Something New Under the Sun: An Environmental History of the Twentieth-Century World (The Global Century Series)

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9780393321838: Something New Under the Sun: An Environmental History of the Twentieth-Century World (The Global Century Series)

"Refreshingly unpolemical and at times even witty, McNeill's book brims with carefully sifted statistics and brilliant details."―Washington Post Book World

The history of the twentieth century is most often told through its world wars, the rise and fall of communism, or its economic upheavals. In his startling new book, J. R. McNeill gives us our first general account of what may prove to be the most significant dimension of the twentieth century: its environmental history. To a degree unprecedented in human history, we have refashioned the earth's air, water, and soil, and the biosphere of which we are a part. Based on exhaustive research, McNeill's story―a compelling blend of anecdotes, data, and shrewd analysis―never preaches: it is our definitive account. This is a volume in The Global Century Series (general editor, Paul Kennedy). 40 b/w photographs, 15 maps

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Review:

J.R. McNeill, a professor of history at Georgetown University, visits the annals of the past century only to return to the present with bad news: in that 100-year span, he writes, the industrialized and developing nations of the world have wrought damage to nearly every part of the globe. That much seems obvious to even the most casual reader, but what emerges, and forcefully, from McNeill's pages is just how extensive that damage has been. For example, he writes, "soil degradation in one form or another now affects one-third of the world's land surface," larger by far than the world's cultivated areas. Things are worse in some places than in others; McNeill observes that Africa is "the only continent where food production per capita declined after 1960," due to the loss of productive soil. McNeill's litany continues: the air in most of the world's cities is perilously unhealthy; the drinking water across much of the planet is growing ever more polluted; the human species is increasingly locked "in a rigid and uneasy bond with modern agriculture," which trades the promise of abundant food for the use of carcinogenic pesticides and fossil fuels.

The environmental changes of the last century, McNeill closes by saying, are on an unprecedented scale, so much so that we can scarcely begin to fathom their implications. We can, however, start to think about them, and McNeill's book is a helpful primer. --Gregory McNamee

About the Author:

J. R. McNeill is professor of history at Georgetown University. He is the author of The Mountains of the Mediterranean World and other works.

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Book Description WW Norton Co, United States, 2016. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book. The history of the twentieth century is most often told through its world wars, the rise and fall of communism, or its economic upheavals. In his startling new book, J. R. McNeill gives us our first general account of what may prove to be the most significant dimension of the twentieth century: its environmental history. To a degree unprecedented in human history, we have refashioned the earth s air, water, and soil, and the biosphere of which we are a part. Based on exhaustive research, McNeill s story-a compelling blend of anecdotes, data, and shrewd analysis-never preaches: it is our definitive account. This is a volume in The Global Century Series (general editor, Paul Kennedy). Bookseller Inventory # AAS9780393321838

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