With all the attention the media has given to global warming and its potential consequences for the earth, to date few books aimed at a general audience have been published on the topic. David Reay, a climatologist and author of Macmillan's September 2005 book Climate Change Begins at Home, cites only a couple of major entries on the subject—John Houghton's Global Warming: The Complete Briefing (Cambridge Univ.) and Mark Lynas's Picador title High Tide: The Truth About Our Climate Crisis (which saw resurgent interest post-Katrina)—and says what is really needed is a "Silent Spring for global warming."
While Bloomsbury is not championing Elizabeth Kolbert's upcoming book on climate change and global warming, Field Notes from a Catastrophe, as exactly that, T.C. Boyle's cover line does the job for them, calling the book "a Silent Spring for our time." Kolbert's March 2006 book, which grew out of a three-part series the author did for the New Yorker in April and May of 2005, isn't the only one vying for this title either; it's just one of a spate of books on the topic hitting stores now and into next spring.
So why has the time come for books addressing the topic? Some point to the catastrophic weather of the last year, from the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina in the U.S. to that of the tsunami in Southeast Asia. But according to Morgan Entrekin, publisher of Grove/Atlantic (which is releasing a U.S. edition of an Australian book by Tim Flannery, The Weather Makers, in March), the timing is due to current science. The Weather Makers, which has already garnered press for causing the Australian government to change its official stance on global warming (the book was also a PW sleeper selection last week), makes use of studies that Entrekin said were "published as recently as a few weeks before" the book came out in Australia in September. The book's editor, Brando Skyhorse, also said that Grove added an afterword by Flannery in which the author addresses how environmental changes are tied to recent natural disasters like Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma.
A more politicized take on the subject is Melville House's Divine Destruction, the first book in the publisher's Manifesto Series (a line of short, timely titles pegged to current news events). Written by Stephenie Hendricks, a former ABC Radio and current Pacifica Radio correspondent, Destruction outlines how a powerful lobby of anti-environmentalists known as the Wise Use movement teamed up with a faction of Christian fundamentalists called Dominion Theologists (who believe that when civilization depletes the Earth's natural resources, it will cause the second coming of Jesus Christ), to foster strong ties with the Christian Right—friendly Bush White House. While the September book had a modest first printing of 5,000, Melville House is looking into a second run.
Another small house tackling the topic is New Society Publishers with Relocalize Now!: Getting Ready for Climate Change and the End of Oil (Nov.) by Julian Darley et al. Not to be outdone by the small houses, Simon & Schuster will join the fray in February with The Winds of Change: Climate, Weather and the Destruction of Civilizationsby Eugene Linden.
While most of these books point to a frightening future (offering apocalyptic visions of an environmentally ravaged world), they also highlight a positive. As Entrekin noted, it proves that books are still the driving force behind our most important and pressing discourses: "You can read very interesting bits and pieces in magazines and newspapers on climate change and learn a lot from television or blogs, but finally, it takes a book... to bring it all together."