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After the Ice: Life, Death, and Geopolitics in the New Arctic Hardcover – Bargain Price, December 1, 2009

4.6 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

For decades, scientists knew that the Arctic's summer ice had been slowly shrinking, but they did not anticipate that "an enormous area" would suddenly melt away in 2007: "Explanations kept changing as the Arctic sprang new surprises." Global warming in itself was not a sufficient explanation, nor was "Arctic Oscillation," fluctuating wind patterns that create changes in atmospheric pressure. Searching for answers, Anderson, former editor-in-chief of New Scientist magazine, travelled extensively in the region-"Svalbard, Alaska, Norway, the Canadian Islands and both Coasts of Greenland"-checking out a hypothesis that the Oscillation had formed thinner surface layers, which melt more quickly. Satellite pictures, combined with underwater submarine probes, tracked the motion of the ice over several summers, allowing scientists to "follow areas of ice as they moved... and track which ice survived," chart the effects of salinity variations, and more. Anderson also meets members of the Inuit community, traditional hunter- trappers who share "troubled stories" of forced relocations, efforts to preserve self-rule, and adapting to the realities of climate change. In this fascinating, insightful overview, Anderson asserts that the days of the "iconic big beasts of the Arctic" are numbered, but remains hopeful about the Arctic's uncertain future.
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From Booklist

Anderson, a biologist and former editor in chief for New Scientist, was thrilled to see his first polar bear on his first trip to the High Arctic, until a colleague pointed out that the bear was starving to death. Endangered polar bears are emblematic of the drastic changes under way in the Arctic, but there are many more stories to tell about this land in flux. Anderson traveled far and wide, speaking with reindeer herders, hunters, and dozens of experts in diverse fields, piecing together the most panoramic picture yet of this crucial region. Delving into Arctic history, he offers fresh insights into the traditions of indigenous people and the consequences of Arctic exploration, colonization, exploitation, and pollution; and he is equally adept at parsing the growing international scramble for the Arctic’s oil, gas, and minerals. With measurements from satellites and submarines quantifying the rapid shrinking of Arctic ice, Anderson joins the call to reduce carbon emissions to slow global warming. Inquisitive, cogent, and compelling, Anderson shares his findings, concerns, and fascination with this vulnerable “place of profound and diverse beauty.” --Donna Seaman

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Smithsonian; 1 edition (December 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061579076
  • ASIN: B0046LUEOG
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,606,596 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Pamela Robinson on December 18, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Alun Anderson has gone several steps beyond just complaining about or mourning the changing climate in the Arctic in his book, "After the Ice: Life, Death, and Geopolitics in the New Arctic."

He tells us in well-documented form that while the rest of the world might get exercised about the occasional polar bear, there are serious developments involving control, industrialization, oil drilling, ethnic issues and much more, related to the changes occurring in the frozen North. What we don't see because it is so far out of our view is the international struggle to control its future because so much of the rapidly fading past is lost for good. Anderson has spent much time watching developments, interviewing experts on site, and witnessing the loss of habitat and displacement of people. For those who are worried about the seas rising because of melting ice or the loss of ice-packed beautiful scenery, Anderson acknowledges those concerns but notes that events are rapidly moving ahead of those obvious issues. As the ice thins and then disappears, new sea routes are opening, setting off struggles among Greenland, Canada, the United States, Russia Norway and others, all of whom want to control the area and have access to its natural resources.

For those most concerned about the damage to native seal, walrus and polar bear populations, this well-written book offers plenty of heartbreaking material as he quotes people who witnessed starving bears, walrus stampedes and the changes in human culture. But everything he writes is buttressed by charts, documented by scientists, in many cases, for decades.

Deniers of the human factor in global climate change won't be swayed by these facts either but everyone else will rightly be concerned by what is going on and who is determining the future of such a vast and important part of the globe.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This very well-written book is a calm, factual and compelling account of the realities of climate change. Deniers may make fun of scientists' differences about the likely extent of the speed and extent of the ways in which our world will be affected, and use these as excuses for inaction, but, by focusing just on the incontrovertible changes in the Arctic, Alun Anderson reminds us sharply that non-productive partisan debate is a luxury we can no longer afford. Not only is the entire ecosystem in turmoil, but the existence of open water where there used to be impenetrable ice has profound geopolitical effects that we ignore at our peril

I bought a second copy of the book immediately after I finished reading it. This one will be on loan to my friends, and I doubt I will get it back for a long time!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This amazing book gives the most comprehensive picture of the Arctic I've ever seen.

You'll learn all about ice, types, age, thickness and vulnerability. Aronson describes the models, their strengths and weaknesses, the technical difficulties of improving them.

There is a section on border disputes and the major treaties affecting them.

A possible resource boom is impending. Aronson discusses the riches available and the technical problems involved in developing them without risking an ecological disaster.

Unlike most books, this one looks at all of Arctic, Norway, Greenland and Svalbard as well as the more familiar Alaska, Russia and Canada.

Last but not least, the book is well written. For anyone interested in this wild and beautiful region of the world, Aronson's book is a must read.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
After the Ice is a wake-up call. The prediction that the summer ice in the Arctic will be gone by 2100 is wrong. New convincing evidence rolls the prediction backward. It will come much earlier - with dates ranging from 2016 to 2045. The summer ice is melting from beneath, by warm temperate ocean waters being transported to the Arctic and by air pollution, not global warming, from above. It answered my questions as to why the entire Arctic and Greenland is melting fast while only the west side of the Antarctic ice is disappearing. What's scary is what will happen when the summer ice is gone and the Arctic starts absorbing heat instead of reflecting it? Will the planet thermometer make a sudden jump? Nearly all the documented information is in stark contrast to what certain politicians and certain news agencies would have us believe. Alun Anderson did a marvelous job in his two years of traveling throughout the Arctic talking to scientists, nuclear submarine captains, and the inhabitants. His sources are many, from the 1800's to the present, all listed, a real eye opening peek into a rapidly changing Arctic with effects that will be felt worldwide.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is slightly dated but global warming continues to be a factor in the polar areas. This is a science journalist approach rather than a scientific report, so it is quite accessible for any reader. The ice does appear to be going, and the ecological impact may be severe--it's likely we will lose walrus, beluga, polar bears and some seals. He does not see the polar seas (North polar seas in this context) becoming a major shipping route, and doesn't think the deep sea resources will be developed for some time yet--the weather remains severe even if the ice melts.

The resources at immediate issue will be those of the continental shelves, subject to competing claims. There is also Nunavut, 800,000 square miles in Canada populated by 30,000 Inuit, so those resources will likely upstage this self-ruled government. The Inuit have huge problems with alcohol; and drug use, and suicide., which could well get worse as climate changes. The same applies to native peoples in Greenland, Scandinavia and Russia.

Most worrisome is the huge--really, really huge--amount of methane now locked in permafrost. If it starts seeping into the atmosphere it will also be a huge problem.

Overall this is a good survey of the polar region and what is likely to come to pass if the ice goes. The maps could be better. Some fascinating detail on the regime in Spitsbergen, and an important note, that non-polar species are expanding their range north, killer whales for example.
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