For years now Mr. CR has been telling me to stop bringing home all the depressing nonfiction.
And I'd like to help him out, really I would, so then I started bringing home some more science/environmental books. And I'm damned if this stuff isn't scarier and sadder than all the usual true crime and investigative nonfiction that I usually bring home!
One totally scary science book I read in 2017 was Jeff Goodell's The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World (which I found because Goodell had an essay in the also excellent Best Science Writing book that I read in October). It's a book about sea-level rise and climate changes, particularly as they pertain to low-lying cities like Miami, New York, Amsterdam, Lagos (in Nigeria), and Venice, to name just a few.
Although this book is terrifying, and the way that people are responding to rising sea levels and more powerful storms (largely ignoring all of it) is not heartening, Goodell manages to achieve a nice tone between matter-of-fact and awed. Meaning, it was nice to read a book on climate change that said, look, change is coming, maybe we can adapt, maybe we can come up with technology to save ourselves, but what is all of that going to look like?
Take, for instance, the dry journalistic tone in this exchange, when he goes into a Miami neighborhood where there's already flooding:
"While Briceno collected his water samples, I hopped and skipped over dry ground to a nearby apartment complex, where I found a woman named Maria Toubes staring at the incoming water from her second-floor doorstep. She was sixty-five and disabled, a hard life etched in her face. Inside, she had an eight-year-old niece whom she wouldn't let out of the house because of the high waters. Toubes explained that she lived on a fixed income and had moved into this neighborhood a few months earlier because it allowed her to save $200 a month on rent.
As we talked, the water continued to fise, pushing up the street in front of her house and into her driveway. It felt like we were about to float away.
'Have you seen the water this high before?'
'Sometimes it comes up even higher,' she said.
'What do you do?'
She looked at me as if I had asked a very stupid question. 'Stay inside,' she said...
A few weeks later, he [Briceno] emailed me results from the water samples at Shorecrest and around Miami Beach. The indicator that the EPA uses for fecal matter in the water is Enterococcus, which is a bacteria that is easily and reliably traceable. The EPA standard for acceptable contamination in water is 25 colony-forming units per 100 milliliters of water. According to Briceno's tests, the floodwater in Shorecrest had 30,000 CFUs." (pp. 246-247.)
No wonder Maria was telling her niece to stay inside.
It was a good read. Horrifying, but I think it's on a subject that's only going to become more apparent (and important).