How the World Breaks: Life in Catastrophe’s Path, from the Caribbean to Siberia

Stan and Paul Cox. New Press, $28.95 (384p) ISBN 978-1-62097-012-6
Scientist Stan and anthropologist Paul, father-and-son ecological investigators, travel the world on a grand tour of recent geoclimatic disasters in order to imagine how human habitats will change as the planet becomes warmer, wetter, and more crowded. They have few positive things to write about, covering such events as wildfires in Australia’s Blue Mountains, Hindu pilgrims caught in a Himalayan mudslide, super typhoons in the Philippines, and the Caribbean island of Monserrat getting buried in volcanic ash. U.S. locations, including Miami and the Tornado Alley of the Midwest, also feature prominently on the pair’s itinerary. En route, they tackle some difficult questions: Do natural disasters promote long-term economic growth? Can cities be made to float? How do a northward-creeping taiga and melting permafrost affect carbon balance? Does climate change disproportionately affect the world’s poor? Attempting to address these and other pressing ecological quandaries leads them to make some intriguing intellectual connections: they touch upon cultural anthropology, Enlightenment literature, Ponzi scheming, and real-life engineering that sounds like science fiction. While definitive answers remain difficult to come by, their message is clear: solving the ecological problems of climate change requires more than technological fixes. (July)
Reviewed on: 05/09/2016
Release date: 07/01/2016
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