A New York Times New & Noteworthy Book
One of the Daily Beast’s 5 Essential Books to Read Before the Election
A collection of the New Yorker’s groundbreaking reporting from the front lines of climate change—including writing from Bill McKibben, Elizabeth Kolbert, Ian Frazier, Kathryn Schulz, and more
Just one year after climatologist James Hansen first came before a Senate committee and testified that the Earth was now warmer than it had ever been in recorded history, thanks to humankind’s heedless consumption of fossil fuels, New Yorker writer Bill McKibben published a deeply reported and considered piece on climate change and what it could mean for the planet.
At the time, the piece was to some speculative to the point of alarmist; read now, McKibben’s work is heroically prescient. Since then, the New Yorker has devoted enormous attention to climate change, describing the causes of the crisis, the political and ecological conditions we now find ourselves in, and the scenarios and solutions we face.
The Fragile Earth tells the story of climate change—its past, present, and future—taking readers from Greenland to the Great Plains, and into both laboratories and rain forests. It features some of the best writing on global warming from the last three decades, including Bill McKibben’s seminal essay “The End of Nature,” the first piece to popularize both the science and politics of climate change for a general audience, and the Pulitzer Prize–winning work of Elizabeth Kolbert, as well as Kathryn Schulz, Dexter Filkins, Jonathan Franzen, Ian Frazier, Eric Klinenberg, and others. The result, in its range, depth, and passion, promises to bring light, and sometimes heat, to the great emergency of our age.
This illuminating and powerful collection is filled with pieces on climate change originally published in the New Yorker. The selections are bookended by entries by science writers Bill McKibben whose 1989 "The End of Nature" was, the editors note, "the first extensive exploration of climate change" for the general public and Elizabeth Kolbert, with her disillusioned "Afterword." In between, the collection includes work by essayists (Ian Frazier), novelists (Jonathan Franzen), foreign correspondents (David Filkins), and sociologists (Eric Klinenberg). It covers shrinking glaciers in the Indian Himalayas; how the acidification of the world's oceans threatens marine life; and the unprecedented scale of wildfires in Australia, California, and the Great Plains. Other essays describe how life is changing for whale hunters in Point Hope, Alaska, one of North America's oldest continuously settled communities; reforestation efforts in sub-Saharan Africa; a company's efforts to wean America off meat with plant-based burgers; and scientists who explore drastic geoengineering technologies. Permeated by a sense of urgency McKibben comments in a more recent piece that "what has defied expectations is the slowness of the response" this is a memorable book with a resounding message.