Extending an argument that began with "Eating Animals" (2009), novelist Jonathan Safran Foer traces climate change squarely to human deeds and misdeeds in "We Are the Weather."
Our species, suggests the author, just isn’t very smart when it comes to thinking ahead and doing something about errant behavior. “We are good at things like calculating the path of a hurricane,” he writes, “and bad at things like deciding to get out of its way.” It behooves us to get better at the latter, since ever more intense hurricanes — and blizzards, droughts and all the other portents of a drastically changing climate — are in the offing for the near-term future. There are things we can do to ameliorate the situation: For one thing, we “need to use cars far less,” but we also need to pat ourselves on the back a bit less when we do something virtuous of the sort, since there’s so much else to do. One critically important thing, writes Foer, is to eat lower on the food chain. A prominent driver of climate change is deforestation, and a prominent engine of deforestation is clearing ground for animal agriculture. As he notes, “sixty percent of all mammals on Earth are animals raised for food,” so lessening the number of animals slated to be eaten will decrease the rate and scale of deforestation. “It will be impossible to defuse the ticking time bomb without reducing our consumption of animal products,” reads a chapter title that scarcely needs supporting text. That’s a big, even revolutionary demand, but it’s not an impossible one by Foer’s estimation. After all, all of us humans got together and, at least for a time, cured polio because we took our vaccine, and even if we don’t want to hear it, the ticking is getting louder and louder.
Foer is not likely to sway climate-change skeptics, but his lucid, patient and refreshingly short treatise is as good a place to start as any.
(Foer will speak and sign copies of his book at 7 p.m. Friday at BookPeople, 603 N. Lamar Blvd. Information: bookpeople.com.)
A haunted house mystery from Ruth Ware
Ruth Ware channels "The Turn of the Screw" in her latest creepy mystery, "The Turn of the Key," when a nanny takes a post at a haunted country house.
Traveling to Heatherbrae House to interview for a nanny position, Rowan Caine finds a gorgeously redone Victorian mansion nestled in the remote Scottish moors. Sandra Elincourt is stylish and smart, and the girls seem sweet enough, though 8-year-old Maddie rings some alarm bells in Rowan’s mind. So what if the last four nannies left under mysterious circumstances? Rowan knows she’s where she belongs — even when Maddie tries to warn her away, claiming that “the ghosts wouldn’t like it” if she stays. On her first day, however, Bill Elincourt makes a pass at her, and then both parents leave on a business trip, planning to be gone for at least a week. Left alone with the three little girls, Rowan can’t shake the feeling that there are other forces at work in the house. When strange noises begin to wake them all in the night, it seems like the house may indeed be haunted. What happened to those other nannies? Why is Maddie intent on getting Rowan fired? Why is there a garden of poison plants? And who wrote “We hate you” all over the attic walls? Ware excels at taking classic mystery tropes and reinventing them; her novels always feel appealingly anachronistic because while the technology is 21st century, there is something traditionally gothic about the settings, full of exaggerated luxury and seething dark corners. In this case, she reimagines the Victorian ghost story, with Henry James the most obvious influence not just on the plot, but also on the narrative frame, as the story actually takes the form of a letter written by Rowan to her solicitor as she sits imprisoned for murder. Regrettably, the novel’s ending leaves a few too many loose ends while also avoiding the delicious ambiguity of its Victorian predecessors.
Truly terrifying! Ware perfects her ability to craft atmosphere and sustain tension with each novel.