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High Tide: The Truth About Our Climate Crisis Paperback – June 1, 2004
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While governments debate and scientists test ever-more complicated hypotheses, ordinary people all over the world are starting to notice the effects of global warming. In High Tide, British journalist Mark Lynas visits global hot spots to record people's reactions and sound a clarion call for action. Readers looking for a "we are the world" approach to climate change may be taken aback by Lynas' flat expression of the uncomfortable truth: "Every time America votes, the world holds its breath.... Climate change begins and ends in America." Lynas damns the George W. Bush administration for undermining global efforts such as the Kyoto Protocol as well as actively preventing innovation within the United States that would reduce auto and industrial emissions. But High Tide isn't the firs or the best book to do that; instead, its narrative strength is in the riveting stories of how small towns, islands, riverside cities, and rural areas are being slowly destroyed. Gardeners in England will be unable to grow heritage plant species within the next 75 years. The Alaskan permafrost is melting, as temperatures there increase "ten times faster than in the rest of the world." An entire Pacific Island nation--Tuvalu--will soon disappear beneath the rising sea, leaving its people homeless. Lynas visits Alaska, Tuvalu, Peru, China, and the east coast of the United States, documenting the lives, places, and cultures that will be lost in the decades to come. Thankfully, just when hopelessness threatens to overwhelm the reader, High Tide offers a five-step plan to mitigate the most catastrophic effects of global climate change. Every step in the plan involves action by United States citizens and their elected representatives, offering American activists and visionaries a chance to do penance for wrecking parts of the world far from our own driveways. --Therese Littleton
From Publishers Weekly
Deeply disturbed by unprecedented rain and catastrophic flooding in his native England, journalist Lynas set out on a three-year journey to bear witness to global climate change. Traveling to Alaska to see vanishing tundra, to the growing deserts of Inner Mongolia, to a tiny Pacific island nation facing devastation from rising ocean levels and finally to disappearing glaciers in Peru, Lynas vividly describes the physical and human toll our fossil fuelâ"based culture takes on the planet. Not a scientist himself, Lynas bolsters his case with abundant footnoted scientific references. This is both personal journey and fierce polemic. Much of his political argument and ire is directed squarely at the U.S. In Lynas's view, the U.S., through its domestic and foreign policy, has undermined the valiant efforts of a coalition of developed and developing countries to control and even reduce the emission of greenhouse gases. From the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, which the first Bush administration threatened to boycott had there been any agreement that included mandatory restrictions, through what he sees as the Clinton policy of "green" lip service, to the second Bush administration's 2001 unilateral withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol, Lynas portrays a government in league with carbon-producing and -consuming industrialists bent on promoting a vision "that what is good for oil corporations is good for Americaâ"and, by extensionâ"the world." In prose that is deeply felt and poignant, if sometimes awkward, Lynas makes no concession to evenhandedness in his assessment of the status quo. With a closing section including a six-point manifesto for addressing the global warming crisis and a comprehensive appendix listing information sources, advocacy groups and Web sites, this could well serve as a primer for budding antiâ"global-warming activists. 6 pages of illus., maps not seen by PW.
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Top customer reviews
Once you have become thoroughly depressed by reading the state of the world in "High Tide", by all means obtain a copy of "Earth: The Sequel: The Race to Reinvent Energy and Stop Global Warming" by Fred Krupp and Miriam Horn. That book gives an outlook on all of the alternative means of producing energy that have a zero or low carbon footprint. Good Reading.
But Lynas, like many environmental activists, falls flat on his solutions. For example, he says that because burning any more oil will worsen warming, "there should be a worldwide halt to the exploration and development of new oil, coal and gas reserves, because even existing reserves should never be burned as fuel." In his fear of warming, Lynas doesn't consider the immediate human suffering that such a rash course would create. It seems like he doesn't know--or doesn't care--how much our society relies on oil, not only for 90% of our transportation but for much of our food, pharmaecuticals, and other life-critical applications. For civilization to continue, we need a gradual, orderly draw-down from fossil fuels, not a crashing halt.
It might comfort Lynas to know that we'll have to get off oil anyway even without global warming, because cheap oil is fast running out. Those remaining reserves will be so much more difficult and expensive to pump than our oil today that we'll never even have a chance to use them up. And just as supply peaks, there's rising demand from China and India. $10 a gallon gas will get us off oil more quickly than fear of warming. But then our society will face other problems--including potential political collapse--that will make it all the more difficult to deal with warming. For more realistic talk on energy, I'd look to books on "peak oil" such as James Howard Kunstler's "The Long Emergency" or Richard Heinberg's "Power Down."
Lynas is just as naive in his approach to politics, assuming that if people--especially Americans, who emit most greenhouse gases--learn the facts, they'll all start thinking and acting like greenies. Yet we all know that the biggest barrier to stopping global warming is not lack of scientific knowlege or even popular awareness, but economic and political short-sightedness. The rich don't want to change their ways, and they'll use power, influence, and corruption to preserve their wealth, warming be damned. For a more nuanced look, try the Ehrlichs' "One with Nineveh." They talk about changes in government and business that will have to happen to save the earth, showing a much more complete understanding of the human-nature equation than does Lynas, who sees retreating glaciers more clearly than he sees expanding markets.
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