The author of the international bestseller The Sixth Extinction returns to humanity's transformative impact on the environment, now asking: After doing so much damage, can we change nature, this time to save it?
Elizabeth Kolbert has become one of the most important writers on the environment. Now she investigates the immense challenges humanity faces as we scramble to reverse, in a matter of decades, the effects we've had on the atmosphere, the oceans, the world's forests and rivers – on the very topography of the globe.
In her trademark persuasive and darkly comic prose, Kolbert introduces myriad innovations that offer ways to avert disaster – or may produce new disasters, ones that haven't been and perhaps cannot be anticipated. We encounter the scientists attempting to save the Devils Hole pupfish, the rarest fish species in the world, who occupy a single pool in a limestone cavern in the middle of the Mojave desert; engineers who are turning carbon emissions to stone; resilient 'super coral' created via assisted evolution to survive a hotter globe; and researchers who are contemplating shooting tiny diamonds into the stratosphere to scatter sunlight back to space, changing the sky from blue to white.
One way to look at human civilization, says Kolbert, is as a ten-thousand-year exercise in defying nature. Paradoxically, the very sorts of interventions that have imperiled our planet are increasingly seen as the only hope for its salvation.
Elizabeth Kolbert is the author of the international bestseller The Sixth Extinction, for which she won the Pulitzer Prize, and Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change. She has been a staff writer at the New Yorker since 1999, and has been awarded the Blake-Dodd Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She lives in Williamstown, Massachusetts, with her husband and children.
"One of the great science journalists, Kolbert has for many years been an essential voice, a reporter from the front lines of the environmental crisis [...] Important, necessary, urgent and phenomenally interesting [...] Beautifully and insistently, Kolbert shows us that it is time to think radically about the ways we manage the environment; time to work with what we have, using the knowledge we have, with our eyes fully open to the realities of where we are"
– Helen Macdonald, New York Times
"Skilful and subtle"
– Ben Ehrenreich, Guardian
"Kolbert's prose is peppered with [...] mordant observations, which bring out the humanity (or animality) in her subjects"
– Ben Cooke, The Times
"A meticulously researched and deftly crafted work of journalism that explores some of the biggest challenges of our age"
– Jonathan Watts, Guardian
"A superb and honest reflection of our extraordinary time"
"Under a White Sky [...] exhibits Kolbert's sculptor-like skill for making climate change feel tangible, happening before our eyes and beneath our fingers"
– Matt Reynolds, Wired
"To be a well-informed citizen of Planet Earth, you need to read Elizabeth Kolbert [...] It's a tribute to Kolbert's skills as a storyteller that she transforms the quest to deal with the climate crisis into a darkly comic tale of human hubris and imagination that could either end in flames or in a new vision of Paradise"
– Jeff Goodell, Rolling Stone
"Riveting [...] inspiring [...] the premier chronicler of humanity's thoughtless destruction of our habitat"
– Washington Post
"This intimate natural history is both a sober assessment of the ecosystems we have harmed and an exciting description of some of the discoveries that could help undo that damage"
– Scientific American
"Brilliantly executed and urgently necessary"
– Publishers Weekly
"A master elucidator, Kolbert is gratifyingly direct as she assesses our predicament between a rock and a hard place, creating a clarion and invaluable 'book about people trying to solve problems created by people trying to solve problems"
"Every paragraph of Kolbert's books has a mountain of reading and reporting behind it [...] Urgent, absolutely necessary reading as a portrait of our devastated planet"
– Kirkus Review
"Our finest journalist on climate change"
– Chicago Tribune
"A tale not of magic-bullet remedies where maybe this time things will be different when we intervene in nature, but rather of deploying a panoply of strategies big and small in hopes that there is still time to make a difference and atone for our past. A sobering and realistic look at humankind's perhaps misplaced faith that technology can work with nature to produce a more liveable planet"
– Library Journal