In his new book, Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet, Bill McKibben portrays the dire environmental conditions that a generation ago seemed like abstract predictions of what our grandchildren might endure. In much of his previous work the environmental journalist and activist aimed to wake people up to the existence of climate change before it was too late. His 1989 The End of Nature was the first book to clearly chart for a general audience the human causes of and potential disasters wrought by global warming.
In marked contrast, Eaarth accepts that climate change and its grave hardships are underway, serving as a manual of sorts to help guide us through a world irrevocably altered. We now inhabit a planet so dramatically remade through climate change it warrants a new name: Eaarth. “The world hasn’t ended, but the world as we know it has,” he writes.
Eaarth is at once mature, angry and inspiring. In the opening chapters McKibben maps our new planet—one with prolonged droughts, more intense storms and floods, acidifying oceans, expanding tropical zones, and rising sea levels. He then dedicates the second half of the book to how we might try “to manage our descent.” It might sound grim, but by exploring this reality McKibben quits the self-delusion that keeps so many of us hallucinating that technological fixes and economic expansion (i.e. consuming and wasting) can remedy the problem.
A life on a tough new planet, McKibben tells us, must be less complex—slower, smaller, more stable—one of “maintenance” instead of mind-blowing growth. (more…)