Here are nine . . . for your climate change reading list. Descriptions are drawn from the publishers’ copy.
Fatal Isolation: The Devastating Paris Heat Wave of 2003, by Richard C. Keller (University of Chicago Press, 2015 / 250 pp., $35.00) (See related posting.)
In a cemetery on the southern outskirts of Paris lie the bodies of nearly a hundred of what some have called the first casualties of global climate change. They were the so-called abandoned victims of the worst natural disaster in French history, the devastating heat wave that struck in August 2003, leaving 15,000 dead. . . . Fatal Isolation tells the stories of these victims and the catastrophe that took their lives. It explores the multiple narratives of disaster – the official story of the crisis and its aftermath, as presented by the media and the state; the life stories of the individual victims, which both illuminate and challenge the ways we typically perceive natural disasters; and the scientific understandings of disaster and its management.
Counteracting Urban Heat Island Effects in a Global Climate Change Scenario, by Springer Verlag (Francesco Musco, Editor, (Jan) 2016 / 295 pp., $59.99)
Urban heat islands are a new type of microclimatic phenomenon that causes a significant increase in the temperature of cities compared to surrounding areas. The phenomenon has been enforced by the current trend towards climate change. Although experts consider urban heat islands an urgent European Union public health concern, there are too few policies that address it. The EU carried out a project to learn more about this phenomenon through pilot initiatives. The pilots included feasibility studies and strategies for appropriately altering planning rules and governance to tackle the problem of urban heat islands. The pilots were carried out in eight metropolitan areas: Bologna/Modena, Budapest, Ljubljana, Lodz, Prague, Stuttgart, Venice/Padova, and Vienna. The feasibility studies carried out in these pilot areas focused on the specific morphology of EU urban areas, which are often characterised by the presence of historical old towns.
Heat Wave: Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago, 2nd Edition, by Eric Klinenberg (University of Chicago Press, 2015 / 240 pp. paperback, $18.00)
Heat waves in the United States kill more people during a typical year than all other natural disasters combined. Until now, no one could explain either the overwhelming number or the heartbreaking manner of the [over seven hundred] deaths resulting from the 1995 Chicago heat wave. Meteorologists and medical scientists have been unable to account for the scale of the trauma, and political officials have puzzled over the sources of the city’s vulnerability. In Heat Wave, Eric Klinenberg takes us inside the anatomy of the metropolis to conduct what he calls a “social autopsy,” examining the social, political, and institutional organs of the city that made this urban disaster so much worse than it ought to have been. [This classic study has been reissued with a new preface.]
A Great Aridness: Climate Change and the Future of the American Southwest, by William deBuys (Oxford University Press, 2013 / 384 pp. paperback, $19.95)
In A Great Aridness, William deBuys paints a compelling picture of what the Southwest might look like when the heat turns up and the water runs out. This semi-arid land, vulnerable to water shortages, rising temperatures, wildfires, and a host of other environmental challenges, is poised to bear the heaviest consequences of global environmental change in the United States. Examining interrelated factors such as vanishing wildlife, forest die backs, and the over-allocation of the already stressed Colorado River – upon which nearly 30 million people depend – the author narrates the landscape’s history . . . and future. He tells the inspiring stories of the climatologists and others who are helping untangle the complex, interlocking causes and effects of global warming. And while the fate of this region may seem at first blush to be of merely local interest, what happens in the Southwest, deBuys suggests, will provide a glimpse of what other mid-latitude arid lands worldwide – the Mediterranean Basin, southern Africa, and the Middle East – will experience in the coming years.
Betting the Farm on a Drought: Stories from the Front Lines of Climate Change, by Seamus McGraw (University of Texas, 2015 / 180 pp., $24.99)
Seamus McGraw takes us on a trip along America’s culturally fractured back roads and listens to farmers and ranchers and fishermen, many of them people who are not ideologically, politically, or in some cases even religiously inclined to believe in man-made global climate change. He shows us how they are already being affected and the risks they are already taking on a personal level to deal with extreme weather and its very real consequences for their livelihoods. McGraw also speaks to scientists and policymakers who are trying to harness that most renewable of American resources, a sense of hope and self-reliance that remains strong in the face of daunting challenges. By bringing these voices together, Betting the Farm on a Drought ultimately becomes a model for how we all might have a pragmatic, reasoned conversation about our changing climate.
Growing Food in a Hotter, Drier Land: Lessons from Desert Farmers on Adapting to Climate Change, by Gary Paul Nabhan (Chelsea Green, 2013 / 272 pp. paperback, $29.95)
Gary Paul Nabhan is one of the world’s experts on the agricultural traditions of arid lands. For Growing Food in a Hotter, Drier Land he visited indigenous and traditional farmers in the Gobi Desert, the Arabian Peninsula, the Sahara Desert, and Andalusia, as well as the Sonoran, Chihuahuan, and Painted deserts of North America, to learn firsthand their techniques and designs aimed at reducing heat and drought stress on orchards, fields, and dooryard gardens. This practical book also includes colorful “parables from the field” that exemplify how desert farmers think about increasing the carrying capacity and resilience of the lands and waters they steward. It is replete with detailed descriptions and diagrams of how to implement these desert-adapted practices in your own backyard, orchard, or farm.
On the Burning Edge: A Fateful Fire and the Men Who Fought It, by Kyle Dickman (Ballantine Books, 2015 / 304 pp., $26.00)
On June 28, 2013, a single bolt of lightning sparked an inferno that devoured more than eight thousand acres in northern Arizona. Twenty elite firefighters – the Granite Mountain Hotshots – walked together into the blaze, tools in their hands and emergency fire shelters on their hips. Only one of them walked out. Dickman brings to the story a professional firefighter’s understanding of how wildfires ignite, how they spread, and how they are fought. He understands hotshots and their culture: the pain and glory of a rough and vital job, the brotherly bonds born of dangerous work. Drawing on dozens of interviews with officials, families of the fallen, and the lone survivor, he describes in vivid detail what it’s like to stand inside a raging fire – and shows how the increased population and decreased water supply of the American West guarantee that many more young men will step into harm’s way in the coming years.
Between Two Fires: A Fire History of Contemporary America, by Stephen J. Pyne (University of Arizona Press, (Oct.) 2015 / 552 pp., $29.95 paper)
In Between Two Fires, Pyne recounts how, after the Great Fires of 1910, a policy of fire suppression spread from America’s founding corps of foresters into a national policy that manifested itself as a costly all-out war on fire. After fifty years of attempted fire suppression, a revolution in thinking led to a more pluralistic strategy for fire’s restoration. The revolution succeeded in displacing suppression as a sole strategy, but it has failed to fully integrate fire and land management and has fallen short of its goals. Today, the nation’s backcountry and increasingly its exurban fringe are threatened by larger and more damaging burns, fire agencies are scrambling for funds, firefighters continue to die, and the country seems unable to come to grips with the fundamentals behind a rising tide of megafires. Pyne has once again constructed a history of record that will shape our next century of fire management. Between Two Fires is a story of ideas, institutions, and fires. It’s America’s story told through the nation’s flames.
Smoke Jumper: A Memoir by One of America’s Most Select Airborne Firefighters, by Jason A. Ramos and Julian Smith (William Morrow, 2015 / 256 pp., $24.99)
Forest and wildland fires are growing larger, more numerous, and deadlier every year – record drought conditions, decades of forestry mismanagement, and the increasing encroachment of residential housing into the wilderness have combined to create a powder keg that threatens millions of acres and thousands of lives every year. One select group of men and women are part of America’s front-line defense: smokejumpers. The smokejumper program operates through both the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. Though they are tremendously skilled and only highly experienced and able wildland firefighters are accepted into the training program, being a smokejumper remains an art that can only be learned on the job. Forest fires often behave in unpredictable ways: spreading almost instantaneously, shooting downhill behind a stiff tailwind, or even flowing like a liquid. In this extraordinarily rare memoir by an active-duty jumper, Jason Ramos takes readers into his exhilarating and dangerous world, explores smokejumping’s remarkable history, and explains why their services are more essential than ever before.