Footprints: In Search of Future Fossils

Farrar. Mar. 2020. 320p. ISBN 9780374157333. $27. NAT HIST
Farrier (English literature, Univ. of Edinburgh; Anthropocene Poetics) explores what traces of present societies will persist into the deep future, traveling the world to report from places rich in future footprints. These journeys include everything from observing plastics washed up on the shore of the North Sea to a deep pit of nuclear waste in Finland to “single, endless” Shanghai to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Farrier begins in the mid-20th century, with its burgeoning global population and consumption, along with a significant increase in the use of plastics, nuclear weapons testing, and more, explaining how these factors relate to and impact our industrial, chemical, and geological activity. Blending science, literature, and art, this work leads readers to imagine time, backward and forward; writing in a remarkably fluid style, Farrier is as adept at retelling ancient myth as he is at explaining little-known science. Lastly, Farrier offers considerations for fans of popular science and future geologists to ponder; for example, what will remain of New York and Mumbai in the distant future.
VERDICT A compelling thought experiment that is sometimes unsettling in its findings but always cleverly conceived and beautifully expressed.
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