Book Review: The Down-to-Earth Guide to Global Warming
Publication Date: September 1, 2007
Publisher: Orchard Books
· Laurie David
· Cambria Gordon
by R.J. Carter
Published: August 17, 2007
"Right now we are waking up to the reality that the effects of global warming are upon us. From extreme changes in weather patterns, to melting glaciers and polar ice caps, to endangered plant and animal species, global warming touches every aspect of our lives."
Thus trumpets the back-cover blurb of this 112-page paperback guide designed to encourage children to save the planet. With more and more adults beginning to question the suppositions posited by the global warming movement, the activists have seemingly moved on to a traditionally more credulous crowd when it comes to the presentation of science-like statements: children.
Laurie David, producer of Al Gore's global warming documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth", joins with children's author Cambria Gordon to present -- in heartstring-tugging terms -- the case for global warming. However, it ignores a scad of data from the other side of the debates surrounding this controversial topic, leaving the younger readers without other inputs to accept the material as incontravertibly proven fact.
For instance, David and Gordon point to the decline in the polar bear population when they mention the melting polar ice caps and its contribution to the starvation of the species. Except... the numbers don't "bear" that out. (Hey, if they can pun throughout the book, I'm allowed one in a review.) Since 1970, the overall polar bear population has increased from 5,000 to 25,000 -- their highest population of the 20th century! In fact, some scientists argue that polar bears overall have done better during past warming cycles.
Yes, there have been warming cycles in the past, just as there have been cooling cyles. Ice has melted, frozen, melted again, etc. Sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly.
Not all of the authors' suggestions are necessarily to be dismissed, however. Changing your lightbulbs from standard incandescent to flourescent not only uses less electricity (unless your flicking them on and off a whole bunch) but also lowers your monthly electric bill (over time), as does turning off electrical appliance and games when you're not using them. (Of course, flourescent bulbs come with an extra disadvantage as well -- you can't just throw them away when they ultimately do burn out.)
And some of the claims are fun to do mathematics with, something I always suggest doing when presented with a statistic like, "Every two seconds, a forest area the size of a football field is destroyed." A football field is 48,000 square feet (if we don't include the area of the end goals. One square mile contains 27,878,400 square feet -- that's almost 28 million. Illinois, the 25th largest of the fifty states is 1,614,661,171,200 square feet! That's over a trillion! At the rate of a football field every two seconds, that means that Illinois disappears in 389 days -- or about one year and a month. Has clearcutting been measured over that amount of time to justify the statistic? And does the statistic also take into account the rate at which new trees are planted -- trees being a renewable resource?
One certainly can't fault the sincerity of the authors, who take their ideals even into the production of the book ("printed with soy inks on 100% post-consumer waste recycled paper!") And there are a number of useful statistics to be studied here. However, it's hardly impartial science, and there is another side to the global warming debate that isn't going to be addressed in these pages.
Maybe there's a children's book coming from the opposing camp soon?