Friday, January 12, 2018

mini review

The Collapse of Western Civilization 
     A View from the Future
by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway
Columbia University Press 2014     89 pages

                Humble in appearance, this little book packs a wallop.  Purporting to be written in 2093, the premise poses the question: why did the Western world early in the century fail to act on its knowledge of imminent environmental collapse?
                Authors Oreskes and Conway do a wonderful job of invoking the bewildered voice of their fictional historian. They answer the question, too:  the “uncertainty” perpetrated by the fossil fuel companies and their cohorts (“the carbon combustion complex”) took hold of the imagination of a public addicted to conspicuous consumption.
                Organized in three chapters, the book includes an Epilogue, a Lexicon of Archaic Terms, and an interview with the authors (Oreskes is professor of the history of science at Harvard; Conway is a historian of science and technology at the California Institute of Technology).  Also included are four future maps showing the disappearance of the Netherlands, Bangladesh, New York City, and Florida.
                Chapter 1 studies how people knew what was happening but were unable to stop it. International talks and funding of the EPA for example were countered by a backlash of denial. “It is clear that in the early 21st century, immediate steps should have been taken to begin a transition to a zero-net-carbon world. Staggeringly, the opposite occurred.”
                Chapter 2 covers the persecution of climate scientists, and the obstacles presented by narrow disciplines impeding “investigation of complex systems.” Social order begins to break down beginning in 2041, when “unprecedented heat waves scorched the planet, destroying food crops around the world.”
                Chapter 3 directs blame at “positivism and market fundamentalism.” Scientists’ traditional insistence on empirical knowledge had little impact on economic and technical policies. Market fundamentalism resulted in the dominance of the carbon combustion complex and the public’s “quasi-religious faith” that free markets were the only thing not threatening personal freedom. “The idea of managing energy use and controlling greenhouse emissions was anathema to the neoliberal economists whose thinking dominated at this crucial juncture. Thus, no planning was done, no precautions were taken, and the only management that finally ensued was disaster management.”

                You will have to read this brilliant, intense little book twice—it is that rich. 

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Press release    April, 2017

Another gripping eco-thriller! Announcing the publication of The Hampshire Project, the final novel in Resilience: A Trilogy of Climate Chaos. Young Terra must battle the evils unleashed by rampant climate change, from mass migration to autocracy.
In 2082, capitalizing on fear and deprivation, a self-serving elite is taking over all surviving communities. Will Terra be able to find the father she never met amid the chaos and deception? What will happen if she does?
“My books are meant as a warning, not a prediction,” says Kitty Beer. “But they are based on real possibilities as our planet melts. These are primarily stories about love and family, people braving disaster.”
Kitty Beer’s stories and articles have appeared in print and online in the U.S. and Canada, including her work as an environmental journalist. Her screenplay, Home, placed in the 2004 International Screenwriting Awards contest. She is a member of the National Writers Union and the Society of Environmental Journalists. Beer grew up in New England and raised her two children in Canada, Germany, and upstate New York. She holds her B.A. from Harvard University, and her M.A. from Cornell University. Having traveled extensively, she now makes her home in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she is active in political and environmental efforts. 
The Hampshire Project is the third novel in the trilogy about climate change. The first two are What Love Can’t Do (2006) and Human Scale (2010). All three books are published by Plain View Press, a 40 year old literary publishing house focusing on issues of sociopolitical importance.
Testimonials for The Hampshire Project

“If you are prone to believe that even severe climate change will be well managed, that future governments will calmly move cities inland, providing good jobs in construction and engaging our better selves, Kitty Beer will turn you inside out. The compelling, gutsy characters, the cults and marauding private armies, the Prudential Tower poking out of the Boston Sea and other vivid landscapes, are horribly credible. If Beer’s trilogy, set in the 2040s, 2060s, and continuing here in the 2080s with The Hampshire Project, can’t inspire you to action, nothing will.”
Robert Socolow, Princeton University, Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and co-director of Princeton Environment Institute
            “Kitty Beer's latest novel, The Hampshire Project, third in her 
Resilience trilogy, offers a foreboding, forbidding, vision of a future, 
post climate change New England. What was once the proud city of Boston 
is now underwater, victim of major rise in global sea level. Anarchy 
reigns. Fresh water is in short supply, available only to those who can 
afford to pay. Droughts, heat waves, violent storms and devastating 
tornadoes define the new normal. Could this be the future? Hopefully 
not. The Hampshire Project sounds a prescient warning though that the 
potential for disruptive change in future climate is real: it is not a 
hoax as some would suggest. Should The Hampshire Project raise public 
consciousness as to the need for action to address the climate issue, 
that would represent an important bonus. The book is a great read. I 
recommend it with enthusiasm and without qualification.”
Michael B. McElroy, Gilbert Butler Professor of Environmental Studies, Harvard University

The Hampshire Project, the conclusion of Kitty Beer’s powerful trilogy of an environmentally dystopian future, is a wake-up call we owe to our great-grandchildren to heed. But beyond being a chillingly plausible vision of a ruined Earth, this is a tale told with subtlety and compassion. She offers fully formed characters who leap off the pages, by turns surprising us and angering us and eliciting our sympathy and understanding. In The Hampshire Project novelist Kitty Beer asks, and answers, the question that lies at the heart of all great fiction: How do we live in the world we have been given?”
Charles Coe, author of "All Sins Forgiven: Poems for My Parents;" Artist-in-Residence for the city of Boston

“A dystopian sci-fi novel imagines a future New England crippled by pollution and under the control of ruthless corporate patriarchs.”
--Kirkus Reviews

Saturday, March 4, 2017

The Hampshire Project: new novel in the series, Resilience: A Trilogy of Climate Chaos

My third novel The Hampshire Project is in the works at Plain View Press, due out on Earth Day, April 22.

In 2082, 17 year old Terra is on a quest to find her father, while battling the evils of rampant climate change. You can find wonderful testimonials, as well as a Kirkus Review, on my website I'm very proud of this book and hope you will read it!

The Hampshire Project

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

"People over Pipelines!"

   I'm reporting on two recent occasions when I joined protests against Spectra Energy's natural gas pipelines being constructed locally.
   On June 23 I joined the group fighting the pipeline in West Roxbury. Neighbors and environmentalists have exhausted legal recourse, but the movement is still growing. Now the cry is, "Shut it down, or the people will!"
   We gathered in bright morning sunshine in a nearby clearing. Those choosing to get arrested grouped separately for instructions. Signs ranged from "Keep it in the Ground!" to cardboard flames. Then we all marched to the construction site, located in the middle of a pretty street lined with houses. (Besides adding to climate change by providing more gas to burn, this pipeline is located very near a quarry where dynamite is blasted.) Bulldozers and concrete mixers, some ten workers and as many cops awaited us. We numbered about 90 folks. Two by two, those aiming for arrest ran past barriers to sit on the edge of the trench being dug. The paddy wagon pulled up and they were handcuffed and loaded in, all of us cheering them on.
   Once in a while the workers started pouring concrete again, but they kept having to stop, and stood around looking bewildered. The cops all acted kind of tired: this was so routine; everyone on both sides knew all the moves. I believe that the arrests that day totaled 46. My feelings were anger, pride, and gratitude at sharing in this vital effort.
  On July 18 I joined the protesters who had just spent days marching 43 miles through the towns where Spectra is installing the pipeline. We met at the State House in Boston. As we lined the street, two trucks hired by Spectra kept driving by flashing signs saying gas makes jobs. Of course we jeered them. Then we filed into the State House--all 400 of us--to rally, the Grand Staircase jammed with our shining faces. Two legislators joined the speakers, emphasizing that even our Attorney General says "we don't need this gas."
   Especially targeted was the pipeline tax. Unbelievably, taxpayers are expected to pay for the construction, in a fee added to their electric bills.
   After the rally, delegates visited legislators' offices, and then all of us headed towards Gov. Baker's office. As we often chant, "This is what democracy looks like."

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Encyclical on Climate Change and Inequality: On Care for our Common Home
Pope Francis, 2015
Introduction by Naomi Oreskes    Melville House   151 pages

For this proud Unitarian and passionate environmentalist, Pope Francis' plea is beautiful. Brave and brilliant, it illumines the path we are on and where we must go with loving eloquence. He sees the truth and dares to tell it, with never a touch of either condescension or doubt.
In her introduction, Harvard Professor of the History of Science Naomi Oreskes, best known for Merchants of Doubt, her scathing book equating the tobacco and oil industries, compares this Encyclical to Uncle Tom's Cabin and Silent Spring, similar "calls to action," She summarizes his "two lines of thought" as mutual responsibility and denunciation of market fundamentalism.
In his Preface, Pope Francis calls for "a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet." Mother Earth "cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her."
In the subsequent six chapters, he covers pollution (our "throwaway culture"), destruction of forests and oceans, the rupture of social cohesion, unlimited growth ("based on the lie that Earth's goods are infinite"), our technical paradigm ("cult of unlimited human power"), and "a consumerist view of human beings," all while denouncing our "spiral of self-destruction." Throughout, he equates care of creation with care and respect for the poor, who are exploited by the same consumerist mindset.
Admittedly, he slips in a few references to embryos, which will annoy some people. But this is a call to action addressed to the entire human race, and as such avoids a Catholic focus. This wonderful Pope, both hard-hitting and gentle, is the visionary leader many of us have hungered for.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Social Conquest of Earth mini book review

The Social Conquest of Earth mini book review

Edward O. Wilson 297 pages

Liverright Co., W.W. Norton 2012

This book succeeded in changing the way I look at human beings. Wilson develops an argument that we are basically group creatures. We’re wired to function in and through groups, not like wolves for example, in packs, but like ants in their nests. We act to favor our group more often than our individual selves. Yet there is always this conflict between self-interest and group benefit.

The six sections of the book range from mesmerizing to humdrum, depending on how interested you are in insects. The first one hundred pages covering human evolution are brilliant and exciting. Wilson has a unique angle on our development, from chimps and Neanderthals through tribalism and teams, tools and fire through villages and agriculture. He makes persuasive use of new insights from DNA studies.

Unfortunately, the middle of the book gets bogged down by his passion for ants. He posits that ants invented what he calls “eusociality,” generations organized into groups through division of labor. Their fortified nests enable some members to stay home with young, and others to venture forth for food for all. I advise skimming for the second one hundred pages.

Wilson returns on page 191 to answer the question, “What is human nature?” He looks at gene-culture cooevolution, longterm memory, the origins of language, and crucial collaboration. He tackles the origins of morality and honor, religion, and art. He comes to the sweet conclusion that, if we can only stop destroying it, “Earth can be turned into a permanent paradise.”

Wilson writes lucidly with a fiery intelligence. He deserves his vaunted reputation.