cover image Second Nature: Scenes from a World Remade

Second Nature: Scenes from a World Remade

Nathaniel Rich. MCD, $27 (304p) ISBN 978-0-37410-603-4

Humans have irrevocably altered nature, warns New York Times Magazine writer-at-large Rich (Losing Earth) in this vividly reported survey. The challenge now, he writes, is to harness those changes and conserve the parts of nature that are “beautiful and free and sacred, those that we want to carry with us into the future.” Rich tells the story of Robert Bilott, a lawyer who defended chemical companies until he took the case of a cattle farmer whose herd was dying because of pollution runoff from a DuPont landfill; Nate Park, whose work creating plant-based meat is a source of pride and bafflement for his butcher father; and Shin Kubota, a Japanese scientist who believes a jellyfish called Turritopsis, about which he writes rhapsodic songs, holds the key to immortality. These profiles highlight “people who ask difficult questions about what it means to live in an era of terrible responsibility” as humans’ impact on the natural world evolves. Rich suggests, “It is impossible to protect all that we mean by ‘natural’ against the ravages of climate change, pollution, and psychopathic corporate greed, unless we understand that the nature we fear losing is our own.” Frightening but with an undercurrent of humor, Rich’s study is packed with moving insight. Agent: Elyse Cheney, the Cheney Agency. (Apr.)