- Paperback: 438 pages
- Publisher: Milkweed Editions; Reprint edition (September 15, 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1571313583
- ISBN-13: 978-1571313584
- Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.2 x 8.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #100,741 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Adventures in the Anthropocene: A Journey to the Heart of the Planet We Made Reprint Edition
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"A fascinating tour of the human side of climate change, complete with its perils, and the inspired efforts ordinary people are nonetheless finding to adapt and survive with grace."
Diane Ackerman, author of The Human Age
"A highly readable take of the planet’s pulse."
"[An]impressive book, encyclopedic in its scope and relentless in its gumshoe derring-do. An emporium of fascinating information."
Celebrates the wonders of nature and reminds us that we are a superbly adaptive species.”
Booklist, Starred Review
A well-documented, upbeat alternative to doom-and-gloom prognostications.”
Kirkus, Starred Review
"Vince has produced a book, simultaneously deeply depressing and thoroughly uplifting, that is all but impossible to put down.”
Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
"With its engaging, thought-provoking narratives, this volume will expand, or perhaps fundamentally change, readers' views about the planet's emerging future. Highly recommended. All readers."CHOICE
"Our species has exploded into a new kind of forceone species able to alter the physical, chemical and biological properties of the planet on a geological scale. Gaia Vince’s important book provides the evolutionary, temporal and biophysical context to show with clarity the stunning speed and magnitude of the human footprint on the planet. She manages to inspire with hope while conveying a cry of urgency."
David Suzuki, author of The Sacred Balance
A fine and timely book. Gaia Vince shows us how to stay steady and cheerful despite the ever intensifying drama of the Anthropocene”
James Lovelock, author of Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth
A beautifully written book that raises the most profound question of our time: How should we live?’ In the past this has been primarily a personal question, but now it has become the central question for us as a speciesand the fate of nearly every species on our planet (including our own) rests on our answer.”
Ken Caldeira, Stanford University
Gaia's remarkable journey is a unique inventory of life on earth, both wild and human, at this important moment in our history.”
This is a remarkable journey from a remarkable journalist... The Anthropocene era she documents emerges as something richer, more vital and more interesting than any previous era. In her eyes people are heroes rather than villains. Read this and you can believe in the future.”
Fred Pearce, author of When the Rivers Run Dry
Have you seen the state of our planet? Gaia Vince has. She travelled the globe for two years to investigate what we are doing to it, and this heroic feat of reporting is the result. She, and her readers, are left wiser, sometimes sadder, but still holding on to a core optimism about possible futures for our world.”
Jon Turney, author of The Rough Guide to the Future
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Top Customer Reviews
As the title informs this is the planet we made. Any slightly knowledgeable and non-delusional person of average intelligence knows that. Certainly there are gainsayers but they are in a minority who either have their heads in the sand or have something to gain by their iconoclasm-like politicians for instance. Leaving that discussion aside, Vince was clear that we humans have changed the world dramatically and perhaps forever. Yet it is not a screed wrought with hopelessness. She presents a lot of good ideas along with her tales of interesting people she met in her worldwide travels done to complete this book.
Using ten chapters to describe aspects of earth and how they are changing, she met people who are doing things to improve the earth no matter how small their efforts. One of those chapters is about farmlands and she investigated ways to improve the harvests and feed more people. One litmus test of her even keeled presentation has to do with GMOs-genetically modified organisms. Despite the often shrill damnation of GMOs we do know that it has been going on since the dawn of agriculture. If we care to read the literature we know that to date there have been no studies to indicate harmful effects on consuming such food (it should be noted however that we do not have longitudinal studies yet). We also know that there are tremendous numbers of peoples in the world that could use nutrition and GMOs are trying to reduce the size of that population by feeding them. They also offer one way to make profitable farming where it has not been traditionally successful.
So we can like me, be middle class Americans and shun GMOs because we can afford to, but a Sudanese refugee living in a camp has little option about their nutrition. Vince declaimed the opaqueness of much of the Agribusiness who prospers from their hybrid plants and she acclaimed efforts often from universities to offer alternative GMOs in their agriculture departments. The problem is not that food is genetically modified it is that companies like Monsanto do not offer information about their products and force the farmer to re-buy seed annually or pay the legal price for not doing so. I get it. Big agribusiness is looking for profit but at the same time if they can feed those who are underfed and if smaller enterprises with more open source policies can make the food to feed the starving and help farmers earn a wage in the outback of Africa or Asia then we want GMO foods. After all we have been modifying our produce for about 10,000 years.
Another divisive issue that she tackled had to do with atomic energy. An issue fraught with emotionalism and less objective thinking. She addressed the down side of increased nuclear energy use and that is the drama of accidents and memories of the two bombs we dropped on Japan 70 years ago. It can be scary or a reader can understand that there are many more slow deaths-ones not exhilarating our emotions, from the carbon based deaths that occur all of the time. When it comes to killer’s carbon is much of a master over nuclear energy. The author again took a principled stance on the issue and presents more than one side.
She also discussed geoengineering which a lot of people who want to put the Anthropocene issues onto something else and rename it as an “Act of God” would agree to. But is not so simple to put her in that camp. Geoengineering is essential to solving the problem of this Anthropocene induced environment that we are leaving to our kids and theirs. Proactive measures must be taken and cost benefit analyses have to occur. We are not going to return to some mythical days of yore where extinct species are cloned and re-introduced or carbon dioxide is controlled and we have to worry about snakes in Eden tempting us with an apple. We are beyond that and so we have to look at methods (regardless of their repugnance) that will benefit humankind.
Vince had a couple of themes that echo throughout the book. On is the positive feedback loop that is creating our Anthropocene environment. She cited several examples but we will look at one for this purpose. In the Arctic we have an ice melt caused by warming oceans. The ice melt exposes decaying forest land which generates carbon dioxide which had been sequestered for many centuries. While those areas express their decaying gasses, there is less reflective white offered by ice and snow. Thus more melt occurs and the problem continues. Vince often returned to a discussion about our activities and their relevance to positive feedback loops that are not actually so positive to our environment.
She provided a significant number of groups who are detrimental to a slowing of the Anthropocene and they include religious leaders who are intent on providing false information in order to keep their subjects from acting. Governmental corruption as well as NGOs with personal interests at stake are included. Tribal conflict and simply backward thinking are no help towards coming to solutions that will make life better for those that need it most.
Vince made her book (and you can learn some about here), by traveling the world and meeting with many interesting people who are attempting in their own small way, to rectify some of the wrongs we people are doing to our earth. My only skepticism in reading of her interesting conversations with idea laden subjects is why have not some of these curious and apparently successful projects caught the attention of political and business leaders?
She also told a story that was new to me and very interesting. After having separately visited the barren island of Ascension both Charles Darwin and Joseph Hooker came up with a plan to create a microclimate of rainforest which meant planting trees in order to gather rainclouds and essentially make the rainforest that exists there today. I found this detail especially fascinating since Darwin never returned after his initial visit and it is likely that Hooker did not either. This appears to be a thought experiment that worked. I am glad Vince taught me that.
In general I agree with here about the dual sense of informed and rational decisions about the Anthropocene invasion on our physical lives and the notion that we are not going to solve it by living in caves while our autos sit rusting. I appreciated Vince’s looking at the conditions that exist from something other than a black and white issue. It was a realistic perspective of what has occurred and what is occurring and how we may stem the tide of wrecking the future.
I could not agree with every option proposed such as the notion of an “Environment Fee” for using resources at risk. It is less that I think it is a poor idea than I think of all the detritus left behind by trying to enforce it. That is if it could be enforced at all.
Finally she exits the book with a coda about her son, born while she did her investigation to create the book (that she had time to bear a son while world traveling is a testament to her drive). In it she describes how through geoengineering our world is still habitable some fifty years in the future. Acquiesces have to be made since we have not solved the problem but have remediated it to some degree. It doesn’t sound like the world I would want to live in but at my age I do not have to worry about it too much.
The key I think--spoiler alert!!--is the Epilog. This has her son Kipp rereading this book in 2100, when he's 87, reflecting on the events of the 21st century. Those "remembered" events include wars, the extinction of animals such as elephants and tigers, and the extinction of island nations such as the Maldives and cities such as New Orleans. We'll work it out but there will be significant costs.
The chapters are written more or less to a formula. Vince describes the general environmental problems of the chapter focus (such as deserts), provides some context of history, politics and economics, and then describes localities and some of the people there, often remarkable people who have come up with creative ways to successfully cope with environmental changes. The ability of people to come up with creative and effective changes seems to be an article of faith for her; I'm not so optimistic, but there are a number of quite remarkable people in this book and their stories really do reinforce the idea of human ingenuity and its ability to solve emerging problems, often in the sense of individuals trying new solutions where governments are not interested. Vince describes several governments, such as in Bolivia, Chile, and Uganda. I'd guess that government interference will negate or destroy some of the efforts she describes so well, but she doesn't address that.
I'm a bit confused by some of her discussion. For example, Chile has huge hydroelectric potential in the Baker River in the south of the country, which will transmit electricity 2,500 kilometers north to Santiago, requiring a transmission infrastructure that will eat deeply into scenic areas and forests. She interviews local people opposed to it, and doesn't outright say that the sacrifice is called for because of the need for energy. But elsewhere she says that adjusting to the Anthropocene will require giving up archaic notions such as wilderness (I'm simplifying a bit here). She's harsh on the idea of tourist destinations such as African parks. Another case is Brazil, with a highway through the rain forest to the Peruvian coast, so Brazilian products cab export to Asia from Pacific ports, but roads result in penetration into the countryside from the roads with devastating consequences; Vince doesn't exactly say the rainforest is doomed and that development is necessary, but she often mentions the need to raise the standards for poor people through development, so I'm assuming that this is a regrettable but necessary cost of adjusting to the Anthropocene.
After the intro, there are chapters on mountains, rivers, farmland, oceans, deserts, forests, rocks, and cities. Rocks include mining and other uses, and is an excellent discussion of rare metals such as lithium from Bolivia. She travels to and interviews people in many places, including the Maldives, Chile, Nepal, Brazil, Bolivia, Kenya, among others. She experiences life with poor folks and explores inaccessible places, and others not often mentioned by travelers, including a Brazilian favela and an intriguing (and depressing) venture into a Bolivian mine at Potosi. Some of the people she interviews are really inspiring. I found several portions to be especially interesting: the fate of the Mekong, the desperate situation of the Maldives and Kiribati, and the woman she spends time with in Uganda.
I do not know how she manages to be optimistic, given the magnitude of the problems we will face, but she does.