Book reviews - non-fiction, Conservation, energy, Environment, non fiction

Images from a warming planet

By Ashley Cooper, ISBN 978-1-5262-0592-6

I first learned of this book on Twitter and pledged on Cooper’s Kickstarter page. While the Kickstarter campaign didn’t reach its target, many people – including myself – elected to support him directly and my copy of Images From A Warming Planet arrived this morning.

It wrecked my day’s schedule, as, overwhelmed by Cooper’s photography skills, I looked at over 500 photos, read the illuminating text and wrote this review.

In carefully curated sections, Cooper shares his thirteen-year, round-world odyssey. Each photo is stunning, though occasionally it is easy to forget the premise of the book until you read the, often heartbreaking, words.

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A Great Tit (Parus major) nesting in a garden pot in the UK. The UK has the longest nest record scheme in the world run by the British Trust for Ornithology. Their records show that Great Tit now nest up to 14 days earlier in Spring due to climate change.

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A male Polar Bear (Ursus maritimus) that starved to death as a consequence of climate change. This male Polar Bear was last tracked by the Norwegian Polar Institute in April 2013 in southern Svalbard. Polar bears need sea ice to hunt their main prey, seals. Western fjords of Svalbard, which normally freeze in winter, remained ice free during the winter of 2012 / 13. This bear headed hundreds of miles north, looking for suitable sea ice to hunt on; finding none  it collapsed and died. The future for Polar Bear looks bleak in a climate changing world. Recent scientific studies show that Polar Bear are getting thinner and weighing less due primarily to less time to hunt in the winter and a longer fasting period in summer. Without sea ice, they will no doubt all starve to death.
However, in many cases, we see clear natural devastation: felled trees, desiccated lands, dead animals and polluted waterways.

Further pictures show the impact of climate change and pollution on humanity: destroyed homes, sick and displaced people and the loss (physical not metaphorical) of land.

Expect incredible portraits of the industry that gives so much with one hand while helping us destroy our home with the other.
Emmissions from a Petrochemical works at Seal Sands on Teeside, UK.
Emissions from a Petrochemical works at Seal Sands on Teeside, UK.

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Dawn over Whitelee wind farm on Eaglesham Moor just south of Glasgow in Scotland. It is Europe’s largest onshore wind farm with 215 turbines and an installed capacity of 539 MW.
Its hard not to appreciate the beauty shown in cooling towers, processing plants and wind turbines.

In his introduction, Jonathan Porritt entreats us not to flick through the book, but Cooper is cleverer than that. Of course, we will browse this coffee table style book and, in doing so, we will be caught up in incontrovertible evidence that we are changing our planet. Even if these changes are not yet evident from the comfort of our armchairs.

You can buy the book directly from Ashley Cooper at:
http://www.imagesfromawarmingplanet.net/ or from major booksellers from 31 December 2016.

Book reviews - non-fiction

Sapiens – a book review

I had been eyeing up this book for months, so I naturally picked it up during one of my book splurges. I am glad I did.

Harari poses and answers many big questions in this slightly imposing book (p.466). As with many other reviewers, I am not quite sure that I agree with every interpretation or his selection of facts. But I couldn’t resist the onward surge of history as I watched Sapiens (which means wise) evolve from the last common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees six million years ago into the most dangerous animal on the planet.

While the forward momentum is relentless – how else to cover six million years in less than 170,000 words – Harari describes important developments in a thought-provoking manner. These tiny sojourns are packed with information from many spheres of human learning and make a compelling case for the summary presented inside the front cover.

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The inner cover spells out our tumultuous journey

I thoroughly enjoyed the introduction of new (to me) concepts, such as how we imbue many imaginary things with importance (from gods to countries with companies, money and laws in between). Much less palatable is the conjecture that we are born of violence, whether you ask about the fate of the five human species sharing the planet 70,000 years ago, the mass extinctions that coincided with our arrival on each continent or the high proportions of people who died violently throughout our history.

Harari ends with the conclusion that our knowledge and skills are almost sufficient to spell the end of Homo Sapiens and usher in the age of humans as gods with the ability to genetically alter ourselves or even engineer new bodies. He makes this prediction with the caution that our lack of responsibility and inability to ever be satisfied would make us very dangerous indeed.