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Cover image for Adventures in the anthropocene : a journey to the heart of the planet we made
Adventures in the anthropocene : a journey to the heart of the planet we made


Minneapolis, Minnesota : Milkweed Editions, 2014.
Physical Description:
436 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (chiefly color), map ; 24 cm
Atmosphere -- Mountains -- Rivers -- Farmlands -- Oceans -- Deserts -- Savannahs -- Forests -- Rocks -- Cities.
"We live in times of enormous change on Earth. While previous shifts from one geological epoch to another were caused by events beyond human control, our addition of carbon to the atmosphere over the past century has moved many scientists to declare the dawn of a new era: the Anthropocene--the Age of Man. This latest geological epoch is rarely associated with positive news. Pointing to climate change, overpopulation, and species extinction, the writers weighing in on the change widely assert that this dark cloud has no silver lining. Watching this consensus develop from her seat as an editor at Nature, Gaia Vince couldn't help but wonder if the greatest cause of this dramatic planetary change--humans' singular ability to innovate--might also hold the key to our survival. And so she left her professional life in London and set out to travel the world in search of ordinary people doing extraordinary things to adapt, and, in many cases, to thrive. She meets Nepalese engineers creating artificial glaciers, a man in the Caribbean who created an entire island out of garbage, and numerous other innovators--from Uganda, the Maldives, Columbia, and countless points between. Part science journal, part travelogue, Adventures in the Anthropocene recounts Vince's journey, and introduces an essential new perspective on the future of life on earth"--Publisher's description.


Call Number
577.27 Vince 2014
577.27 VINCE

On Order



We all know our planet is in crisis, and that it is largely our fault. But all too often the full picture of change is obstructed by dense data sets and particular catastrophes. Struggling with this obscurity in her role as an editor at Nature , Gaia Vince decided to travel the world and see for herself what life is really like for people on the frontline of this new reality. What she found was a number people doing the most extraordinary things.

During her journey she finds a man who is making artificial glaciers in Nepal along with an individual who is painting mountains white to attract snowfall; take the electrified reefs of the Maldives; or the man who's making islands out of rubbish in the Caribbean. These are ordinary people who are solving severe crises in crazy, ingenious, effective ways. While Vince does not mince words regarding the challenging position our species is in, these wonderful stories, combined with the new science that underpins Gaia's expertise and research, make for a persuasive, illuminating -- and strangely hopeful -- read on what the Anthropocene means for our future.

Author Notes

Gaia Vince is the author of Adventures in the Anthropocene: A Journey to the Heart of the Planet we Made, which won the 2015 Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

Science journalist Vince has produced a book, simultaneously deeply depressing and thoroughly uplifting, that is all but impossible to put down. Organizing her stories by ecosystem, Vince chronicles the planetary changes humans have wrought during the Anthropocene, the current geological epoch. In superb prose she summarizes the actions of people whose lives have been irrevocably affected by climate change, urbanization, industrialization, and rampant greed. These same people, some of the poorest on the planet, are taking active steps to transform their lives and communities. Vince writes in the first chapter about Mahabir Pun, a Nepalese teacher who brought free WiFi connections to remote Himalayan villages, enabling students to attend school online and village nurses and midwives to work in a telemedicine and dentistry clinic linked via webcam. She also describes the remarkable efforts of an Indian civil engineer, Chewang Norphel, to construct temporary glaciers to provide water for remote, high-elevation villages whose natural glacial aquifers have disappeared as temperatures rise. Vince travelled for two years, interviewing and observing, to compile this amazing view of both the present and the future, and she concludes that it is not yet too late to create a rich and sustainable "shared future." Illus. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Kirkus Review

Science journalist Vince chronicles a two-year journey around the globe to evaluate warnings that we face an ecological tipping point."Deserts are spreadingforests are dying and being logged.Wildlife is being hunted and dying because of habitat loss," writes the author, who also notes that we currently use 30 percent more natural resources per year "than the planet can replenish." Geologists are calling this the Anthropocene epoch due to "the changes humans are making to the biosphere." As the author acknowledges, we are the first species "to knowingly reshape the living Earth's biology and chemistry. We have become the masters of our planet and integral to the destiny of life on Earth." Despite this dim picture, the author found grounds for optimism on her travels. Vince takes the hopeful view that we will act in a timely fashion to "preserve nature or master its tricks artificially." In China and India, she chronicles government efforts to address atmospheric pollution and looming water shortages. Her main interest, however, is the inventiveness of people at the local level dealing with these problems. Vince believes that they are ushering in "an extraordinary new human agecreating artificial glaciers to irrigate their crops, building artificial coral reefs to shore up islands, and artificial trees to clean the air." The author was most impressed by the cumulative effect of small changes in heretofore-inaccessible mountain regions that now generate electricity using microhydropower; these areas have also gained access to the Internet and improved sanitation. She discusses the work of "[h]ydrologists in Peru [who are] building tunnels to drain an Andean glacial lake" as a way to control disastrous flooding. On a smaller scale in the Indian village of Ladakh, a local engineer is leading a project to convert mountain wastewater into a series of man-made miniglaciers connected to irrigation canals. Everywhere she traveled, Vince continued to see great promise in human creativity. A well-documented, upbeat alternative to doom-and-gloom prognostications. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* Science journalist Vince has an exceptionally fluent understanding of Earth's geophysics and the gift for conveying this knowledge with lucidity and zest. She is also an intrepid traveler with a mission. Given humanity's dominant role in shaping the biosphere, scientists have named our epoch the Anthropocene or the Human Age. Curious about what this means in the real world, Vince went on an ambitious, often risky global journey to see how people are adapting to changes on our warming planet. Her environmental travelogue is arranged according to habitat mountains, rivers, farmlands, deserts, oceans, and cities. And she addresses a plethora of challenges, from drought to deforestation, ocean acidification, and mass extinction. But she also introduces us to extraordinary people who have developed brilliantly innovative solutions. Vince climbs in the Himalayas, where is it now warm enough to grow oranges while glaciers melt, causing severe water shortages and inspiring geoengineer Chewang Norphel to create artificial glaciers. Vince talks with Ugandan farmer Winifred Omoding and the president of the sinking Maldives in the Indian Ocean. She journeys on the Mekong River and, with courageous rain forest champion Rosa Maria Ruiz, the Amazon. There is no avoiding the complexity and severity of the situations Vince delineates, but she aims for positivity as she celebrates the wonders of nature and reminds us that we are a superbly adaptive species.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2014 Booklist

Choice Review

Vince's book is about ordinary people who are dealing imaginatively with local ecological-social systems in a world assaulted by ecosystem cascades, global climate change, and volatile economies. Rather than bemoaning their fate, the diverse people Vince encounters on her travels are actively adapting their lives to the self-organizing, emergent states that are spontaneously appearing during the "epic-making times" of the Anthropocene. As Vince asserts, humans are an adaptable species: this seems confirmed by her encounters with the inspirational visions and concrete achievements of so many people. Her approach is to synthesize the many different ways that people are segueing into the "heart of the planet we made." Each of the nine chapters focuses on a particular setting: atmosphere, mountains, rivers, farmlands, oceans, deserts, savannas, rocks, and cities. Vince's experiences are a powerful antidote to the doom and gloom proffered by the news media and many environmental and academic groups. This book is not about saving Earth; it is about saving humanity. With its engaging, thought-provoking narratives, this volume will expand, or perhaps fundamentally change, readers' views about the planet's emerging future. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readers. --Paul R. Pinet, emeritus, Colgate University

Table of Contents

Geological Time Mapp. ix
Mapsp. x-xi
List of Illustrationsp. xiii
Introductionp. 1
1 Atmospherep. 15
2 Mountainsp. 45
3 Riversp. 70
4 Farmlandsp. 706
5 Oceansp. 150
6 Desertsp. 191
7 Savannahsp. 221
8 Forestsp. 262
9 Rocksp. 298
10 Citiesp. 338
Epiloguep. 382
Acknowledgementsp. 391
Notesp. 395
Indexp. 417