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The Future of Ice: A Journey into Cold Hardcover – November 9, 2004

12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

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
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon (November 9, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 037542251X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375422515
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #370,342 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By D. Spears on March 17, 2005
Format: Hardcover
As one of the Arctic scientists in this book readily admits, it is a bit hard to combine all the diverse facts on global warming into a coherent theory. Like Voltaire, this book seems to contain a lot of diverse informatiion in a relatively short space: it is clearly liberal in its political focus, with a number of disparaging comments about the extent of capitalistic exploitation of the environment, but hopeful that man can change his ways. But most of all, it is eclectic in all of its numerous quotes about cold from numerous cultures including Western, Far Eastern, and numerous pagan cultures. They seem to dominate her long essay and sometimes seem to distract from it. I particularly enjoyed her references to Zen Buddhism. She also offers some anecdotal scientific comments on modern astronomy, as she did in her previous book "This Cold Heaven" about Greenland; her comments on glacial history are a bit weaker. In this book and the former one, she shows a strong familiarity with extremes of cold and snow which most of us lack. She manages to keep her focus on cold climates and the nature of ice throughout, and uses this one climate as the strongest evidence for the reality of global warming. Later I saw the movie "The Day After Tomorrow" which helped my understanding of this book.Read more ›
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By David S. Graves on February 23, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Miss Ehrlich is sad. Her book conveys this to the reader from the first chapter and throughout she doesn't let go, painting a somber mood that is only broken for intermittent celebrations of the beauty of nature. The natural world is clearly her balm, and she laments our disconnectedness from it and the destruction that we are doing to it. She writes here mostly about the perils of climate change, and although the book is written as a call to change our ways, it reads in many parts more like an obituary for what has already been lost, which may indeed be accurate given our current state.

She throws in several findings from recent scientific research but does not always paint a complete picture (why would every place dry up if the world was warming?) When her scientific facts are completely off (`the sun will burn up in a few million years'), however, she makes up for this with her earnest prose and perception. The picture is indeed a bleak one, especially for those of us who love winter, snow, and ice. Her views are complicated by laments from her own personal life, and depending on your perspective, this either adds to or detracts from her message.

Eventually, though, I found myself increasingly frustrated while reading this book. Miss Ehrlich repeatedly puts the cause for climate change upon a society that doesn't care enough for the natural world. But as she flies jet airlines between continents, drives her truck on annual commutes between homes in California and Wyoming, and has a friend fell a stand of pine trees so that she may have a remote summer cabin, she never once links her actions to this environmental problem. Surely for all her pondering she must have made the connection between her personal decisions and their consequences? I think she does her readers a disservice by not acknowledging this and leading us to believe that we are not culpable for our planet's destruction, if only we wish enough for its well being.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By K. Freeman on April 26, 2006
Format: Hardcover
A travel memoir, meditation on winter and nature, and jeremiad upon the imminent destruction of everything.

I found this book almost unreadable. I didn't care for the writing style, which I found overwrought (speculating about the emotions of glaciers, pushing every image past its logical limit), but the scientific inaccuracies were what really troubled me. This kind of hysterical account encourages people to disrespect the environmental movement, so I'm afraid Ehrlich may have done more harm than good. As a conservationist who does believe global warming is a problem that we need to address, I'm not at all convinced that all the ice will be gone in fifty years and "a million" species will consequently be extinct, or that all the fresh water will be gone (global warming seems to be bringing wetter weather to some parts of the world). Broad statements like that combined with a dearth of solid information on either the global warming issue or the ecosystems through which Ehrlich travels cause the book to lose credibility.

Writers like Peter Matthiessen and Craig Childs successfully combine poetic language with scientifically valid observation and powerful arguments for conservation. This book, for me, doesn't succeed.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Lewis on December 13, 2006
Format: Paperback
This is a tightly wrought and beautiful work or life and art, poetical, arresting, trasportive. As a westerner, and lover of cold it really spoke to me. The brittle cold of the author's loneliness seduces your own heart to face itself. It is a beautiful book, but not an easy one. While the book is supposedly about global warming, it is truly about much much more. How anyone could give it a low rating due in part to a disagreement about climate prediction is beyond me. I highly recommend this book.
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