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Like many of us, Mark Hertsgaard has long worried about the declining health of our environment. But in 1991, he decided to act on his concern and investigate the escalating crisis for himself. Traveling on his own dime, he embarked on an odyssey lasting most of the decade and spanning nineteen countries. Now, in Earth Odyssey, he reports on our environmental predicament through the eyes of the people who live it.
From the gilded boardrooms of Paris to the traffic-clogged streets of Bangkok, we travel from the deep human past to our still unfolding future. Much of the story revolves around people like Zhenbing, Hertsgaard's charismatic interpreter in China, whose desire to escape poverty leaves him indifferent to his country's horrific air and water pollution. We also meet Garang, a proud Dinka tribesman whose response to Sudan's famine shows the difficulty of building an environmentally sustainable future without bridging the gap between rich and poor. Drawing on interviews with Václav Havel, Al Gore, Jacques Cousteau, and numerous other prominent figures, Hertsgaard offers fresh insight into such complex issues as humanity's growing addiction to the automobile, the insidious spread of nuclear technology, and the inevitable tension between unfettered capitalism and the health of the biosphere.
Earth Odyssey is a vivid, passionate narrative about one man's journey around the world in search of the answer to the most important question of our time: Is the future of the human species at risk? Combining first-rate reportage with irresistible storytelling, Mark Hertsgaard has written an essential--and ultimately hopeful--book about the uncertain fate of humankind.
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Paying his own way, Mark Hertsgaard set out on a world tour in 1991 wondering what people thought of environmental problems. Earth Odyssey is his result, a sweeping and provocative work of travel and serious reporting that covers 19 countries and reveals, with often stark reality and vision, the legacy and prospects for our global environment.
Hertsgaard focuses on and reveals much of his story through the people who guide him and whom he meets along the way. After touring a state-owned paper factory in Chongqing, China, and seeing billowing clouds of chlorine and foaming rivers, Hertsgaard hears his guide and interpreter Zhenbing mourning for his country. In Sudan, Hertsgaard visits areas of extreme famine and poverty, where "the environment is no abstraction" to the people who live there. Through interviews with Vaclav Havel, Jacques Cousteau, and Al Gore, as well as research and philosophy about the roles of industry and technology, the global environmental picture is etched skillfully chapter by chapter. When at Africa's Lake Turkana, Hertsgaard delineates in clarity and detail the evolution of our species and the history of technology to build perspective on our current lifestyles, values, and environmental problems.
Earth Odyssey is not only a good book, but an important one--even essential--grasping the true human predicament as we face a worldwide environmental breakdown.--Byron RicksFrom the Back Cover:
"For readers who want to know what it is really like on the ground and around the world to suffer the silent violence of environmental devastation, Mark Hertsgaard's Earth Odyssey is a gripping tour guide. For readers who are taken in by corporatist screeds that nature is cleansing itself, Earth Odyssey stands like a Sequoia of empirical rebuke. A book for all classes and masses."
"I didn't intend to read this book: Too many deadlines, too little time. But during a bout with insomnia the other night I picked it up merely to thumb through it. I was still reading at dawn! Mark Hertsgaard has circled the earth to report on a global drama of enormous implications and his exceptional skills as a journalist make each one of us a companion on the journey. Even insomniacs will find Earth Odyssey a wake-up call."
--Bill Moyers, author of Healing and the Mind
"Mark Hertsgaard, one of America's finest reporters, asks one of the few questions really worth asking: Will our species survive the environmental depredations committed by global capitalism and heavy industrial socialism--and, if so, how? Earth Odyssey provides not only a sober, compassionate assessment of our chances; it is one more piece of evidence, in case you needed it, that our species is well worth saving."
--Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Blood Rites
"This is the way to cover the daunting environmental issues of our time--from the ground up. Combining the best of travel writing and analysis, Mark Hertsgaard narrates a captivating yet disconcerting six-year voyage around the planet. Neither writer nor reader will ever be quite the same."
--Mark Dowie, author of Losing Ground
"Earth Odyssey is a brilliant integration of global environmental trends and local environmental truths--a must-read for anyone who wants to understand how population growth and environmental deterioration are affecting the human prospect."
--Lester R. Brown, president, Worldwatch Institute
"Mark Hertsgaard's Earth Odyssey forces us to see the earth whole--not as a remote, gleaming astronaut's vision, but as the ground-level reality of a decimated, contaminated, and critically ill habitat. If there is one message that permeates this compelling, urgent, and sobering account of our world, it is: 'Look out the window. Time's up.'"
--Ross Gelbspan, author of The Heat Is On
"There is a world of difference between knowing, in some abstract sense, that we face 'environmental problems,' and in having a gifted reporter show you the situation on the ground. Mark Hertsgaard has taken the planet for his beat, and he has delivered the goods; if you want to understand the next century as it unfolds, this is the required background reading."
--Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature
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