Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Hot: The Next 50 Years by Mark Hertsgaard ****

Hot: Living Through the Next Fifty Years on Earth by Mark Hertsgaard reports on a wide range of successes in the battle against rising carbon dioxide and oceans. The Dutch have been fighting off the ocean for centuries and their cultural history, political structures, and engineering enable them to plan for the long-term and stick to the plan. Proactive leadership in Seattle has made broad changes to reduce emissions (make neighborhoods more walkable) and water use (reduce grassy areas). Hertsgaard is an excellent reporter and these case studies are both readable and informative.

However, as an advocacy for "global warming," and clearly this was one of the goals, this book fails. First, it is so partisan and repetitive, it is difficulty to take the emotional exhortations seriously. Second, when a scientific point is discussed, the text substitutes an "authority," many of whom are clear biased, in place of discussions of the science. Third, woven throughout the book are melodramatic referrals to the author's young daughter and how sad it is for her to grow up in the 21st century (leaving me to wonder if the first or eleventh would have been preferred). Fourth, the author randomly jumps off topic to advocate questionable causes like eating local food and railing against corn syrup. Fifth, published in 2011, the "frightening news" is often out-of-date: "Plasma TV's take three times more power ... and more and more people are buying them." In fact, 84% of TV sales are energy efficient LCDs. Finally, the book editing matches its fact checking - both needing improvement. Example paragraph: "... In Asia, at least 500 million people obtain some of their ... water from ... the Himalayan mountains. ... In Asia, an estimated 500 million people obtain some of their ... water from ... the Himalayan snow pack. ..."

Bottom line: If you skip over the silly parts, the books contains extensive reporting from around the world on how different group are responding to climate change - some inspiring and some frightening.

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