Saturday, March 31, 2018

The Sixth Extinction: A Book Review on the #MINI


There are good books, there are great books, and then there are great books that change the way you think. The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert, is a great book that can not only change the way you think but how you live as well. Simply put, The Sixth Extinction is a chronicle of the five major extinctions that have occured on earth and the sixth extinction that is occuring right now, the so-called Anthropocene Extinction. It is fascinating subject material, made even more fascinating by the personal way Kolbert tells the story and her fluid, often humorous prose.

It is so often the case with books like these that there is a moral to the story. The moral to this story: Although previous mass extinctions have been caused by forces beyond human control, such as asteroid collisions and volcanic eruptions, the relatively recent megafauna extinction and the current amphibian extinction are directly related to human activities. Having said that, Ms. Kolbert manages to make her case with fairness, equanimity and, often times, light-heartedness, which is a diffcult task given the subject matter and her implication that, unless we start doing things differently, the human race is going to be one of the victims of the next mass extinction.

Ms. Kolbert does a particularly good job in making real the abstract and the theoretical. As an example, we have all heard about the acidifying ocean and the consequent effects on the biodiversity of marine life; the author found a way to see what the acidified ocean of the (unfortuantely not that distant) future will look like by finding an ocean vent off the coast of Italy spewing acid into the ocean water. The barren waters in the neighborhood of the vents are an excellent example of Ms. Kolbert's point about the effect of the massive amounts of CO2 we are dumping into the atmosphere (1/3 of which is absorbed into the oceans, lowering the vital pH) as well as a fine example of the way she goes about making her point to the reader, using real people and real places.

I'll leave you with a sentence from the book, a good illustration of both Ms. Kolbert's lucid prose and her deft reasoning. Speaking about some sketches found in a cave in France attributed to early humans, Ms. Kolbert writes: 'With the capacity to represent the world in signs and symbols comes the capacity to change it, which, as it happens, is also the capacity to destroy it.'

As always with the #MINI, here are a few links to some other book reviews of The Sixth Extinction, from some of my (less well-known) and (not as deeply trusted) book reviewing competitors and the link to Amazon:

New York Times Book Review

Washington Post Book Review

Amazon: The Sixth Extinction


 Cheers, peter
:)


Peter Hogenkamp is a practicing physician, public speaker and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include THE INTERN, a novel based loosely on Peter's medical internship, excerpts of which can be seen on Wattpad; ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; and THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of The Book Stops Herethe literary blog for readers and writers written by authors, editors, agents, publishers and poets; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and the chief of three tribes on Triberr, The Big ThrillFiction Writers and The Book Shelf. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and fouchildren--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. Peter can be reached at peter@peterhogenkamp.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at liz@kimberleycameron.com.



Friday, March 2, 2018

In the Wake of the Storm: Tortola after Hurricane Irma.

On September 6, 2017, Hurricane Irma--the strongest Atlantic hurricane ever to make landfall--battered Tortola with 215 mile per winds. Six months later, my family and I flew down to see how Tortola and the other 'Nature's Little Secrets' of the British Virgin Islands had fared. 


Look in one direction (above) and it's hard to believe a catergory 5 hurricane devatastated Tortola less than six months ago. Look in the other direction (below) and it isn't.



220 mile an hour sustained winds were hard on this palm grove.



Neither motor boat nor monohull was spared from the tidal surge that stacked the boats at Soper's Hole up like plastic toys.



Since the mangroves were decimated, a school of minnows is using this inboard boat for protection. Nature is clever.



If you are trying to calculate the cost of this storm, this 28 foot inboard boat goes for about three hundred thousand dollars; it's a total loss, and there are hundreds more like it. And that doesn't include the cost to replace: the countless roofs which blew away in the wind (most not repaired yet); tens of thousands of windows (plastic and duct tape in their stead) blown out; legions of crumpled cars (almost all still sitting in the same spot); and the list goes on.


This pelican doesn't seem to be perturbed by the loss of the magroves, but the water quality will suffer, as mangroves clarify the water by trapping sediment and filtering pollutants. Their strong root system is also a major buffer against erosion.




The hurricane was hard on the island's feral goats. This one--a kid named Betty--followed me around for a few hundred yards until we found the man who raised her by feeding her bottles of cow's milk after her mother died. 



Fluffy, as the locals called her, followed me around on my hikes all week. Like all the other locals, she was happy and carefree despite the destruction of her island. I hope she's doing alright.



My wife and I walking down the mountain to Soper's Hole to get breakfast at D' Best Cup Coffee Shop. 1200 feet elevation and 2.5 miles--in both directions--but well worth it for a great breakfast and... you guessed it, the best cup of coffee in the BVI. 

Want to help Tortola or the BVI? Go there on vacation and spend money. Rent a car, charter a sailboat, stay in a villa, go out to dinner at one of the fabulous resteraunts. Toursim accounts for approximately 95% of Tortola's economy. Tortola remains beautiful despite the destruction, and you can help get Tortola back on her feet. 


 Cheers, peter
:)


Peter Hogenkamp is a practicing physician, public speaker and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include THE INTERN, a novel based loosely on Peter's medical internship, excerpts of which can be seen on Wattpad; ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; and THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of The Book Stops Herethe literary blog for readers and writers written by authors, editors, agents, publishers and poets; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and the chief of three tribes on Triberr, The Big ThrillFiction Writers and The Book Shelf. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and fouchildren--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. Peter can be reached at peter@peterhogenkamp.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at liz@kimberleycameron.com.