Heliophage


Reviews of The Planet Remade
November 3, 2015, 1:50 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

As of today, November 3rd, The Planet Remade is available in America, from Princeton University Press, as well as the UK, where it’s published by Granta (Amazon UK|US, Google Books for other sellers). Here’s a tally of reviews so far.

Kirkus gave it a starred review:

Once dismissed as the province of cranks, geoengineering approaches to climate change have gained new respectability…An important account of cutting-edge research that will fascinate serious readers and demand the attention of policymakers.

Bryan Appleyard in The Sunday Times (£) found it:

Ambitious, enthralling and slightly strange.

(He locates the strangeness partly in an avoidance of gosh-wow science about mirrors in space)

Jane Long in Nature (which I thought was paywalled, but seems not to be) says:

If you are going to read one book on climate engineering, it should be The Planet RemadeThe Planet Remade is as much an exploration of science and engineering as it is of people and attitudes… [with] insight gleaned from knowledge of the natural world, social thought, literature and science fiction, science and politics, scientific history and the scientists making that history…For a potentially harrowing topic, serendipity and fun abound.

Robert Mayhew in The Literary Review is thoughtful and positive, but not unreservedly so in that he thinks I avoid “the deeper political and moral questions” (I differ on this):

Morton is a cautious cornucopian about the potential of geoengineering. From his perspective, we have over the past century made massive strides in our understanding of the earthsystem. Indeed, one of the most interesting elements of The Planet Remade is that it offers fragments towards a history of our understanding of how the earth’s climate functions, which hopefully Morton may consolidate in future writing. Emerging from this historical approach is the most arresting and interesting claim in the book: rather than imagining geoengineering as something new, hubristic and Promethean being devised in the face of impending climatic Armageddon, we ought to recognise that humankind has been geoengineering for decades and that over the longer term it has been a normal part of modern societies. The main distinction of today’s geoengineering is that it offers the potential to make interventions in the biogeochemistry of the planet in ways that are more sensitive to the functioning of the earthsystem than ever before.

To make good on these claims, Morton shows us in the second part of the book that we have made huge adjustments to the carbon, sulphur and nitrogen cycles of the planet.

And here’s Robin McKie in The Observer, combining his review with one of “Atmosphere of Hope” by Tim Flannery (Amazon US|UK), using the frame of the Paris conference to get to the heart of the matter:

Only by actively limiting solar radiation and by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere can we hope to curtail temperature rises, [Morton] argues. This is the science of geo-engineering and it is controversial because such projects – which include spraying sulphur particles in the upper atmosphere to cut out sunlight – risk worsening, rather than improving our world. Morton is no zealot, however, and his arguments are intriguing and persuasive.

My thanks to all the reviewers for engaging with the book so thoughtfully. As more reviews come in I will either lengthen this post or do some separate ones to which I will link here.

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