Today we discussed the Preface and Chapter 1 of Elizabeth Kolbert's book Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change.
We began by discussing the preface, which dealt with Kolbert's experience at the Hotel Arctic, overlooking the flow of icebergs just off the coast of Greenland. To the average American tourist, this sight is incredible. To the European or scientist, this is a scary sight. The Jakobshavn Isbræ is moving at incredible speeds. One of the many illustrations of how global climate change is affecting the environment.
From the beginning passage, the reader understands that the book has a purpose. Kolbert carefully chooses language she writes in order to set up an engaging narrative for the reader. The places and people she writes about could have been anyone from anywhere, regardless the story remains the same: we are on the brink of a turning point in human history where we are beginning to see noticeable changes. All of these different places are just snapshots of the entire story. The idea is alluded to that though humanity can easily cross the threshold, crossing back is nearly impossible. There is a parallel to be drawn to our class as well. We are going for a journey with the scientists and other people around campus to piece together the story at Eau Claire.
Kolbert’s work is compared to that of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. The two have many similarities, in that both were featured in the New Yorker, to the prose style. Both authors have the ability to write eloquently, yet incorporate research into their prose. Kolbert's book has the potential to influence society in many of the same ways as Silent Spring.
Much of our discussion concentrated on the tiny Inuit village of Shishmaref, Alaska.
This village tells the narrative of what could be ahead for the rest of our world if climate change is not addressed soon. This place is not likely to be one of familiarity for the reader, yet it makes a connection between climate change and loss of home/identity that the reader can relate to. The locals rely heavily on the sea ice as well as the sea to fuel their local economy, food supply, and way of life. However, with the seas both warming and rising, their way of life is in danger if the village is to remain in the current location. There is much debate about the costly project of relocating the village elsewhere. In the discussion, Jason highlighted the implications on our society if relocating a simplistic, innocent village like Shishmaref costs so much, what will happen for populous, business centers like New York City? There still also exists this idea of loss of place and loss of identity associated with relocating the village.
Other areas of discussion included
-interconnectedness between CO2 levels, temperatures, weather, and climate
-idea of giving science a narrative
-dialectical relationship between man and nature