a12 – Book Review: The fragile earth – writings from the New Yorker on Climate change

Edited by David Remnick and Henry Finder. 525 pages. (c) 2020 by The New Yorker.

Reviewed by T. Frank

I was largely unaware of the climate change findings of the 1980s, as someone who grew up a decade later. The Fragile Earth: Writing from The New Yorker on Climate Change reveals that scientists and inventors have documented rising temperatures one hundred years prior, at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. “Man was evaporating our coal mines into the air,” wrote Svante Arrhenius, a Nobel Prize-winning scientist, in 1884.

The concept of time, of past, present and future, becomes murky halfway through the 1989 essay Reflections: The End of Nature, by Bill McKibben. This volume repeats data and information about our warming planet like the feedback loops of climate change. Reminders of continuous, growing sources of carbon emissions are sprinkled throughout. Our daily dependence on oil and gas, agriculture and water, affects multiple generations that experience rapid destruction from exploitative industries. McKibben suggests that our responsibility is not to end climate change — the events are unavoidable — but “to slow down the warming so that we can adapt to it. Our impulse will be to…figure out a new way to continue our accustomed life styles…and press ahead into a new world” (p. 45).

Slingshot readers should be familiar by now with our coverage of climate change. The Fragile Earth: Writing from The New Yorker on Climate Change might help us balance the totality of this crisis with frank, fluid text, a narrative that reviews and analyzes the causes and effects of global warming. You can pick it up at your local library — I borrowed this volume during the Covid-19 pandemic, and our library system allows for multiple renewals. What better way to be informed?