Desert Notebooks: A Road Map for the End of Time

Counterpoint. Jul. 2020. 336p. ISBN 9781640093539. $26. NAT HIST
Although the subtitle says “road map,” readers won’t find here specific directions on managing climate chaos or geopolitical turmoil. Instead, journalist Ehrenreich (The Way to the Spring) offers a series of stories. He challenges the dominant story of us, the one built upon the “myth of human progress”—this, he argues, is what brought the planet to the precipice. The book’s reach is impressively wide, including history, ecology, philosophy, ethnology, and literature; it is also richly peopled, with stories from Ehrenreich’s own life, along with anecdotes from the Maya, Greeks, and Egyptians. Throughout, readers are reminded of the perilousness of the current moment; dense, ponderous passages on myth or history are interspersed with sharp entries about commentary on the happenings of the Trump administration. More pleasing observations of Mojave Desert natural phenomena, such as its dazzling night skies, flora, and fauna are also noted.
VERDICT Richly evocative, this is a book that begs to be reread, both for its biting social commentary and its wholly original contribution to the literature of planetary catastrophe.
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