By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now
Like so many books about climate change, Last Chance: Preserving Life on Earth by Larry Schweiger brims with info you’d rather not contemplate, like how some scientists think the Arctic sea ice could all be gone by 2012 or how methane gas released from the warming tundra could bring more ecological change in the next decade than occurred in the last 1,000 years.
This is the sort of nonfiction that can keep you up at night as easily as a Stephen King novel, except it is all disturbingly real as opposed to surreal. Unless you think climate change is a hoax. Schweiger, the president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, does not think that. He sees climate change as a clear, palpable, believable threat, though one we could do something about if we just quit quibbling about the signs and began taking action. The recently published Last Chance (Fulcrum Publishing) is his call to arms, and he is unequivocal:
“Those who say global warming will destroy the earth are wrong. The overheated earth will survive and continue to spin through space for millions of years to come. It is life on earth as we know it that is at stake.”
And he is worried that we will miss our last chance.
“…because the cause and the effect are separated by time, I can see global warming continuing like a thief in the night in stealthlike form, until it is too late to do anything about it.”
But for all that, Last Chance is one book that might speak not just to the choir of environmentalists, where Schweiger occupies an honored seat, but to those outside this circle, perhaps even to those who do have doubts about climate change. Schweiger claims to have written the book not to further add to the science or economics of climate change, but as an “outdoorsman who harbors respect for science” and “ a Christian perspective” and a life-long love of nature.
And it is on this level that Last Chance truly adds value to the rapidly growing body of works about climage change, fossil fuels, biodiversity loss and greener living. It is one of the few that could be pulled from this pack that speaks to a wide general audience, perhaps even to climate skeptics (if they’re not dogmatically entrenched).
It is also, as we used to say in Minnesota, a great book for the cabin, for Schweiger reflects seriously on the many close encounters between nature and pollution, global warming and garden variety, that affect us now. He discusses forest fires, pine beetles, fish species in decline and other immediate happenings, the net sum of which describe a world in crisis because it is warming. Nature lovers can relate. Some will even remember the story of Lake Erie and the loss of the blue pike, which went extinct when the lake went “dead” in the 1970s. (Lake Erie still struggles today as a result of pollution from decades ago that forever changed the makeup of its aquatic life.)
More important, Schweiger explains the concepts of “feedbacks” that kick in when certain changes occur, leading to the tipping points that have made scientists anxious and left environmentalists in a frenzy of worry over dialing back carbon pollution. If every American understood these concepts better, the skeptics might get less traction with their argument that earth has simply entered a natural warming trend.
As an environmentalist, Schweiger walks us through what will be familiar turf to some, the threat of extinctions if we let small changes cascade, the desertification of the Southwest and the changes to agriculture across the nation, the imperative of moving off oil and the power of the fossil fuel industries.
As a grandfather, Schweiger implores us to consider future generations. And it is this hook that may keep some reading. Logically, the nature of the future (or the future of nature) requires it. For if we can’t know just how it all plays out, then we should take judicious action to gird against the worst outcomes.
Copyright © 2010 Green Right Now | Distributed by GRN Network
Or as Schweiger puts it:
“Unborn children do not have a say in the matter if you and I do not give them voice…Let us rise up as Americans, working together to create a safe energy economy and to give voice to this great healing opportunity while there is still time.’’