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Field Notes From A Catastrophe by Elizabeth Kolbert - Essay Example

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This essay describes that climate change is the topic of the "Field Notes From A Catastrophe", and the need for everyone in the world to take more notice of the impending disaster that it brings, is the main message of the book. It is a collection of fairly superficial impressions and a rant against politicians…
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Field Notes From A Catastrophe by Elizabeth Kolbert
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"Field Notes From A Catastrophe by Elizabeth Kolbert"

Download file to see previous pages The book is written in a breezy, journalistic style, and starts off with a number of narratives describing journeys the author has made to remote corners of the earth in search of evidence relating to climate change. The places range from the snowscapes of Greenland to Alaska, the volcanoes and glaciers of Iceland, butterfly fields in England, and coastal areas of the Netherlands. The choice of places does not appear to have any special logic to it, and the author admits this herself saying “Such is the impact of global warming that I could have gone to hundreds if not thousands of other places – from Siberia to the Austrian Alps to the Great Barrier Reef to the South African fynbos – to document its effect.” (Kolbert, p. 2) About halfway through the book, there is a shift to political issues, and the author describes and discusses the actions which governments have taken, or in some cases have not taken, to try and face up to the implications of climate change. This structure is quite awkward, and the reason for it may well be due to the fact that the book is based on earlier short pieces that the author wrote for the New Yorker magazine. It is clear that the author comes to her text with a firm opinion that global warming is anthropogenic, that the world is not taking this issue seriously enough, and that the answer to this must lie somewhere in the domain of politics and intergovernmental actions. There is discussion of the Kyoto Protocol of February 2005, and the fact that the United States did not sign up to this despite being “by far the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases in aggregate – it produces nearly a quarter of the world’s total – and on a per capita basis is rivaled only by a handful of nations, lik Qatar.” (Kolbert, p. 150) The book ends with a provocative suggestion that the world has entered into a new era, which should be called the “anthropocene” due to the unprecedented effects that are now taking place in the physical fabric of the planet due to the actions of human beings and the final sentence echoes the rather pessimistic view that the author has on the long term outcomes of trends that are already underway at the present time: “It may seem impossible to imagine that a technologically advanced society could choose, in essence, to destroy itself, but that is what we are now in the process of doing.” (Kolbert, p. 189) There are a few maps, graphs and illustrations, which help to make the technical points clear to a non-specialist reader, and the book also has a section at the end with notes and bibliography organized chapter by chapter, and a full index. The numerical detail in the book is decidedly weak, however, and this makes me suspect that important facts are being glossed over.  ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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