Review: Wallace-Wells The Uninhabitable Earth

The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming
David Wallace-Wells

David Wallace-Wells is here to tell you that not only is climate change very real, it is already worse than you think. Its happening at a rate that we’re not ready for and its effects will be more destructive in more overlapping ways, than you’re probably imaging.

Most writing on environmental issues tries to keep a positive attitude (if only we recycled more, we can change things!). Wallace-Wells takes a much darker view.  He argues we are in for life altering climate change, with devastating effects for the world’s poorest most vulnerable people, and drastic changes to the way the world operates — that isn’t up for debate. Our only hope is to mitigate its likely horrible consequences.

For a lay person, I think of myself as relatively well versed in the science of climate change, but this book hit me like a ton of bricks. I hadn’t considered the over lapping catastrophes we’re likely to see (droughts to wildfires to refugees migration to disease outbreak) and now that I’m thinking about it, I see climate change everywhere. What to do about remains the central question, and one not easily answered. As Wallace-Wells explains, its in everyone’s interest if someone else does something about climate change, but not in anyone’s interest to lead the way.  There’s a lot of good, real science here, but the strands of hope are thin.

Not an easy read, but a necessary one.


Review: Robinson’s New York 2140

New York 2140
Kim Stanley Robinson


In the New York City one hundred and thirty years in the future, much has changed. Most of coastal Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island is gone. What’s left of downtown Manhattan floods with the tides. The power of the city has moved far uptown to the bedrock and relative heights of Washington Heights.

But some things haven’t changed. The City is still filled with hustlers, artists, and finance bros and the driving force, as ever, is real estate.

When the waters came, people abandoned downtown Manhattan. But then, some enterprising artists and weirdos found a way to make the tidewaters areas around of Downtown liveable again, and they turned it into a bustling area art galleries and experimental bars — a Bushwick in the water as it were. And now, of course, big real estate is interested again.

This is science fiction page turner, but one grounded in the city it is about and the science that will effect us all if we don’t make some very serious changes. I blew through this at record speed, you will too if a propulsive plot and some light climate science is to you liking.


Goodell’s The Water Will Come

The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World
Jeff Goodell

We all know the world is warming, we all know this will change the way we live. Goodell’s book doesn’t break any ground there, but what is does do is give us a very terrifying, very sobering, look at what exactly our hotter, wetter, future will look like. He does this by visiting cities across the globe who are likely to be drastically affected (or perhaps even destroyed) by a warming planet and rising oceans.

Goodell is a journalist, and he wisely focuses here on the human side of this story, the people who will be hurt, the people who profited, the people who will be hurt, and the people trying to do something about it. As always, is seems, the poorest places will be hit the hardest with multiple countries in South Asia facing dire consequences. But America will not be immune. Miami is in serious trouble; in New York it isn’t looking much better.

All in all its a sobering, dark read. But there is some room for hope, New York, for one, is at least taking the crisis seriously, and while it still isn’t clear if enough is being done, or even what the right thing is, the sooner more people face the problem the better are our chances to surviving.




* If you don’t know that, you should stop reading this little review and go open a newspaper.

S-Town’s John B Mclemore: A Reading List


Like many, I was completely blown away by the podcast S-Town and deeply moved by the life of its central character, John B McLemore.

Being me, I immediately focused in on the books and stories mentioned in the show. Here’s a list (and yeah, its going to reveal some information about the show)

Rose for Emily, William Faulkner  I’ll just quote the show’s narrator, Brian Reed here: “narrated by the gossipy collective townsfolk of imaginary Jefferson Mississippi who tell the tale of Ms. Emily Greerson, an unmarried middle age outcast who lives alone with her father and who after he dies wholes up in her house for years.”

The Necklace, Guy de Maupassant Reed again: “about a woman who longs for a much grander, more spectacular life than the one she has, and gets it, for a single night, only to have to pay for it, dearly, for the next ten years.”

The Renegade, Shirley Jackson. Reed: “about a woman who recently moved from the city to a small country town whose family dog, lady, is accused one more of killing a neighbor’s chickens, the woman listens in growing dread throughout the day as townsperson after townsperson laughs at the torture and death that will befall lady as a result including finally, the woman’s own children who describe to lady’s face in grave detail how they will use a spiked collar to chop off her head.

Brokeback Mountain, Annie Proulx Olan Long, John B’s close friend, sends John B this classic story of two cowboys who fall in love, but because of life, and homophobia, and fear, never get to fully be together.  A book John B would describe as “the grief manual.”

An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore John B was obsessed with climate change, and read about it voraciously. Reed mentions this amongst other books John would refer to in their conversations.

Going Dark, Guy McPherson John also referred to the works of Guy McPherson, who I’ll admit I wasn’t familiar with until listening to this show. McPherson is an academic who taught at the University of Arizona. He’s also a radical climate change activists. I haven’t read any of McPherson’s books, but he’s often described as a radically critical of western society and a having a bit of an apocalyptic view of future of the world.

Walking Away From Empire, Guy McPherson Another McPherson book referred by John. This one a memoir of sorts about his transformation from mainstream ecologist to radical “friend of the earth”.

It’s clear from listening to John speak that he was incredibly well read. I’m sure I only scratched the surface with this short list, but I hope it gives some insight into this fascinating and tragic man.