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What Have We Learned in Thirty Years of Covering Climate Change?

What Have We Learned in Thirty Years of Covering Climate Change?

About a year ago, the editor of The New Yorker, David Remnick, called to ask if I thought it might make sense to publish an anthology of the reporting on climate change that has appeared in the magazine’s pages. Since he works at a breakneck pace, that volume appears in print this week, under the title “The Fragile Earth.” It’s a wonderful book, demonstrating not only the depth of The New Yorker’s commitment to this planet but also the ever-growing sophistication with which writers have taken on this most important of topics. The dark splendor of Elizabeth Kolbert’s pieces alone is worth the thirty dollars.

The book opens with a piece of mine called “The End of Nature,” an excerpt from a book of the same title that appeared in 1989. It’s been a while since I read the words I wrote as a twenty-eight-year-old, and it made me nostalgic to climb back inside that young and perhaps overly earnest mind. The essay is a combination of reflection on the sadness of living in a world where the human imprint could be measured in every cubic metre of the atmosphere, and of straightforward reporting about what we then knew about climatic disruption. In the late nineteen-eighties, I could fit every scientific report on global warming on my desk. The articles and monographs published since then would fill an airplane hangar, but what’s amazing is how little has changed.
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