A part-time buffoon and ersatz scholar specializing in BS, pedantry, schmaltz and cultural coprophagia.
I am nearly finished with the individual portions of' Annals of the Former World' ('Basin and Range' ☑, 'In Suspect Terrain' ☑, 'Assembling California' ☑). All I have left is to read the section 'Crossing the Craton' (a sixty page addition to his 40th parallel/I-80 project that filled in the blank in the map and allowed the publishers of 'Annals of the Former World' some additional McPhee text not found in the four main books/sections previously published to incentivize McPhee's fans to fork out the addtional $35 in 1998 to get the whole brilliant McPhee mess).
I read/listened to these books a little out of order over a little over the last year. I started off well with 'Basin & Range', 'In Suspect Terrain', but then jumped to 'Assembling California' since a couple of weeks ago I was going to be driving through California and figured it would be nice to have some geology of the geography I was going to be driving through next to me.
While I was a little disappointed with 'Assembling California', I loved 'Rising from the Plains'. I don't know if it was a return to my roots (Wyoming and Snake River and Mormon Country), or the fact that this book seemed just to excite McPhee more. You could tell he loved the Loves (David Love: Yale educated geologist, cowboy; John Love: David's father, mirthful Scot rancher/cowboy, nephew of John Muir; Ethel Waxham Love: David's mother, teacher, writer). He threads this family's golden personality and history with the geology and geography of Wyoming.
These books are dangerous and should not be given to children. I am keeping them locked up with my William S. Burroughs, Henry Miller, etc. If my son or daughter (no field geology sexist me) were to discover these McPhee books too young (s)he might just grow up to be a passionate field geologist. Reading this as I near my 40s, McPhee almost makes me want to take up a hammer, hop on a horse and ride into the mountains.
I give it four stars, simply because 'Coming into the Country' still exists for me as a slightly better book, but I think the combined energy of all of the 'Annals' is definitely amazing. I've grown to appreciate the narrative skills of Nelson Runger, although he went back and forth calling the Uinta Mountains at times the [WINtas) and at other times properly the (YOU-IN-tas). Anyway, a minor issue, but not overly distracting.
Bloke who took to audiobooks in order to beguile long hours on the road travelling to photography gigs across his home state. Now addicted!
In the early part of the 21st Century few figures have been as respected, and simultaneously reviled, as Jim Hansen.
Perhaps only his colleague Michael Mann has surpassed him as a target of the so-called climate 'skeptic' community - many of whom, sadly, fail to live up to their self-assumed name.
Many would have you believe that the man is a fanatic, an environmental extremist, a zealot - even a scientific incompetent and/or fabricator of facts!
Can I suggest that if you give this book a fair hearing - literally in the case of the audiobook - you simply cannot justly hold these claims to be true.
That Hansen is a sincere man is undoubtable. That he presents a compelling case for recognising the risks we are collectively running in conducting a radical experiment on the one atmosphere we possess is also beyond dispute.
Hansen, director of NASA'a Goddard Institute of Space Studies, has been doing this for a long time, and is one of the pioneers of the field of climatology, and is certainly the first internationally-known advocate of the phenomenon we know as Global Warming.
Certainly one can argue with some of his prescriptions; though a rapid phase-out of our reliance on coal can hardly be questioned if we accept the evidence, whether we should embrace nuclear power or adopt a tax-and-dividend strategy - as opposed to the market mechanism of cap-and-trade (now, ironically, opposed by many 'Free Traders', who tend to deny the reality of anthropogenic climate change) - will remain much more open to debate.
But these are exactly the points we should be discussing in the face of such a crisis, and nobody is a greater authority on the predicament that we are in than Hansen himself.
Hansen presents himself, convincingly, as a centrist, small 'c' conservative type of fellow, who really would be quite happy to just do the Science and avoid the abrasive scrutiny of the limelight, were it not for the fact that he feels he owes his grandchildren a livable future.
He presents the dangers graphically and clearly. He has concluded that 350 ppm of atmospheric CO2 is the maximum safe target - this, Dear Reader, is already well surpassed, and receding further into the distance with every day that passes. This suggestion of Hansen's has been the inspiration for Bill McKibben's climate action group, 350.org.
Beyond 350ppm we enter dangerous waters indeed. Hansen is certainly the most prominent qualified authority to warn of the most dire consequences, with regard to future sea-level, extreme weather events - the eponymous 'storms' - and even runaway feedback mechanisms leading to genuinely catastrophic consequences.
One can only hope things will never be that bad - but we ignore such voices, merely because what they are saying triggers our defensive 'that could never happen to me (or my children!)' reflex, at our peril.
The excursion into a short, pedagogic science-fiction story based on a future hyper-warmed Earth towards the end of the book constituted the only really jarring note in the story itself for me.
I also found the reading by John Allen Nelson to be mildly jarring - rather too uninflected for my taste, and somewhat monotonous.
But neither of these mild reservations is sufficient to mar my enthusiastic endorsement of this audiobook.