By 1979, we knew all that we know now about the science of climate change - what was happening, why it was happening, and how to stop it. Over the next ten years, we had the very real opportunity to stop it. Obviously, we failed.
Nathaniel Rich's groundbreaking account of that failure - and how tantalizingly close we came to signing binding treaties that would have saved us all before the fossil fuels industry and politicians committed to anti-scientific denialism - is already a journalistic blockbuster, a full issue of the New York Times Magazine that has earned favorable comparisons to Rachel Carson's Silent Spring and John Hersey's Hiroshima. Rich has become an instant, in-demand expert and speaker. A major movie deal is already in place. It is the story, perhaps, that can shift the conversation.
In the book Losing Earth, Rich is able to provide more of the context for what did - and didn't - happen in the 1980s and, more important, is able to carry the story fully into the present day and wrestle with what those past failures mean for us in 2019. It is not just an agonizing revelation of historical missed opportunities, but a clear-eyed and eloquent assessment of how we got to now, and what we can and must do before it's truly too late.
Country of Publication:
14 April 2020
From 18 years
Professional and scholarly
Introduction - i: Introduction Unit - ii: Part I: Shouts in the Street:1979-1982 Chapter - 1: The Whole Banana: Spring 1979 Chapter - 2: Mirror Worlds: Spring 1979 Chapter - 3: Between Clambake and Chaos: July 1979 Chapter - 4: Enter Cassandra, Raving: 1979-1980 Chapter - 5: A Very Aggressive Defensive Program: 1979-1980 Chapter - 6: Tiger on the Road: October 1980 Chapter - 7: A Deluge Most Unnatural: November 1980-September 1981 Chapter - 8: Heroes and Villains: March 1982 Chapter - 9: The Direction of an Impending Catastrophe: 1982 Unit - iii: Part II: Bad Science Fiction: 1983-1988 Chapter - 10: Caution Not Panic: 1983-1984 Chapter - 11: The World of Action: 1985 Chapter - 12: The Ozone in October: Fall 1985-Summer 1986 Chapter - 13: Atmospheric Scientist, New York, N.Y.: Fall 1987-Spring 1988 Unit - iv: Part III: You Will See Things That You Shall Believe: 1988-1989 Chapter - 14: Nothing but Bonfires: Summer 1988 Chapter - 15: Signal Weather: June 1988 Chapter - 16: Woodstock for Climate Change: June 1988-April 1989 Chapter - 17: Fragmented World: Fall 1988 Chapter - 18: The Great Includer and the Old Engineer: Spring 1989 Chapter - 19: Natural Processes: May 1989 Chapter - 20: The White House Effect: Fall 1989 Chapter - 21: Skunks at the Garden Party: November 1989 Section - v: Afterword: Glass-Bottomed Boats Section - vi: A Note on the Sources Acknowledgements - vii: Acknowledgements
Nathaniel Rich is the author of the novels Odds Against Tomorrow and The Mayor's Tongue. His short fiction has appeared in McSweeney's, The Virginia Quarterly Review, and VICE, among other publications. He is a writer at large for The New York Times Magazine and a regular contributor to The New York Review of Books and The Atlantic. Rich lives with his wife and son in New Orleans.
Reviews for Losing Earth: The Decade We Could Have Stopped Climate Change
[Rich's] gripping, depressing, revelatory book makes it clear that not only is climate change a tragedy, but that it is also a crime - a thing that bad people knowingly made worse, for their personal gain. -- John Lanchester * New York Times * The excellent and appalling Losing Earth by Nathaniel Rich describes how close we came in the 70s to dealing with the causes of global warming and how US big business & Reaganite politicians in the 80s ensured it didn't happen. Read it. -- John Simpson (on Twitter) Rich brilliantly relates the story of how, in 1979 . . . policymakers [were alerted] to the existential threat, only to see climate treaties fail in a welter of 'profit over planet' a decade later. An eloquent science history, and an urgent eleventh-hour call to save what can be saved. * Nature * To change the future, we must first understand our past, and Losing Earth is a crucial part of that when it comes to the environmental battles we're facing. * Stylist * Others have documented where we are, and speculated about where we might be headed, but the story of how we got here is perhaps the most important one to be told, because it is both a cautionary tale and an unfinished one. -- Jonathan Safran Foer Nathaniel Rich recounts how a crucial decade was squandered. Losing Earth is an important contribution to the record of our heedless age. -- Elizabeth Kolbert [Losing Earth] chronicles the failure of our scientific and political leaders to act to halt the climate apocalypse when they appeared on the verge of doing so, and casts the triumph of denial as the defining moral crisis for humankind. -- Philip Gourevitch Rich demonstrates exquisitely how shallow debate of a deep problem - the planetary scale and civilizational consequences of climate change - exacerbates the problem. -- Stewart Brand A gripping piece of history . . . Rich's writing is compelling . . . Like a Greek tragedy, Losing Earth shows how close we came to making the right choices. * National Public Radio * Nathaniel Rich's account starts in Washington in the 1990s and tells the story of how climate change could have been stopped back then, if only the powerful had acted. But they didn't want to. * Observer *