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Fire and Ice: Soot, Solidarity, and Survival on the Roof of the World 1st Edition
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“Fire and Ice is top-notch on the ground reporting on one more piece of the global environmental puzzle--a particularly tragic piece, and one that we should work hard to solve for so many profound reasons.” ―Bill McKibben, author of Wandering Home
“Fire and Ice wonderfully captures the human face of the impact of traditional cooking fires and fuels on the lives of individuals, made vibrant in this environmental travelogue that encompasses and connects the lives of villagers in a remote Himalayan village, to scientists, political officials and policy makers stretching from New Delhi to startup dot.com companies to the negotiating chambers of the United Nations.” ―Daniel Kammen, Professor of Energy, University of California, Berkeley
“To the unfolding drama of climate change Jonathan Mingle brings something new to worry about -- black carbon, the tiny particles from a billion cooking fires that absorb the sun's heat and are melting the great glaciers in the Himalayas which regulate the water flow in the mighty rivers that feed half of Asia. Mingle's marvelous and original book, Fire and Ice, is no gloomy tale but a story of intellectual, scientific and human adventure among the Zanskaris on the roof of the world, where Mingle unfolds the beautiful simplicity of the problem, and of what to do about it.” ―Thomas Powers, author of The Killing of Crazy Horse and Heisenberg's War
“A searching, sobering, sometimes-scary look at an overlooked carrier of climate change…If you weren't worried about climate change before, this is just the book to kindle your angst. A promising debut.” ―Kirkus
“Fascinating…readers who might not have given much thought about a remote Indian village will understand its contemporary relevance.” ―Publishers Weekly
“An intriguing look at...the portrayal of the impact of carbon pollution on a small village and the worldwide ripples.” ―Booklist
“A compelling case for how we can clear our skies.” ―Mother Jones
“Fire and Ice is a lyrical tale about life in the coldest places at a time when the earth itself is warming. Author Jonathan Mingle takes the reader to a hearth in the high Himalaya, to join one community within one ancient culture as its citizens respond to climate change. The villagers' story, not to mention the soot from their cookstoves, resounds through the mountains and encircles the world.” ―Dava Sobel, author of Longitude, Galileo’s Daughter, and The Planets
About the Author
Jonathan Mingle's writing on the environment, climate and development has appeared in The New York Times, Slate, The Boston Globe, and other publications. He is a former Middlebury Fellow in Environmental Journalism, a recipient of the American Alpine Club's Zach Martin Breaking Barriers Award, and a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley's Energy and Resources Group. He lives in Vermont.
- Publisher : St. Martin's Press; 1st Edition (March 24, 2015)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 464 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1250029503
- ISBN-13 : 978-1250029508
- Item Weight : 1.51 pounds
- Dimensions : 6 x 1.19 x 9 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #3,055,824 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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A great book, whether you are interested in climate change, glaciers, or Himalayan cultures.
As Mingle says, he began by simply trying to figure out why the Zanskari village of Kumik, where he had friends, was drying up. He’d been asked to consult on the building of a solar heated home in the new location of that village of 40-some homes in a very arid region nearby which none-the-less held promise of more reliable water due to the confluence of two rivers. In the process of visiting the village homes, he experienced first-hand the incredible indoor “black carbon” (soot) pollution resulting from the burning of yak dung and kerosene in open fires or inefficient stoves that the people used for both heating and cooking. This led to a more extensive investigation of the problem of black carbon and other particulate pollution in general, which has the double whammy of causing millions of premature deaths per year (especially of infants and children via pneumonia and asthma) and greatly accelerating the melting of the glaciers such as the one which had previously provided the water for Kumik.
The book is replete with statistics, but always presented in the midst of a fascinating first-person narrative discussion of Mingle’s own experiences in the village of Kumik and elsewhere. He quotes scientists and politicians, but in the context of personal engagement with these individuals. Throughout the highly evocative descriptions of these personal experiences, I found myself continuously “thinking back” to experiences of my own – for instance, the time an excursion to the racetrack in Birmingham, AL was totally ruined for me because the bus I was riding in spent about half-an-hour idling behind another bus before the excursion began. I became violently ill as a result of inhaling the diesel exhaust – that black carbon and other toxic fumes Mingle was describing so vividly.
The author makes the point extremely persuasively: we will NOT solve the problems of global warming by discussing remote probabilities. We CAN solve them if we begin to deal on a case-by-case, region-by-region, person-by-person basis. We have done it before, with such things as the killing London Fog in 1952 leading to major reforms, or with California’s stringent restrictions on automobile exhaust emissions that has gone a long way towards “cleaning up” the skies in LA. Indeed, the second half of the book is full of positive interventions that are already in process, as well as a myriad of suggestions for further success. As he makes extremely clear, the same type of community solidarity that was necessary for the successful move from the original site of Kumik to its new location is the same thing that, expanded to a regional, national and global scale, will perhaps save human life on the entire planet. And it is indeed the emphasis on saving human life and preventing the extreme costs of poor health and resulting medical expenses in the present, that will have far more policy impact than nebulous discussion about the potential problems of sea-level rise somewhere in the future.
There are interesting sections on the lives of these villagers and of Wangchuk - an inventive man who has come up with many solutions to the problems that are caused by black carbon, fires for heating and cooking, poor construction and the quality of life of people. He bases many of his ideas on solar solutions to not only heat but also as a power source. The sun shines at this high altitude for most days and the use of this resource would cure many of the problems and help improve the quality of life.
Mingle writes lyrically of Gods giving fire and the brown puddles of cloud, smoke and soot that cover much of India and the Asian region. We also learn of the existence, and yet acceptance of their life styles and difficulties by many of his acquaintances in this high Himalayan region. Resources are so thin there is not enough paint to finish the eyes of a Buddha.
There are descriptions of the technicalities of fire, how and why soot is produced and of the thousands of people killed every year from the air pollution produced. Solutions are presented, many of which are overlooked and stymied by those in authority and by government bureaucracy.
This is a fascinating story and description of the complications and solutions to a form of pollution most are not aware of. Those who are interested in that, climate change and its effects and just the existence of those in Himalayan villages would enjoy this book.