in their reefs. The secret sauce of Kolbert's books is her ability to tell a pretty complex story clearly enough for us to understand. I think this is an important book for anyone concerned about the new "normal" climate we all find ourselves in. ( )
  peggybr | Jul 23, 2021 |
Will we science our way out of the climate crisis? Kolbert’s omnibus on extinction and speciation opens with a lesson from Chicago. After taming typhoid in 1900 by reversing the Chicago River, locks now are electrified to stop the Asian carp introduced to control sewage downstream. Our ingenuity constantly circles back on itself, forcing us to innovate past unintended consequences. We have no other choice.
  rynk | Jul 11, 2021 |
Highly recommended! I also highly recommend The Sixth Extinction. ( )
  hvector | Jul 10, 2021 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Kolbert, Elizabethprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lowman, RebeccaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Sometimes he runs his hammer along the walls, as though to give the signal to the great waiting machinery of rescue to swing into operation. It will not happen exactly in this way--the rescue will begin in its own time, irrespective of the hammer--but it remains something, something palpable and graspable, a token, something one can kiss, as one cannot kiss rescue.

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