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5 october 2020

"Most people have never seen a glacier" (11), says Peter Knight, and I haven't seen most things that most people have seen. But glaciers, yes. I have seen them in Montana, in the Alps, and in Iceland. From the air, I have often seen the enormous ice cap, that covers Greenland – one of the two largest glaciers extant (the other covers Antarctica), and thus one whose thaw would inundate many coastal human habitats.     read more

27 september 2020

I don't think I've ever been stung by a jellyfish. I do remember an incident when I was young, on a beach somewhere: screaming, welts on somebody's leg, vinegar applied. It could have been me, but sometimes the trauma of something that happens to somebody else gets remembered as your own. In any case, I am wary of jellyfish, but they are low down the list of reasons why I don't swim in the ocean. Much higher: I don't swim well and I don't live near an ocean.     read more

25 september 2020

Judkin Browning and Timothy Silver say that they will treat the Civil War "as an ecological event that not only affected people but also altered natural systems and reshaped the already complex interaction between humans, other organisms, and the physical environment" (4). I'm not sure they entirely deliver on this promise, but their Environmental History of the Civil War addresses many an element of the conflict that isn't foregrounded in traditional narrative histories.     read more

21 september 2020

How will humans "settle the Moon, Mars, and beyond," as Christopher Wanjek has it in the subtitle to his new book Spacefarers? Not, was my first thought. This will never happen. I grew up assuming it would happen, but it's been nearly fifty years since the last man on the Moon, and I can't imagine I'll see another man, or woman either, land on even the Moon in my lifetime.     read more

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