Frontier Psychiatrist

Tough New World – A Review of Eaarth

Posted on: June 2, 2011

Emergency on Planet Eaarth

Humanity ravished Mother Nature and Mother Nature fought back. Thanks to global warming, ice caps and glaciers are melting, forests and wetlands are vanishing, and temperatures and sea levels are rising, along with famine, disease, and natural disasters. Meanwhile, we’re running out of fossil fuels, the lifeblood of modern life and, ironically, the fuel that is speeding its destruction. Even if the world miraculously got green overnight, it’s too late now to undo all the damage, but if we dig down and get creative, we can cut our losses and insure our survival.

This is the essence of Eaarth: Making A Life on a Tough New Planet. In his latest book, writer and activist Bill McKibben adds an ‘a’ to the word ‘Earth’ as a way to argue that human despoliation has made the planet fundamentally different, i.e. worse, than ever before in its history. We will never live on “Earth” again, he says, but if we play our cards right, we can engineer a “relatively graceful decline” for life on “Eaarth.”

McKibben speaks with authority. Some 20 years ago, he was among the first to write about global warming for a popular audience. He has published more than a dozen books and in 2009, organized a environmental campaign that CNN called “the most widespread day of political action in the planet’s history”

Early in the book, McKibben promises to make the reader’s eyes glaze over with statistics –and he keeps his word. Still, Eaarth stays lively with anecdotes about the author’s visits to China and Bangladesh and life in his current home of Vermont, which he sees as a microcosm of the world and a model for reform. Elsewhere, he lightens the tone with folksy analogies. Americans’ dependence on oil is “a 5,000 mile straw through which we suck hydrocarbons from the Persian Gulf.” If the Third World is a man on a treadmill, the First World is a sadistic personal trainer with his hands on the controls. Our current economic policy is “a jolt of Viagra” that has temporarily invigorated a flaccid system, but can’t make the good times last all night.

In the first half of the book, McKibben plays the prophet of doom with a litany of crises and natural disasters and predicts a future of compounded catastrophes. Through repetition and emphasis, the message is clear: Ecocide equals suicide. Or as McKibben says: “We’re running Genesis backward: decreation.” Along the way, McKibben doesn’t vilify specific corporations, polluters, or politicians (though he does take several potshots at New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman). Instead, he says we’re all responsible for the sickness –and health—of the planet.

In the second half, McKibben turns sunnier and more pragmatic. As he admits, any solutions will take time, money, sacrifice, and ingenuity. Many of his remedies are familiar. Up with bicycles and public transportation. Down with cars and SUVs.  Up with local, organic farms with diverse crops. Down with factory farms and monocultures. Up with farmer’s markets and community gardens. Down with supermarkets and Wal-Marts.

One of his larger ideas is to curb our addiction to economic growth. He acknowledges the position is “un-American,” but says that we don’t have any choice. Americans may think we are exceptional, but compared to the power of nature we’re as vulnerable as anyone on Earth. Or for that matter, Eaarth.

Keith Meatto is co-editor of Frontier Psychiatrist. He recently reviewed The Death of the Liberal Class by Chris Hedges and The Pale King by David Foster Wallace.

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35 Responses to "Tough New World – A Review of Eaarth"

[…] Through repetition and emphasis, the message is clear: … … Excerpt from: Tough New World – A Review of Eaarth « Frontier Psychiatrist ← Japan Underestimated Tsunami Risk: IAEA ‘Slow’ Quakes Surprisingly Double […]

Bravo brother couldn’t have said it better, I prefer a more direct approach. I’m not known for bedside manner. Mmmm….. curb our obsession with economic growth, never happen until we run headfirst into the wall, but it’s coming. And while I agree with some thoughts on our contributions as we know, we must also first understand the living organism called Earth has been around long before us, and I surmise long after. We are all experiencing what I term a life reset, so is Earth and when Mother Nature has fully had enough we will be summarily expelled. Believe she will protect herself from her nilly willy, arrogant inhabitants, particularly Americans. Suffice to say we will be brought back down to “Earth” one way or they other because like most narcissistic souls we must learn the “hard way”

[…] Psy­chi­a­trist reviews Eaarth; Mak­ing A Life on a Tough New Planet by Bill McK­ibben "McK­ibben speaks with author­ity. Some 20 years ago, he was among the first to write about […]

[…] Meatto is co-editor of Frontier Psychiatrist. He recently reviewed Eaarth: Life on a Tough New Planet, The Death of the Liberal Class, and The Pale […]

[…] Meatto is co-editor of Frontier Psychiatrist. He recently reviewed Eaarth, The Death of the Liberal Class, and The Pale King. His first girlfriend’s name started with the […]

I have a close friend who read this book — and loved it!

I’m intrigued…

🙂

Looks interesting book, thanks for this post.

What a great book–and a wonderful review! Thank so much! And congrats on freshly pressed!
Kathy

Glad I read you! :0) I have not heard of the book or the author. My mother has been teaching us since we were young that the Earth cannot withstand the pace of our developement. About 14 years ago, I looked at how many people were driving, how many houses that were being built (where the heck are all of these people working anyway?) and the price of energy and knew that in my lifetime I would see this way of life cease. And getting to an ‘Eaarth’ that is supported by Human Beings again instead of challenged by them will be painful for many. The Best Thing is that as a whole, this technology has also perpetuated and proliferated the awareness that we MUST and CAN change. And it will be okay if we are no longer “indentified” as simply consumer, but as growers, farmers, caretakers, guardians of the health of our Planet. And now you have helped to spread a hopeful feeling that we can evolve, adapt and change into The Best Humans that have ever lived! Thanks and Congrats!!! AmberLena

If I were not being sensible, I’d accuse Keith Meatto of plagiarism, since, for the last 25 years I’ve writton so much along the lines of what he has written about ( much better than I can), in letters to newspapers and just about everywhere else.
I must look out for his book as a follow on to the book ‘Collapse’ by Jared Diamond. I live in a small island going through the first death throes of self obliteration, for all the same reasons.

i’ll be sure to put this on my “to read” list! thanks

I remember reading The Sixth Extinction nearly ten years ago and wondering when people were gonna get it together. I fear we’re on a train that can’t go in reverse.

I hate being a negative nancy, I just don’t see the leadership we would need coming in all directions to turn this thing around.

Ill look it out. I’ll confess I’ve not heard of it. Thanks for sharing.

While some of his arguments may be sound and I’d agree with some of them, the theory and alarmism about anthropogenic global warming and/or anthropogenically caused climate change is just not panning out the way that its adherents have believed it would.

Bravo brother couldn’t have said it better, I prefer a more direct approach. I’m not known for bedside manner. Mmmm….. curb our obsession with economic growth, never happen until we run headfirst into the wall, but it’s coming. And while I agree with some thoughts on our contributions as we know, we must also first understand the living organism called Earth has been around long before us, and I surmise long after. We are all experiencing what I term a life reset, so is Earth and when Mother Nature has fully had enough we will be summarily expelled. Believe she will protect herself from her nilly willy, arrogant inhabitants, particularly Americans. Suffice to say we will be brought back down to “Earth” one way or they other because like most narcissistic souls we must learn the “hard way”

Although I agree that we need to be more careful about how we use the Earth and make some changes, I’m not feeling or seeing the global warming right now.

Never heard of it, but thanks for sharing. I’ll have to check it out.

I’ve read McKibben’s other stuff, but wasn’t aware of this. I’ll check it out, thanks for the heads up! The problem with some of his other writings has been that the solution he proposes is simple – just radically alter the way the entire world works. Not very doable, and like adairefulone mentioned above, won’t happen until we hit the wall.

There are many, many people that work on solutions, alternatives and changes in the global society today. It turns out that some changes in our philosophy of living together as a society are enough to create a life on Ea(a)rth humanity has never seen. Just watch out for people, websites, books and movies which describe those alternatives. And from my personal point of view, the Global Society Blog gives the best overview of it would look like.

http://globalsocietyblog.wordpress.com

Thanks for your post,
Fl’âme

wow.. i wil have to check it out. thanks! -debi intha

cool post, sounds like a good book.
peace

Looks like a good read!

I am not really a fan of books nonetheless I am convivial that I read this post. It added an extra push to continue my little acts as a servant of Mother Nature. It’s just so saddening that in my country, the action the government does to respond to the issues surrounding global warming is, to date, microscopic. I have researched on what other countries do to address the problems of this planet and have learned how really microscopic our actions are compared to New Zealand’s, US’, Australia, among other countries.

Still, I am hoping that the government will do better as soon as possible. In the meantime, I will not stop on doing my little acts. Thank you for the info again.

http://yobynos.wordpress.com/category/the-eco-warriors-folder/

I am not really a fan of books nonetheless I am convivial that I read this post. It added an extra push to continue my little acts as a servant of Mother Nature. It’s just so saddening that in my country, the action the government does to respond to the issues surrounding global warming is, to date, microscopic. I have researched on what other countries do to address the problems of this planet and have learned how really microscopic our actions are compared to New Zealand’s, US’, Australia’s, among other countries.

Still, I am hoping that the government will do better as soon as possible. In the meantime, I will not stop on doing my little acts. Thank you for the info again.

http://yobynos.wordpress.com/category/the-eco-warriors-folder/

Or maybe, Mother Earth isn’t even fighting back yet.
Just humans digging into their own…pit.

Global warming is a farce contrived to steer society toward accepting world government by creating the imaginary need for global governance. These plans have been laid out for years and are well documented in “Ecoscience” among many other historical works. Critical thinking and weather pattern research easily disputes claims of radical weather phenomenon.

It is true. We are already at the point of no return, but at least we can do something to make the worse things come later. We all need to review what we’re doing everyday, and make a little change little by little. Everybody knows we all can’t make a big change at once because it just ruins things, but what we can do is to pick out a destructive practice and focus on changing that to something constructive before moving on to changing the next destructive thing that we practice. I am glad, however, to hear some news about a lot of people who are turning to eco-friendly lifestyles. I just hope that more people will follow suit and that we’ll all realize that it’s time for us to start healing the wounds we’ve inflicted on Mother Earth.

Looks like a good book by the way. I might check this out in the bookstore when I get the time.

thank you for the good post. interesting!

Oftentimes, we are at our physical worst (or so we feel/think), when we are at our maximum healing capacity. Fever is our friend! If humans don’t help turn around the disease, the Mother will do it for us… as we can see with the current state of affairs.
Unfortunately, we are way past dealing with America’s desire for consumption. The US has extended it’s influence all over the world. The wave has made it’s way around the stadium, and now ripples are gaining strength. People, far and wide, have made their choice to participate.
It’s not hopeless – this isn’t the end of the world- but we need start ushering people in the other direction to reach balance again.

It’s a grim reminder of the future catastrophe..

I have shared your article on my Facebook page.

-Arvind K.Pandey

http://indowaves.wordpress.com/

[…] Incognito, The Death of the Liberal Class, and The Pale King. His review of Bill McKibben’s Eaarth: Life on a Tough New Planet was featured last week on Word Press’s “Freshly Pressed.” He reads books almost […]

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