Wednesday, February 1, 2017

climate science

Mark your calendars!

--Sunday, February 5th at 2pm, the final film in The Holocaust in Film series, “The People vs. Fritz Bauer"

--Our February GRG meeting is one Tuesday early this month on February 21st at 6:30pm and the topic up for discussion is biographical fiction.  There is a selection of this genre on display at the 2nd floor reference desk.

--The Friends of the Library annual Book Sale is the last weekend of the month.  The invite-only preview party is Thursday, February 23 @ 6pm.  Didn’t receive an invitation?  No worries!  You can join the Friends at the door for a $25 donation.  The sale opens to the public Friday-Saturday, 10am-5pm, and Sunday 1pm-4pm. 

This month, we discussed books on climate science.  The conversation was lively!

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A major book about the future of the world, blending intellectual and natural history and field reporting into a powerful account of the mass extinction unfolding before our eyes.

Over the last half-billion years, there have been Five mass extinctions, when the diversity of life on earth suddenly and dramatically contracted. Scientists around the world are currently monitoring the sixth extinction, predicted to be the most devastating extinction event since the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs. This time around, the cataclysm is us. In prose that is at once frank, entertaining, and deeply informed, New Yorker writer Elizabeth Kolbert tells us why and how human beings have altered life on the planet in a way no species has before. Interweaving research in half a dozen disciplines, descriptions of the fascinating species that have already been lost, and the history of extinction as a concept, Kolbert provides a moving and comprehensive account of the disappearances occurring before our very eyes. She shows that the sixth extinction is likely to be mankind's most lasting legacy, compelling us to rethink the fundamental question of what it means to be human.

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We humans are the God species, both the creators and destroyers of life on this planet. As we enter a new geological era - the Anthropocene - our collective power now overwhelms and dominates the major forces of nature.

But from the water cycle to the circulation of nitrogen and carbon through the entire Earth system, we are coming dangerously close to destroying the planetary life-support systems that sustain us. In this controversial new book, Royal Society Science Books Prize winner Mark Lynas shows us how we must use our new mastery over nature to save the planet from ourselves.

Taking forward the work of a brilliant new group of Earth-system scientists who have mapped out our real 'planetary boundaries', Lynas draws up a radical manifesto calling for the increased use of environmentally-friendly technologies like genetic engi- neering and nuclear power as part of a global effort to use humanity's best tools to protect and nurture the biosphere.

Ecological limits are real, but economic limits are not, Lynas contends. We can and must feed a richer population of nine billion people in decades to come, whilst also respecting the nine planetary boundaries - from biodiversity to ocean acidification - now identified and quantified by scientists.

Ripping up years of environmental orthodoxy, he reveals how the prescriptions of the current green movement are likely to hinder as much as help our vitally-needed effort to use science and technology to play God and save the planet.

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The most important book yet from the author of the international bestseller The Shock Doctrine, a brilliant explanation of why the climate crisis challenges us to abandon the core “free market” ideology of our time, restructure the global economy, and remake our political systems.

In short, either we embrace radical change ourselves or radical changes will be visited upon our physical world. The status quo is no longer an option.

In This Changes Everything Naomi Klein argues that climate change isn’t just another issue to be neatly filed between taxes and health care. It’s an alarm that calls us to fix an economic system that is already failing us in many ways. Klein meticulously builds the case for how massively reducing our greenhouse emissions is our best chance to simultaneously reduce gaping inequalities, re-imagine our broken democracies, and rebuild our gutted local economies. She exposes the ideological desperation of the climate-change deniers, the messianic delusions of the would-be geoengineers, and the tragic defeatism of too many mainstream green initiatives. And she demonstrates precisely why the market has not—and cannot—fix the climate crisis but will instead make things worse, with ever more extreme and ecologically damaging extraction methods, accompanied by rampant disaster capitalism.

Klein argues that the changes to our relationship with nature and one another that are required to respond to the climate crisis humanely should not be viewed as grim penance, but rather as a kind of gift—a catalyst to transform broken economic and cultural priorities and to heal long-festering historical wounds. And she documents the inspiring movements that have already begun this process: communities that are not just refusing to be sites of further fossil fuel extraction but are building the next, regeneration-based economies right now.

Can we pull off these changes in time? Nothing is certain. Nothing except that climate change changes everything. And for a very brief time, the nature of that change is still up to us.

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Harmony: A New Way of Looking at Our World by Charles HRH The Prince of Wales
For the first time, His Royal Highness Charles, the Prince of Wales, shares his views on how mankind’s most pressing modern challenges are rooted in our disharmony with nature. In the vein of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth and Van Jones’ Green Collar Economy, Prince Charles presents the compelling case that solutions to our most dire crises—from climate change to poverty—lie in regaining a balance with the world around us.

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GENERAL DISCUSSION: Prince Charles’ new book, “Climate Change: A Ladybird Expert Book,” came out last month. 
Climate Change is the first book of a new series of titles written for an adult readership and produced in the same iconic small hardback format pioneered by the original Ladybirds.

Written by some of the leading lights and outstanding communicators in their fields, the Ladybird Expert books provide clear, accessible and authoritative introductions, informed by expert opinion, to subjects drawn from science, history and culture.

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Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring was first published in three serialized excerpts in the New Yorker in June of 1962. The book appeared in September of that year and the outcry that followed its publication forced the banning of DDT and spurred revolutionary changes in the laws affecting our air, land, and water. Carson’s passionate concern for the future of our planet reverberated powerfully throughout the world, and her eloquent book was instrumental in launching the environmental movement. It is without question one of the landmark books of the twentieth century.  

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Global Weirdness summarizes everything we know about the science of climate change, explains what is likely to happen to the climate in the future, and lays out, in practical terms, what we can do to avoid further shifts. In fifty easy-to-read entries, Climate Central tackles basic questions such as: 

-Is climate ever “normal”?
-Why and how do fossil-fuel burning and other human practices produce greenhouse gases?
-What natural forces have caused climate change in the past?
-What risks does climate change pose for human health?
-What accounts for the diminishment of mountain glaciers and small ice caps around the world since 1850?
-What are the economic costs and benefits of reducing carbon emissions?

Illustrated throughout with clarifying graphics, Global Weirdness enlarges our understanding of how climate change affects our daily lives, and arms us with the incontrovertible facts we need to make informed decisions about the future of the planet, and of humankind.

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The past fifteen thousand years-the entire span of human civilization-have witnessed dramatic sea level changes, which began with rapid global warming at the end of the Ice Age, when coastlines were more than seven hundred feet below modern levels. Over the next ten millennia, the oceans climbed in fits and starts. These rapid changes had little effect on those humans who experienced them, partly because there were so few people on earth, and also because those people were able to adjust readily to new coastlines.

Global sea levels stabilized about six thousand years ago, except for local adjustments that caused often significant changes to places such as the Nile Delta. The curve of inexorably rising seas flattened out as urban civilizations developed in Egypt, Mesopotamia, and South Asia. The earth's population boomed, quintupling from the time of Christ to the Industrial Revolution. The threat from the oceans increased with our crowding along shores to live, fish, and trade.

Since 1860, the world has warmed significantly and the ocean's climb has accelerated. The sea level changes are cumulative and gradual; no one knows when they will end. The Attacking Ocean, from celebrated author Brian Fagan, tells a tale of the rising complexity of the relationship between humans and the sea at their doorsteps, a complexity created not by the oceans, which have changed little. What has changed is us, and the number of us on earth.

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Is it more environmentally friendly to ride the bus or drive a hybrid car? In a public washroom, should you dry your hands with paper towel or use the air dryer? And how bad is it really to eat bananas shipped from South America? Climate change is upon us whether we like it or not. 

Managing our carbon usage has become a part of everyday life and we have no choice but to live in a carbon-careful world. The seriousness of the challenge is getting stronger, demanding that we have a proper understanding of the carbon implications of our everyday lifestyle decisions. However most of us don't have sufficient understanding of carbon emissions to be able to engage in this intelligently. 

Part green-lifestyle guide, part popular science, How Bad Are Bananas? is the first book to provide the information we need to make carbon-savvy purchases and informed lifestyle choices, and to build carbon considerations into our everyday thinking. It also helps put our decisions into perspective with entries for the big things (the World Cup, volcanic eruptions, and the Iraq war) as well as the small (email, ironing a shirt, a glass of beer). And it covers the range from birth (the carbon footprint of having a child) to death (the carbon impact of cremation). Packed full of surprises-a plastic bag has the smallest footprint of any item listed, while a block of cheese is bad news-the book continuously informs, delights, and engages the reader. 

Highly accessible and entertaining, solidly researched and referenced, packed full of easily digestible figures, catchy statistics, and informative charts and graphs, How Bad Are Bananas? is doesn't tell people what to do, but it will raise awareness, encourage discussion, and help people to make up their own minds based on their own priorities.

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Rotten Ice: Traveling by Dogsled in the Melting Arctic by Gretel Ehrlich (Harper’s: April 2015 issue)
Since 1993, Gretel Ehrlich has made several trips to northwestern Greenland, more than 500 miles above the Arctic Circle.  There, she formed friendships with Inuit subsistence hunters in Qaanaaq with whom she lived and hunted on sea ice for months at a time.

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Erin was a divorced mother struggling to raise three kids on $800 a month when she set off the investigation that forced a utility company to pay $333 million for leaking a known carcinogen into the water supply of a small California town. She was rewarded with a surprise $2 million dollar bonus for her efforts, but the real pay-offs were the respect she earned, the self-esteem she built, and the knowledge that she could accomplish anything by calling on her inner strength. Thanks to the movie of her David versus Goliath struggle and victory, Brockovich is now famous, but still fighting. She's currently researching numerous new toxicpollution cases. "We're going to make a difference," she says, "I absolutely believe that."  In Take It From Me!, Erin herself provides readers with the motivational strategies and tactics that led her to find her inner strength and teaches readers how to use their own inner strength for amazing success. 

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