Climate Nonfiction: Under a White Sky

July 9, 2022 Uncategorized 6 ★★★★

Climate Nonfiction: Under a White SkyTitle: Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future
Author: Elizabeth Kolbert
Source: Library
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads

Summary: This book raises some fascinating questions and made for a great book club read.

This book about potential ways to use technology to counter climate change was a good book to read by myself and a great book to discuss with a group. Something that many of us in my book club observed is that this felt like a collection of essays or of long form journalism pieces. It wasn’t quite as cohesive as the author’s previous book, The Sixth Extinction. It was also shorter and didn’t dive into a single topic in as much depth. It was equally well written though. I learned a lot and I was fascinated by every topic the author covered. I particularly enjoyed hearing about the author’s experiences as she learned the info she shared with us in this book.

My favorite part of this book was the fascinating discussion questions it raised. It was interesting to see which species people are willing to put effort into saving, especially when it wasn’t clearly because of a species’ ecological role or its charisma. Another question this book raised for my book club was the question of what was natural – after all, our current baseline comes from a world already radically altered by human beings. What state should we try to return the world to? At some point, does an invasive species become a native with a right to thrive too? Then there was the question of what responsibilities we have and what the responsible thing is to do. The titular white sky comes from the (to me) terrifying technological solution of adding particles to the atmosphere to reflect sunlight back out into space. The idea of intervening in the world that radically on purpose scares me, but I also recognize that at some point it might be our best option for preserving life, thanks to equally drastic but less thoughtful interventions we’re already making.

This review has focused more on a detailed discussion of the content of this book than my average review. That’s because that really was what made this book for me. If the topics I’ve mentioned interest you, I think you’re likely to get a lot out of this book too. I highly recommend reading it with a book club or a buddy and feel free to come chat with me about it in the comments here or on twitter!

6 Responses to “Climate Nonfiction: Under a White Sky”

  1. Jenny @ Reading the End

    Whew, this sounds like a tough read. Ordinarily it makes me feel good / better to read nonfiction, because I feel more in control of the world when I know more about it, but I have to admit I’m struggling with climate nonfiction. The problem seems so vast and intractable when those in power seem so uninterested in addressing it. 🙁

    • DoingDewey

      Haha, yep, this was definitely not a book that me feel more like things were in my control or under control at all. It is looking more and more likely to me that we’ll let the climate get bad enough that are only option is to try something risk and drastic to save ourselves. It’s infuriating.

  2. Rennie

    I’ve been so curious about this one! Although it does make me a little uneasy, and I haven’t read her previous book so I wasn’t sure how connected they may be.

    I like that your review focused on the content, it definitely gave me a better picture of what the book is actually like 🙂 With the questions it raises it does sound like a perfect one for a group discussion too!

    • DoingDewey

      I don’t think you’d miss anything by not reading her previous book first, although I did enjoy her first book slightly more.

      This is the second book I’ve liked more after it led to a great book club discussion (the other was Ted Chiang’s Exhalation), because I did think that the interesting questions both books raised were their strongest point.

  3. CurlyGeek

    I’ve been looking for good climate nonfiction, and I have been wanting to read Kolbert. Thanks for the detailed review, this sounds like a good one for me. I love a book that raises a lot of interesting issues.

    • DoingDewey

      I’d definitely recommend this one! It was a unique take on the topic of climate change and it gave me a new perspective 🙂

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