cover image Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future

Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future

Elizabeth Kolbert. Crown, $28 (256p) ISBN 978-0-593-13627-0

Pulitzer-winner Kolbert (The Sixth Extinction) focuses once again on the Anthropocene in this illuminating study of humans’ “control of nature.” Humans have already changed the natural world, she writes, and now are innovating to counter the fallout. As she surveys climate-related discoveries, Kolbert describes barriers erected to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes after the carp were brought to America in 1963 to “keep aquatic weeds in check.” She also tells of the divers who conduct a yearly “census” on the Devil’s Hole pupfish, a threatened species surviving in a single pond in the Mojave Desert. Kolbert notes the irony and ingenuity of humans battling natural processes to which they have contributed: the dams and levees along the Mississippi River, for instance, were “built to keep southern Louisiana dry” but have caused a massive “land-loss crisis” due to flooding elsewhere in the state. Along the way, Kolbert covers interventions on the cutting edge of science, such as “assisted evolution,” which would help coral reefs endure warmer oceans. Her style of immersive journalism (which involves being hit by a jumping carp, observing coral sex, and watching as millennia-old ice is pulled from the ice sheets of Greenland) makes apparent the challenges of “the whole-earth transformation” currently underway. This investigation of global change is brilliantly executed and urgently necessary. Agent: Kathy Robbins, the Robbins Office. (Feb.)