The Endless Summers

By Isaac H.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and presume that a majority of people would choose Summer as their favorite season. Warm days perfect for hiking, hitting the waters or firing up the grill. Warm nights great for camping or gazing at the stars. Who couldn’t love that? Well, a surprising lot of us wouldn’t. There are some spoil-sports like myself who would gladly spend the warmest part of the year avoiding sun and heat like some sort of ice vampire. Whenever we listen to the weather forecasters describe an unusually sunny or hot day as “beautiful” or “great weather,” we respond with a regretful sigh. For us, a perfect year would skip from the rains and blooms of Spring directly to the winds and foliage of Autumn. Unfortunately for the heat-averse, the summers feel like they’re getting longer, hotter and drier with each year.

One of the things that long hot summers make me reflect on is change. How seasons have changed over my lifetime, and how that change has affected and been effected by people. There are a number of interesting books that highlight this change in different ways. Some shine a light on how humanity has affected our environment. Others on how our environment reacts to our presence and hypothetically would react to a lack thereof. Welcome to the Anthropocene!

The Uninhabitable Earth

by David Wallace-Wells

One of the most interesting facts about human interaction and shaping of our environment is how, at both the micro and macro scales, those interactions begin to return to shaping us. David Wallace-Wells’ The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming has a harsh title, but it discusses the difficulties people will and do face due to changing climate conditions. It’s a sobering read, but like the results of a long overdue dental check-up, you want to hear the results. Uncomfortable but important facts, like the fact that plastics are so pervasive throughout western countries that even indoors we’re constantly ingesting micro-plastics through breathing. Or warnings of what could be in our future, such as how after yearly monsoon rains failed to occur in 2012, more than half a billion people in India lost power due to farmers using powered irrigation. Heavy stuff, but once you start reading it’ll be difficult stopping.

The World Without Us

by Alan Weisman

At the end of the blockbuster hit Avengers: Infinity War, the villain Thanos wipes out half of all life in the universe with the snap of his fingers. What if something like that were to happen on Earth, but only affecting the entire human population specifically? What would happen if all of humanity were to suddenly disappear? How long would our structures last? How would invasive and domesticated plants and animals change the landscape without human corralling? Alan Weisman’s The World Without Us looks at those  questions with the help of various environmental, engineering, horticultural and biological academics and professionals. While the questions may seem like little more than a thought exercise, witnessing the vast scale of time of how long some human byproducts will last, in contrast to the surprisingly short duration of others, grants readers with a grand perspective of how humanity has changed the planet. Not to mention how the planet is capable of enduring without us.

Cadillac Desert

by Marc Reisner

Being released in 1986, I was very late to the party in hearing about Marc Reisner’s cautious review of the American land use policy in the greater West. I first heard of the title after reading it’s mention in the dystopian cli-fi noir novel The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi. Cadillac Desert expands on how westward expansion throughout the 19th and 20th centuries lead to massive population increases, urbanization and agricultural development in mostly arid regions of the western United States. The author highlights that these seemingly amazing feats come at a steep price, one that it’s architects have been aware of but actively ignoring for decades: A finite amount of water, which the population has long since surpassed the replenishing point.

The Water Will Come

by Jeff Goodell

Author Jeff Goodell researches how humanity has historically dealt with changing habitations due to rising sea waters. After witnessing the effects of hurricane Sandy first-hand during his time in New York, Goodell tries to understand America’s “murky” relationship with waterfront habitation. From reading about temporary land reclamation and real estate scams in the 1920’s South Florida wetlands to the native Greenlander’s reaction to “catastrophe tourism” of their rapidly collapsing glaciers, you’ll notice the continuous cycle of adaptation, manipulation, natural deconstruction and re-adaptation for human inhabited waterfronts.

For more books that cover the issue of changing climates, check out my list here.

The Endless Summers

Are there any books you’ve read that offer an enlightening discussion of our changing climate and environment? Let me know in the comments below.

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Comments

2 responses to “The Endless Summers”

  1. Kind of depressing! But also really interesting. Thank you!

    • Isaac H says:

      Thanks Jackie! It is a somewhat dour subject, no doubt about that. As a person who doesn’t enjoy heat and sun, the sobering message kind of feels like a justification. Or an irrational validation, maybe?

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