Apocalyptic Planet: Field Guide to the Future of the Earth

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Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Oct 2, 2012 - Nature - 368 pages
3 Reviews

The earth has died many times, and it always comes back looking different. In an exhilarating, surprising exploration of our planet, Craig Childs takes readers on a firsthand journey through apocalypse, touching the truth behind the speculation. Apocalyptic Planet is a combination of science and adventure that reveals the ways in which our world is constantly moving toward its end and how we can change our place within the cycles and episodes that rule it.

In this riveting narrative, Childs makes clear that ours is not a stable planet, that it is prone to sudden, violent natural disasters and extremes of climate. Alternate futures, many not so pretty, are constantly waiting in the wings. Childs refutes the idea of an apocalyptic end to the earth and finds clues to its more inevitable end in some of the most physically challenging places on the globe. He travels from the deserts of Chile, the driest in the world, to the genetic wasteland of central Iowa to the site of the drowned land bridge of the Bering Sea, uncovering the micro-cataclysms that predict the macro: forthcoming ice ages, super-volcanoes, and the conclusion of planetary life cycles. Childs delivers a sensual feast in his descriptions of the natural world and a bounty of unequivocal science that provides us with an unprecedented understanding of our future.


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I started out with the insane float down the Tibet river...then read the rest, and read it all again. I don't understand the title being listed as 'Everending Earth', my real book copy says "Future Earth". Some seem to see this as a book about armageddon, not apocalypes. Fear of it ending here and now is too Hollywood, the real fear is fear of change. We don't live in a stagnant, stable world. The shifts and changes are there for us to see now; Craig seems brave enough to enter the belly of that beast and challenge it, then write about it. I love his banter, the personality of all, and mostly, I love his love of science, reality, and facts. Kudos.
And on the subject of change, our presence on the planet is making a difference to so many areas, not just CO2. Our need for gas is increasing release of CH4. If we shift the winds, acidify the ocean, and alter the quantity of water, will the cracks crack bigger and the wobble wiggle farther? What a ride that would be, no gas needed.

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Q. How did you like the book?
A. One reading is not enough. I would have to study this book and mark it up with notes to really understand all that is there. But I'm glad I read it. This far
-looking perspective that Craig gives in the book is very rare. How many of us have thought about the end of the world, say, in 5 billion years? Craig has. He did a good job.
But I could not get a good imagery handle on some of the places he went and things he did. I could not visualize them in my mind. That's because he went to places I've never been, and probably never will go.
Q. So Craig shows us what an apocalypse on earth might be like?
A. He does his best to do that. His venture in the Atacama desert seemed to come closest, for me, anyway.
Q. So you recommend the book?
A. For general readers, probably not. Craig tries to mix the scientific data with personal experiences. He has traveling buddies, with nicknames like JD, Trip Leader or Berkeley Woman, who probably didn't want their names used. Craig takes notes everywhere he goes, then writes them up. I think his river rafting in Tibet was about as exciting as he's going to get. But for students of the earth, this is a book pregnant with information and value. It's not textbook or scientific paper, but you have to study it.
Q. I sense some dissatisfaction?
A. It's none of my business, but why can't Craig stay home with his wife and kids, like the rest of us schmucks have to do.
Q. Yes, it's none of your business.


Title Page
Ice Collapses
Seas Rise
Civilizations Fall
Cold Returns
Species Vanish
Mountains Move
Cataclysrn Strikes

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About the author (2012)

Craig Childs is a commentator for NPR’s Morning Edition, and his work has appeared in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Men’s Journal, Outside, The Sun, and Orion. Awards he has won include the Ellen Meloy Desert Writers Award, the Rowell Award for the Art of Adventure, the Sigurd F. Olson Nature Writing Award, and, for his body of work, the 2003 Spirit of the West Award.

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