From Publishers Weekly
In this lyrical meditation on deep cold and its potential demise through global warming, Ehrlich (The Solace of Open Spaces; This Cold Heaven) backpacks among the glaciers of the southern Andes, winters in a Wyoming cabin and sails with the research ship Noorderlicht to the Greenland ice pack. Her prose is as sharply observed as poetry and nearly as compressed, and her narrative favors short scenes as fragmented as the breaking ice sheets she encounters. Though it occasionally dips into underpowered assertion ("We're spoiled because we've been living in an interglacial paradise for twenty thousand years"), it often soars to the sublime ("We are made of weather and our thoughts stream from the braid work of stillness and storms"). Ehrlich includes plenty of facts (the area covered by glaciers has diminished by 75% since 1850; increased meltwater from Greenland may actually make Europe colder), but her book is less about science than about sensation: loneliness and the relentless circling of the snowed-in mind; the rumbling of a glacier as its azure ice crumbles away; the whistling, ululating calls of the bearded seal. It does not lay out the workings of global warming nor attempt to provide blueprints for how to rescue what we are losing. It stands, instead, as a passionate elegy to what is melting away.
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Will winter cease to exist? With no end to heat-increasing pollution, the season of restorative cold may well be imperiled, and veteran nature writer Ehrlich wonders if "the end of winter might be the end of life." After chronicling her remarkable sojourns in Greenland in This Cold Heaven (2001), she now reports on equally astonishing treks at either end of the earth, where the great polar ice caps reflect the sun's heat back into the sky; where penguins, polar bears, and seals are utterly dependent on deep cold; and where pollutants amass in toxic concentrations. Ehrlich testifies poetically and expertly to the bracing glory and ecological significance of winter as she recounts her demanding cold-weather experiences in Montana, among glaciers in Chile, and in the Arctic. Her involving account is richly veined with personal disclosures, philosophical revelations, and lucid explanations of the dire consequences of a warming earth. By absorbing so intensely the beauty and function of dramatic places essential to the ecosphere, Ehrlich, like Barry Lopez and Peter Matthiessen, brings into focus a crucial environmental issue and, hopefully, provides more impetus to the effort to confront global warming. Donna Seaman
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