The Story of More by Hope Jahren [7/10]

With her debut “Lab Girl,” Hope Jahren signalled the entry of a new master of science writing, someone able to distil complexity into eloquent, comprehensible story. In “The Story of More: How We Got to Climate Change and Where to Go from Here,” Jahren, a geobiologist by trade, narrates a class she regularly gives on climate change. As a primer, and indeed even for those well read on the subject, the book is superb, nineteen short chapters bundling up a vast amount of data into coherent morsels. Jahren has the scientist’s (indeed, dare I say it, the mathematician’s) gift of isolating what to sum up. Mostly here, her emphasis is on the “more” of the title, humanity’s vastly expanded earthly footprint over the past half century or so. After tackling where we are, she covers food and wastage, and then energy, and then the core of global warming, including brilliant chapters on rising sea levels and species’ extinctions. Unsurprisingly perhaps, the only area I found myself disagreeing with was how to reduce emissions from energy production, which is political as much as scientific. And a concluding appendix, “The Story of Less,” includes a section on personally reducing emissions that is at once necessary and heartfelt, but also na├»ve (a familiar distraction from political action on climate change is to assert the individual’s role). “The Story of More” concludes with an invigorating section on data sources for all the issues covered. Jahren is a beguiling stylist and a terrific organizer of ideas. All up, this is a vital book for our times.

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