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Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet [Hardcover]

Bill McKibben
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 13 2010
The bestselling author of Deep Economy shows that we’re living on a fundamentally altered planet — and opens our eyes to the kind of change we’ll need in order to make our civilization endure.

Twenty years ago, with The End of Nature, Bill McKibben offered one of the earliest warnings about global warming. Those warnings went mostly unheeded; now, he insists, we need to acknowledge that we’ve waited too long, and that massive change is not only unavoidable but already under way. Our old familiar globe is suddenly melting, drying, acidifying, flooding, and burning in ways that no human has ever seen. We’ve created, in very short order, a new planet, still recognizable but fundamentally different. We may as well call it Eaarth.
That new planet is filled with new binds and traps. A changing world costs large sums to defend — think of the money that went to repair New Orleans, or the trillions of dollars it will take to transform our energy systems. But the endless economic growth that could underwrite such largesse depends on the stable planet we’ve managed to damage and degrade. We can’t rely on old habits any longer.
Our hope depends, McKibben argues, on scaling back — on building the kind of societies and economies that can hunker down, concentrate on essentials, and create the type of community (in the neighborhood, but also on the Internet) that will allow us to weather trouble on an unprecedented scale. Change — fundamental change — is our best hope on a planet suddenly and violently out of balance.

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Since he first heralded our era of environmental collapse in 1989's The End of Nature, Bill McKibben has raised a series of eloquent alarms. In Eaarth, he leads readers to the devastatingly comprehensive conclusion that we no longer inhabit the world in which we've flourished for most of human history: we've passed the tipping point for dramatic climate change, and even if we could stop emissions yesterday, our world will keep warming, triggering more extreme storms, droughts, and other erratic catastrophes, for centuries to come. This is not just our grandchildren's problem, or our children's--we're living through the effects of climate change now, and it's time for us to get creative about our survival. McKibben pulls no punches, and swaths of this book can feel bleak, but his dry wit and pragmatic optimism refuse to yield to despair. Focusing our attention on inspiring communities of "functional independence" arising around the world, he offers galvanizing possibilities for keeping our humanity intact as the world we've known breaks down. --Mari Malcolm


“What I have to say about this book is very simple: Read it, please. Straight through to the end. Whatever else you were planning to do next, nothing could be more important.”
— Barbara Kingsolver, author of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle
“Bill McKibben is the most effective environmental activist of our age. Anyone interested in making a difference to our world can learn from him.”
— Tim Flannery, author of The Weather Makers and The Eternal Frontier
“Precisely what the world has been waiting for: a smart, practical approach to solving the greatest crisis facing humanity. The fact that it is so beautifully written is an absolute bonus.”
— Bruce Lourie, co-author of Slow Death by Rubber Duck
“With clarity, eloquence, deep knowledge, and even deeper compassion for both planet and people, Bill McKibben guides us to the brink of a new, uncharted era. This monumental book, probably his greatest, may restore your faith in the future, with us in it.”
— Alan Weisman, author of The World Without Us
“Bill McKibben foresaw ‘the end of nature’ very early on, and in this new book he blazes a path to help preserve nature’s greatest treasures.”
— James E. Hansen, director, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Old facts mixed with new ideas May 18 2010
The planet we once knew as Earth is gone, and we must learn to survive on this strange new world we now inhabit -- Eaarth. This is the basis of Bill McKibben's latest book; one half being the same old, the other being some interesting, some might say radical, ideas.

If you've ever read a book with global warming or climate change as its topic before, you'll know to be ready to be overwhelmed by a myriad of numbers, some interesting, some not so much -- some being ones you've already read. The first half of the book is concerned with convincing us that global warming is a current reality; however, if you're reading this book, you likely already believe it is. We already know global warming is responsible, directly or indirectly, for many a bad thing -- bad things we've already read about a hundred times over from other authours writing on the subject (and McKibben himself in his previous works). I felt this re-analysis of the effects of climate change could have been shortened without drastically reducing the impact of the text.

If, however, you get past the beginning, you'll find Mr. McKibben actually presents some interesting thoughts. He advocates for smaller communities, a clear connection to the land we live on, and a smaller, more localized, variety of economies safe from global catastrophe such as a world-wide recession. As McKibben says, bigger is not always better.

While the first part of the book is largely negative in tone, the second is positive -- perhaps too positive. How do you show a populace already convinced of their need for iPods and iPads that there is another, more fulfilling, way? One based on community, not material gain? Unfortunately, he doesn't give us that answer.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eaarth, by Bill McKibben May 27 2010
Bill McKibben says the reason his book's title has an extra "A" is we're already living on a different planet, because so much has changed in such a short time. We have to look at our world in a different way to understand this.

His easy way of writing, laced with humour and unforgettable images, make this book readily understandable for everyone. And it's short: You can read it in just a few days.

In the first half, he explains how life on our planet today has been changed by global warming, Some of what you read will surprise you and even shock you, but all of it is interesting.

On page 99, he starts writing about solutions -- possibilities for our future and methods for adapting to our new environment. He writes, "Like someone lost in the woods, we need to stop running, sit down, see what's in our pockets that might be of use, and start figuring out what steps to take."

He tells us how we can manage the changes that will be affecting our lives, rather than just let them happen to us. He says, "We've got to make our societies safer, and that means making them smaller. It means, since we live on a different planet, a different kind of civilization." He describes how we can make this very different world workable -- "how we might keep the lights on, the larder full, and spirits reasonably high."

Alan Weisman, author of The World Without Us, writes, "With clarity, eloquence, deep knowledge, and even deeper compassion for both planet and people, Bill McKibben guides us to the brink of a new, uncharted era. This monumental book, probably his greatest, may restore you faith in the future, with us in it."

I'll give this book five stars any day. My children and grandchildren will be getting copies to keep by their bedsides, to be read and re-read in the years to come.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The release of finding its WAY worse than feared Nov. 12 2012
By Brian Griffith TOP 500 REVIEWER
McKibben changes the terms of the climate change debate. He presents an overwhelming argument that it is already too late to stop catastrophic global change. The catastrophe is already here. He further argues that all the feedback loops of global warming lead the wrong way. The melting ice caps lead to greater heat retention by a dark ocean surface. The melting tundra releases vast quantities of methane. The mass death of trees further intensifies the heat and aridity. I thought that increased CO2 would at least stimulate plant growth, but McKibben claims that overheated plants consume less CO2.

Somehow, the unstinting depiction of a planetary train wreak is handled with wit and even entertainment value. Then the discussion of adjustment strategies is practical, realistic and conversational. It's mostly stories about practical efforts by real, quite ordinary people. McKibben's own story of activism seems quite modest. His trial and error steps seem doable by most anyone with a computer. Like the Arab Spring's leaders, he puts great faith in the Internet as a tool for neighbors to connect.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Here's where we are, here's what we can do Nov. 7 2012
Devastating, horrifying and hopeful. This is a new book by the author of "The End of Nature," which was written twenty years ago to warn us of the dangers of climate change if we didn't act quickly to reverse the amount of carbon emissions. Well, guess what, we didn't listen and in fact everything is much worse now. And not only that, the author admits that he was wrong in some of his predictions - wrong about how quickly things would begin to change. They are changing much faster than anybody anticipated.

This chronicle of "Earth with an extra 'a'" is the news of what is happening now and what will come along very soon. Even if we act now, and get total carbon under 350 parts per million, we have gone too far along to reverse certain key trends which are already in motion. We are just going to have to live with this new planet we have built for ourselves. The stable planet that sustained civilization for 10,000 years is gone, McKibben says, and the new one he calls "Eaarth" will not be as hospitable to humans.

But give the guy credit... instead of spending forever on "I told you so," he does get down and dirty with a prescription for making positive change for the future. If he can be hopeful, I guess I can, too.
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