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Publisher's Summary

The New York Times best-selling author of The Sixth Extinction and Field Notes from a Catastrophe returns to humanity’s transformative impact on the environment in Under a White Sky

That man should have dominion “over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth” is a prophecy that has hardened into fact. So pervasive are human impacts on the planet that it’s said we live in a new geological epoch: the Anthropocene. 

The question we now face is: Can we change nature, this time in order to save it? Elizabeth Kolbert, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Sixth Extinction, takes a hard look at the new world we are creating. Along the way, she meets scientists who are trying to preserve the world’s rarest fish, which lives in a single, tiny pool in the middle of the Mojave; engineers who are turning carbon emissions to stone in Iceland; Australian researchers who are trying to develop a “super coral” that can survive on a hotter globe; and physicists who are contemplating shooting tiny diamonds into the stratosphere to cool the earth. 

One way to look at human civilization, says Kolbert, is as a 10,000-year exercise in defying nature. In The Sixth Extinction, she explored the ways in which our capacity for destruction has reshaped the natural world. Now she examines how the very sorts of interventions that have imperiled our planet are increasingly seen as the only hope for its salvation. By turns inspiring, terrifying, and darkly comic, Under a White Sky is an utterly original examination of the challenges we face.

©2021 Elizabeth Kolbert (P)2021 Simon & Schuster Audio

What listeners say about Under a White Sky

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Feel Sorry For Your Grandchildren

Ms. Kolbert provides a well thought out analysis and review of the past, current and future realities. And the future outlook for humanity and life in general in the next 100 years does not looks good. Now would be a good time to buy land in Alaska for your descendants to move to in 50 to 100 years from now.

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Lots to think about

Under a White Sky seems to meander in the beginning, but by the end it pulls together the thoughts in a compelling way. When taken in context the information reminds us that the fragile border between humanity existing as it does today and not existing at all was never completely within our control. We have altered our home in irrevocable ways. This book seeds the curiosity of what to do now.

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Amazing and Heartbreaking

Kolbert is an amazing author. I appreciate her optimism, but more I appreciate her realism in the face of man's destruction of nature.

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Kolbert does it again

I think it’s really hard to live up to The Sixth Extinction, but this book was a really good shot at it. I appreciated the ‘matter of fact’ness about where we are at and what’s going to need to be done to address climate.

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a bit monotone, important topic

I enjoyed the topic, but the speaker is a bit monotone and I found myself getting bored because of it. It's almost like they don't like historical non-fiction. You really have to enjoy history and non-fiction to not sound like you fate it in a recording, lol.

The story is interesting and worth listening to. About global warming and the risks of tampering with our world to solve it, rather than doing the right thing and ending emissions. She approaches the problem from most sides, outlining the pros and cons of various solutions. But she starts with historical examples where we've done this before as a species and it never went well for anyone, least of all us, or the other species around us.

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Important read but choppy

This is such an important subject and I’m amazed at the level of depth that the author/journalist invested in this. The sequence of the parts was choppy and didn’t get intertwined together as much as I would have liked. With this, The lessons and path forward that the author wants to share or that the scientists she worked with may have wanted to share were more muted or unclear than I had hoped for. But, an important read and very valuable piece of educational journalism.

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A Good look at the future of Nature

Relatively short and packed with information. Didn't come down firmly on the side of nature or technology, but instead fiercly realistic. An inportant read for pretty much everyone.

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Wonderful provocation

Great book, incredibly well written and intelligently provocative. In a world plagued with biases, it is refreshing to read a book that displays both sides of an argument throughout the narrative and promotes thought before opinion.

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Thoughtful, easily digested

New takes on environmental issues, many ideas examined weren't previously on my radar. The nonfiction content is both interesting and accessible, there was minimal use of technical terminology. I learned without feeling lectured.

Each chapter has a bit of a plot arc and a hero to cheer for. The solutions Kolbert proposes aren't mainstream, you will walk away from this book wondering about new ways to mitigate human impact on the environment.

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  • AJ
  • 01-16-22

Eloquent scientific presentation

Kolbert’s “The Sixth Extinction” was the most transformative book on climate change that I had ever read, elegant in its straightforward language of complicated topics, and also darkly humorous in the face of uncertain doom. Kolbert has a lighthearted way of outlining depressing questions and fatalist conclusions while also expressing a kind of tranquil acceptance of those fates.

“Under a White Sky” is likewise a beautiful and essential read for the same reasons. Fascinating history and scientific presentation with the rigor of a journalist looking to make the reader uncomfortably entranced. No writer captures our moment on this subject better for digestible popular consumption.