book review: field notes from a catastrophe

April 24, 2006

in Books

CatbooksI’ve been convinced of the reality and seriousness of global warming for a long time.  But in spite of my interest and my personal commitment to a climate-preserving lifestyle, even I have reached the saturation point when it comes to new research, articles, and documentaries on this topic.  So it was with more of a sense of duty than a sense of eager anticipation that I picked up the book Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change.

This is the one book everybody needs to read about global warming. Author Elizabeth Kolbert has taken an enormous, complex subject and boiled it down to the essential facts, choosing some of the most dramatic findings to illustrate the catastrophe. Her approach of going in the field with climate scientists was more successful than I might have guess it would be.  A lot of scientists (most?) tend to give overly complicated or obtuse explanations, but Kolbert managed to find the ones that were able to sum up their findings in blunt, pithy quotable comments and analogies.  I won’t give any spoilers here — read the book.

As a writer who tends to get bogged down in details when trying to explain knotty processes, I have huge admiration for Kolbert’s concise, straightforward, and unambiguous treatment of climate change. Field Notes from a Catastrophe is convincing, sobering, and extremely readable, even for the global warming-weary.  Get a copy.  When you’re done, send it to your favorite climate change skeptic.  If all your friends are already convinced, send it to the White House. They really need it.


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