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Are you willing to read this book by candlelight?

ANYONE familiar with her environmental reporting in The New Yorker won't be any further persuaded by the economical urgency of Elizabeth Kolbert's Field Notes From a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change (Bloomsbury, $22.95). It's basically the same stuff, some new dispatches, end notes, a carbon-emissions graph here and there—would it kill The New Yorker to present information visually?—filling only 192 pages. Because, really, how much more does Seattle need to learn about global warming? We're all against it; the waiting list for a Prius is months long; our city is the recycling mecca of the blue-green belt. Kolbert is lecturing in similar spots like Berkeley, Middlebury, Vt., and Manhattan. Houston can wait, I guess, along with all those SUV drivers who need to get the new eco-religion. And there's no way the book's going to reach Dick Cheney's nightstand. Like Tim Flannery (The Weather Makers), who comes to Town Hall Thursday, April 13, Kolbert is basically preaching to the converted. Her writing may be calm, cogent, and well measured, but you can't escape the "can you believe these people?" tone of it. She still can't get over the fact that the Bushies, cronies, oil companies, and red-state suburban voters are running this country (and ruining the environment). Kolbert suffers from what might be called Hillary Syndrome: You can agree with the sheer reasonableness of everything she's saying, but you kind of hate yourself for agreeing. She's a pleasure scold. Most days I ride my bike to work. Then, on weekends, I'll drive my fast yellow Subaru WRX— premium fuel only—to ski in the mountains, where I worry about declining snowpack and global warming. In other words, like most people, I want to have it both ways: fun, which means energy consumption, and a conscience. Only Kolbert won't let me. Field Notes isn't a policy book or a political field manual. She doesn't have to get elected, but every politician knows the importance of giving voters an easy choice: pro-family, pro-flag, pro–tax cuts. But pro-environment? The argument always sounds like being anti– everything else. I love the mountains and the oceans as much as the next REI shopper, but Kolbert, Hillary, and company have got to learn to separate the shrinking glaciers of Patagonia from the excellent parkas by Patagonia.

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