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The End of Nature (1989)

– tekijä: Bill McKibben

Muut tekijät: Katso muut tekijät -osio.

JäseniäKirja-arvostelujaSuosituimmuussijaKeskimääräinen arvioMaininnat
7951021,490 (3.67)18
Reissued on the tenth anniversary of its publication, this classic work on our environmental crisis features a new introduction by the author, reviewing both the progress and ground lost in the fight to save the earth. This impassioned plea for radical and life-renewing change is today still considered a groundbreaking work in environmental studies. McKibben's argument that the survival of the globe is dependent on a fundamental, philosophical shift in the way we relate to nature is more relevant than ever. McKibben writes of our earth's environmental cataclysm, addressing such core issues as the greenhouse effect, acid rain, and the depletion of the ozone layer. His new introduction addresses some of the latest environmental issues that have risen during the 1990s. The book also includes an invaluable new appendix of facts and figures that surveys the progress of the environmental movement. More than simply a handbook for survival or a doomsday catalog of scientific prediction, this classic, soulful lament on Nature is required reading for nature enthusiasts, activists, and concerned citizens alike.… (lisätietoja)
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Näyttää 1-5 (yhteensä 10) (seuraava | näytä kaikki)
I was supposed to see McKibben speak, so figured I should delve into his books, having only read his essays in the past. That was maybe a mistake. First, work responsibilities popped up meaning I won't get to go to the presentation. Second, End of Nature is as bleak as the title sounds. I don't think there's anything in it about the environmental crisis that I didn't know prior to picking up this book, but there's two key differences. First, a slew of the problems I already knew about were presented in one book, whereas I learned about them piecemeal through different deep science/environmental works before. Second, McKibben wrote about these problems 32 years ago! That's 32 years that we've done little to address the problems and plenty to make them worse. The book overall though, doesn't offer solutions and to be fair, being honest, I agree that there's not any practical solutions. People just don't see the danger and don't care to see. But a lot of the book was personal musings, peppered with science but not as deep a science as I've been used to in other environmental books. It's a dark, dark book and unfortunately, it's honest. ( )
  Sean191 | Oct 8, 2019 |
Whatever we once thought Nature was – wildness; God; a simple place free from human thumbprints, or intricate machinery sustaining life on earth – we have now given it a kick that will change it forever. Humanity has stepped across the threshold. In his free ranging and provocative book, Bill McKibben explores the philosophies and technologies that have brought us here, and he shows how final a crossing we may have made.
  PendleHillLibrary | Mar 19, 2019 |
(original review, 2006)

"Climate is a Chaotic System
Chaotic Systems cannot be predicted
Climate, therefore, cannot be predicted.
The IPCC has stated this explicitly."

I've been hearing this almost since forever. But is it right?

Predicting a Chaotic System is BY DEFINITION impossible. Climate is a Chaotic System. Ensembles are used to try to mitigate the nature of a Chaotic System by extending how far out one might be able to present probabilities for different scenarios. This is done with weather forecasts all the time. They use ensembles which is why they present the possibility of rain next Thursday as a probability. But as you know, these are often wrong. So if they are right, there is an element of luck involved as the conditions that will (or will not), cause it to rain in five days are changing by the minute. The calculation of climate variables (that is long term averages) is much easier than weather forecasting, since weather is ruled by vagaries of stochastic fluctuations, while climate is not. We can demonstrate this sort of climate response clearly in the Lorenz model, or any more complex climate model. Perturbing the initial conditions gives a completely different trajectory (weather), but this averages out over time, and the statistics of different long-term runs are indistinguishable. However a steady perturbation to the system can generate a significant change to the long-term statistics. This disproves the common but misguided claim that chaotic weather prevents meaningful climate prediction. In fact, all climate models do predict that the change in globally-averaged steady state temperature, at least, is almost exactly proportional to the change in the net radioactive forcing, indicating a near-linear response of the climate, at least on the broadest scales.

At the centre of chaos theory is the fascinating idea that order and chaos are not always diametrically opposed. Chaotic systems are an intimate mix of the two. From the outside they display unpredictable and chaotic behaviour, but expose the inner workings and you discover a perfectly deterministic set of equations working like clockwork. Some systems flip this premise around, with orderly effects emerging out of turbulent and chaotic causes. With respect to temperature the climate system is such a system.

I'm not part of this book’s intended readership as I don't need convincing and I can cope with (quite a few of) the technicalities. However, I am extremely glad that it was written, as it is fundamentally important to seek as wide an audience as possible with regard to this issue.

What’s the difference between a denier and a sceptic? These two things are not the same - scepticism in the face of something relatively new is perfectly reasonable, indeed it is 'scientific' to be sceptical, at least to begin with. However, this is a rapidly moving field of knowledge. “Denialism”, on the other hand, especially in the face of the steadily accumulating body of evidence, is both stupid and very probably dangerous. As I said elsewhere, we are taking steps on a road which could lead, in the end, to a 200 metre rise in worldwide sea levels, albeit not for quite a long time in human terms. Politicians and economists plan for this year and next year - maybe the next five or ten if you're lucky. They don't plan for the next hundred or five hundred. And that is part of the problem - getting people to understand the long term* risks, given that we are talking about a process which, in human terms, is gradual and so for most of us, most of the time, tomorrow will look much like today.

I apologise if i sound a bit snippy as I'm not meaning to. Some moderately technical books which I could recommend to our Deniers are John Harte's “Consider a Spherical Cow” and the follow-up “Consider a Cylindrical Cow”. Neither goes beyond elementary calculus, though I realise that statement would not be very comforting to a lot of people:) The first volume specialises in what I would call 'back-of-the-envelope calculations, and covers a lot of basic climate science. Then there is Princeton University Press's excellent Primers in Climate series, of which “Climate And The Oceans” is typical. Again, they contain maths up to elementary differential equations, but this is a field where you really can't do much without some of it I'm afraid.

(*) The economist John Maynard Keynes, who has a strong interest in physics, once famously remarked: 'In the long run, we're all dead.'

I agree with the fact that it would indeed be nice to live in an intellectual world without a cultural divide, but I suspect that it has no likelihood of happening any time soon. I became more sanguine about this attitude only when I read books by people who are clearly cleverer than me who apparently felt much the same, plus I learned a whole host of techniques for obtaining approximate analytical solutions to various difficult equations, and the less difficult ones i can solve exactly anyway. One of the books in question is “The Pleasures of Counting” by T. W. Korner, who has these three things to say about computing, when it is necessary (in the real world I'm well aware that it very often is):

1) Does the program start? Many fail to do this.

2) Does the program stop? See point 1)

And by far and away my favourite:

3) Can my valet use it?

Presumably he is not being entirely serious, but it makes me feel better anyway:)

On the point about two cultures, it is hard to improve on the late, great Terry Pratchett's observation, via the medium of one of his greatest characters, the (arts-educated) Lord Vetinari in the Discworld book The Last Hero:

“He hesitated. Lord Vetinari was not a man who delighted in the technical. There were two cultures as far as he was concerned. One was the real one, the other was occupied by people who liked machinery and ate pizza at unreasonable hours.”

Thank you for that, that makes me feel somewhat better:)

I suppose that I'm almost the reverse of a lot of people in a way - I was a precocious child. You can probably see why Pratchett is very much my cup of tea though (he has been compared to Charles Dickens, though obviously with a lot more laughs).

At 13, however, I discovered an interest in astronomy, and, after reading various non-technical (no equations) books on the subject, I found a technical one on stellar structure in a bookshop. Of course, I had no idea what a differential equation was at that point, but I knew i needed to find out, so I developed a parallel interest in mathematics, which, along with physics/ astrophysics, has sustained (and delighted) me ever since. I can definitely say that that book really made an impact on my mind.

Back in the day, I did private tuition in both subjects (**), which means that, with the bright ones, as well as making sure they knew the syllabus, I showed them some of the more interesting (***) stuff - usually in response to questions that they have asked in school and been fobbed off with 'you don't need to know that for the exam.' For me, there is almost no greater pleasure in the world than to be a teacher in the company of an interested and intelligent student asking questions.

(**) However, when you consider that even my A Level physics students don't know who Maxwell was (i make sure that they find out!), then, sadly, i wish that i could be modestly surprised. Which i'm not. To be fair to them, it is true that they don't really know anything about Newton and Einstein either, other than their names, but our society's total ignorance of the man who gave us the electrical modern world is rather depressing. On that basis therefore you really haven't got a (Schrodinger's?) cat in hell's chance of them knowing about Dirac.

(***) I realise that the definition of this word varies with the individual.

Climate change will be addressed when money can be made out of doing so - probably. It appears to be too late to stop the changes that are unfolding due to the delay between polluting the planet and the resulting climatic changes that will be a big problem for civilisation. I have formed the view that are now in a position where emissions reduction on its own will be inadequate to prevent changes. We will need to actively remove CO2 from the atmosphere to a level of about 260-300ppm (my estimate based on general reading of reliable reports).

So who is going to pay?
The taxpayer as always. You and me and generations to follow of course.
And the scumbags who happily did this to us, and their spawn, will get even richer.
And the poor will suffer - more.
The politicians will look earnest. The financiers will continue to gamble the world's wealth. The dog-botherers will continue to disrupt debate. The do-gooders will continue to wring their hands and dole out charity.
The scientists will continue to research, publish papers and just get on with giving us answers.

One bright thought; if dealing with climate change was more profitable than selling armaments there might even be some ancillary benefits. I am cautiously hopeful we can science our way out of this. Civilisation is now so science dependent that there really is no alternative. If civilisation breaks down badly, there are about 100 nuclear plants worldwide that would probably melt down and become world changing catastrophic disasters. There are millions of tons of lethal chemicals and pollutants in storage at any time that require constant and careful management. If all that get loose in the environment it could change life on Earth forever.

It is too late to give up. We broke it, we have to fix it. That means science and lots of it. Catastrophe capitalism will kick in - probably.

Bottom-line: In J. E. Littlewood's “A Mathematician’s Miscellany”, which is a delightful mixture of gossip, academic bitchiness and some actual mathematics, he attempts to estimate the probability of a celluloid mouse's prospects of survival in what he refers to as The Institution. It is not very high. Unlike his great friend and close colleague, G. H. Hardy, Littlewood saw saw no reason to apologise for being a mathematician. Believe in the science and forget the politicians. You have to understand the processes of denial. Those who have blinded themselves to the slow moving changes in the climate and repeat phrases to reassure themselves that nothing is happening are unwilling to even consider any events that do not conform to the narrow views of their ideology. That ideology confuses freedom with personal choices. As if the right to drink a certain brand of cola or drive a gas guzzler were rights guaranteed by the US Constitution. They take climate change as a personal encroachment on their rights and look for someone else to blame. The smartest deniers are able to come up with rationalizations to hide behind. Trust the science.

EDIT 2018: I should update this review, but why? What was true in 2006 is still true today. ( )
  antao | Oct 3, 2018 |
Bill McKibben wrote this book 25 years ago. He gives us a thorough overview of the causes and effects of global warming and considers the way humanity, politics and individuals deal with these new realities. In the first part of the book he lays out the effects of global warming and the most probable outcome in terms of temperature rise, general weather phenomena and sea level rise. Surprisingly this section does not feel dated and it seems the reaction of the global community is much the same today as it was then.

The second section was my favorite part of the book. As he writes about the End of Nature, he does not only contemplate the loss of a natural environment to sustain us but beyond that he considers the loss of nature as a defining element to what it means to be human. An environment untouched by humans, which allows us a glimpse at the divine, something beyond our influence. With the recognition of global warming as an effect driven by human civilization, we have finally managed to affect and change even the remotest places on earth and thus robbed ourselves of any truly wild place fully beyond the influence of humans, making us poorer for the barely acknowledged loss. He compares this loss to the disappearance of the Frontier as a defining element of the American identity.

In the last part of the book he goes on to ponder different ways we can react as individuals and society as a whole. Though he firmly believes that the path we're on is leading us down the wrong path, he has little hope that as individuals or communities we will be able to make the radical changes of lifestyle needed to avoid the worst of the effects.

Though it's not a very hopeful book, it does contain a lot of food for thought.
( )
  sushicat | Jan 14, 2016 |
A classic of environmental writing, it made a big splash when first released, partially due to the good writing and the vivid imagery. Like most environmental classics, it remains beloved of its loyal readers, but tends to grow dusty on the shelves waiting for a chance to make a difference. ( )
  Devil_llama | Apr 18, 2011 |
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Bill McKibbenensisijainen tekijäkaikki painoksetlaskettu
Woodman, JeffKertojamuu tekijäeräät painoksetvahvistettu
Sinun täytyy kirjautua sisään voidaksesi muokata Yhteistä tietoa
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Englanninkielinen Wikipedia (3)

Reissued on the tenth anniversary of its publication, this classic work on our environmental crisis features a new introduction by the author, reviewing both the progress and ground lost in the fight to save the earth. This impassioned plea for radical and life-renewing change is today still considered a groundbreaking work in environmental studies. McKibben's argument that the survival of the globe is dependent on a fundamental, philosophical shift in the way we relate to nature is more relevant than ever. McKibben writes of our earth's environmental cataclysm, addressing such core issues as the greenhouse effect, acid rain, and the depletion of the ozone layer. His new introduction addresses some of the latest environmental issues that have risen during the 1990s. The book also includes an invaluable new appendix of facts and figures that surveys the progress of the environmental movement. More than simply a handbook for survival or a doomsday catalog of scientific prediction, this classic, soulful lament on Nature is required reading for nature enthusiasts, activists, and concerned citizens alike.

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