Eaarth — Book Review

Eaarth Book CoverI read Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet, by Bill McKibben, in preparation for a personal appearance and speaking engagement he was scheduled for at a local theater.

His presentation aligned with the message of the book—we’re already living on a changed earth so we had better get a grip and figure out a way to live on it.

Book Review

The name of the book, Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet, should prepare readers to expect a harsh reality check and tales of the rough road ahead. McKibben lays out the current state of the environment (at least how it was in 2009 when the book was written) and provides suggestions about how we might adapt to living on our changed planet.

The book contains four chapters:

  1. A New World
  2. High Tide
  3. Backing Off
  4. Lightly, Carefully, Gracefully

Chapter 1 and 2 contain information about climate change science, accounts of the effects of climate change in the U.S. and around the world, and a few historical and economic perspectives.

Several themes emerge in chapters 3 and 4 along with stories about Vermont (Mr. McKibben’s home).

  • Maintenance – repairing, maintaining, improving, and preserving the infrastructure we have already built (roads, bridges, buildings).
  • Community – working together, helping each other, growing food and making things locally.
  • Work – as in actual labor.
  • Food – small-scale agriculture, community, and home gardens, willingness to pay people a living wage to grow our food.
  • Energy – getting off fossil fuels sooner rather than later, developing renewable energy sources, energy efficiency, microgrids, and community-supported energy.
  • Internet – information, connection, and entertainment.

The book closes with the story of the creation of 350.org, a grassroots climate change organization founded by McKibben and seven students from Middlebury College in Vermont.

The Bottom Line

The book is jammed with facts, examples, stories, opinions, and ideas, but it doesn’t flow from chapter to chapter. It seemed almost as if one day McKibben decided he needed to share everything inside his head and right now. The somewhat wandering path did not bother me; I still learned a lot and recommend everyone read Eaarth.

I don’t agree with some of McKibben’s ideas, but I do agree that we cannot continue with the current plan and need to change now.

We did not actually meet Bill McKibben when he spoke at our local theater but saw and heard him in action. He seems like the genuine article—a man, husband, father, educator, environmentalist, author, and activist who is making it his life’s work to try to leave behind an earth that our children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and so on, can and will want to live on.

McKibben’s first book, The End of Nature, was published in 1989 and reissued with a new introduction in 2006. McKibben is often credited with writing the first book about climate change for a public audience.

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Author: Linda Poppenheimer

Linda researches and writes about environmental topics to share information and to spark conversation. Her mission is to live more lightly on Earth and to persuade everyone else to do the same.

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