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on 12 July 2004
Although many studies of climate change and its impact have been published, few count the human cost. Mark Lynas makes up for that oversight in this vividly presented account. As a journalist, he's unconstrained by the limitations of long-term data sets, political reaction to his personal findings or peer group pressure. He travels the globe, even to the point of last minute flight bookings, to observe conditions. His approach is to confront people and ask about their experiences with changing weather over the years. The method is direct, straightforward and revealing. What it demonstrates is more than startling, it's devastating.
While the scientists debate the temperature rise rate or the intensity of this or that storm, around the planet people are living through the conditions of warming climate. Tuvalu residents, on their miniscule island chain in mid-Pacific, are watching the land wash away. It isn't just that melting ice caps are raising sea levels and ruining crops. There are more frequent and more devastating storms occuring. In China, land is also moving, but the reason is the opposite - the rains have ceased and the land is dried and blowing away in fierce desert winds. The account of a lone woman, the last survivor of a village overwhelmed by drought, is more poignant [to me] than anything found in fiction. And the number of such stories is growing.
If a most gripping part of this book must be chosen, it is Lynas' tour of Peru and the Cordillera Blanca glaciers. His father, a geologist, had visited the area three decades before, camera in hand. Huge glaciers, akin to frozen waterfalls, fill the images. With those photos in his knapsack, Lynas trudges up the slopes, racked by Alititude Sickness, to record any changes. His expression at the sight cannot be repeated here, a signal of his shock - and ours at his comparative photographs. The glaciers are gone! Lynas takes us through a litany of rivers of ice that are withdrawing from long established limits. The withdrawal has a dual results - not enough snow is feeding their growth, and the meltwater is no longer available to nourish human populations. He asks: what will the citizens of Lima do when there is no more water to drink? Lynas avoids prediction of furture El Ninos' impact on these conditions. He's hardly blameable for that. Some observations on North America's depletion of the Ogalalla Aquifer, only partly attributable to overuse of fossil fuels, however, would have been useful.
It is fossil fuel consumption that stands charged, indeed declared guilty by Lynas, as the culprit in these events. The tumultuous clouds of auto exhausts are the major source of gases rising into our atmosphere, choking off proper heat exchange mechanisms. The contributions of the oil industry to politicians short circuits any political action to curb these emmissions. Hence, Tuvalu is being swept away, China is choking with dust and Lima, Peru will soon be seeking homes for its million citizens. But the United States, the world's greatest and most persistent polluter, decrys or subverts all efforts to quell the output of their millions of vehicles, while assiduously searching for more to burn.
Lynas is unequivical in his denunciations. At the same time, he invokes response from his readers to take action. Pollution increases can be curbed, he argues in his conclusion. It is you who must take the first steps. America, he stresses, must follow the lead of the European Union. Ratification of the Kyoto Protocol is the first step - a committment to stop, then reduce emissions. "Contraction and convergence" policies must be implemented as a means of reducing emissions with a minimal impact on economies. The quest for new supplies of fossil fuels must cease and the funds used to promote alternative energy sources. Individual actions, amazingly easy small steps, must be taken and imparting to others the need follow your example spreads the message. "Don't be scared to speak out!", he warns. Who should read his warning message? Anyone who breathes - and wishes to continue breathing. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
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on 29 April 2004
So Climate Change is happening - it is destroying the world, dramatically.Lynas takes us to the places it is affecting, he endures some of thehardships it is causing, we through his excellent writing can empathise.But, we keep behaving in a way that causes Climate Change, the question iswhy? Lynas says we are in denial, that we are passive bystanders. Most ofus when we have finished reading this book will put it down and think 'Ishould do something about this, the world's governments should dosomething about this.' The reality is that nothing much will happenbecause we live in a culture that constructs needs and wants that make usbehave in a way that causes climate change. What we need is a culturalshift, so that our needs and wants are fulfilled by non-materialthings.
When you have finished Mark Lynas and you understand a bit about climatechange and why it needs to be addressed, read Status Anxiety by Alain deBotton - you might just re think what you NEED and WANT.
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VINE VOICEon 21 December 2005
High Tide is a simple idea brilliantly executed: to visit the far flung places around the globe most affected by global warming. Global warming to date is nowhere near as apparent in the UK and other Western countries as it is in other parts of the world - yet.
I had no doubt whatsoever after reading this book that it was only a matter of time, though, before every person on the planet is affected directly by this catastrophe unfolding in front of us, if only we could see!
The really striking thing about the book is just how many different types of country are affected in different ways. The eponymous rising sea levels are just one of a number of ways in which this problem is already affecting so many different communities. Hot countries, cold countries, dry countries and wet countries will all be devastated over the course of the next few years unless action is taken immediately.
Read it and act now!
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on 24 August 2008
Posibly the first book on Global Warming to leave the laboratory and actually get out to the frontline of environmental damage, this is part personal memoir part campaigning journalism. The writing is impressively good and very readable, the author has a real knack of making places come alive and giving problems a human dimension.
However books like these also need some hard science and here there are too many weaknesses. For example early on he speculates that trees may not be able to breach the urban barrier of the Northern Metropolitan areas as they are forced to migrate North in a warmer UK. A bizarre howler that reveals his misunderstanding of urban geography (Greater Manchester is not a contiguous concrete bloc), plant dispersal (surprisingly resilient) and agricultural land management (a huge number of trees have been specifially planted by landowners for many years).
More significantly he fails to consider that geological factors can ensure that islands can sink into the sea without any overall global rise in sea levels; that glaciers have been in retreat in tropical areas for over a century and even during periods when it has been generally getting colder (deforestration following local population increases are most probably to blame) and that dust storms in central Asia largely reflect bad land management (particularly but not only under centralised state farming regimes).
In short it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the author is looking for evidence of something he has decided already exists rather than generating a case from first principles. As a result the book has made me far more sceptical about global warming as a theory. Almost certainly this wasn't the author's intention but it is to his credit that he has presented his research sufficiently to allow me to draw this conclusion.
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on 17 March 2004
“High Tide” – Mark Lynas’ book about global climate change is a great achievement.
In 2000 he became really concerned about the growing evidence of these changes here in the UK. So he undertakes a journey – literally to the four corners of the earth – to see for himself.
He finds evidence of similar changes in China, the US, Tuvalu, Peru and Alaska and hears and records what people in these places are saying about these. Photos showing the changes are included. He also describes in some detail recent chaotic attempts at the UN climate change negotiations to respond to these concerns.
Climate changes bring horrors.
If you have yet to feel the sense of tragedy that comes with these, read this book and feel.
We can yet act to avoid the worst.
If you have to decide how societies can organise to this purpose, read its conclusions and see how we can.
Lynas’ remarkable journey, personal testimony and conclusions are both heat and light.
Very moving. Well done. Thank you.
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on 19 March 2004
I was griped by Marks book while staying at a friends home last week..his poetic smooth writing quickly grabs your imagination. Mark has a great skill of dragging the reader into his scenarios. His description of the chinese dust strom is gripping and all my buttons were pressed as i began to understand the links between drought, dust storms and lungproblems. It wasnt long after that i understand the links between just about every possible form of disaster that is coming at us.
High tide is an outstanding, scary,awakening for anyone who beleives our climate is not changing for the worse. Anyone living by a river, sea, or in low lying country should get a copy and read it. It can also keep you dry by standing on it when the tides eventuallys come in too far.
ps- I noticed that High Tide is written by Mark Lynas. (High Tide Mark - a coincidence i wonder?)
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on 1 November 2006
One of the best things I enjoyed about reading HIGH TIDE, I believe, was a remark author Mark Lynas made somewhere towards the end of this book. It's placement was entirely not the issue--perhaps even random, it was--but its content impressed upon me something vital and rather deeply, at that.

Lynas shared his initial concern over his lack of "complete scientific justification" for many of the things he was discussing with other professionals in the field. At certain points along his journey from enviro-curious to enviro-conscious, it caused him to question his overall motives, internalizing the criticisms he occasionally received from colleagues, friends, and family who began to perhaps think of him as something of a radical fundamentalist, environmentally-speaking.

Lynas told us how he felt slightly emasculated by some of the larger minds in the global environmental movement, and how if he were to take up the mantle of environmentalism, cleaner living, and self-limiting lifestyle techniques, thereby curbing his own contribution to the global carbon sink, how he'd potentially be branded by these same people a dilettante, a novice, a dabbler...even worse.

I'd have to admit that *this* was the line which clinched HIGH TIDE's premise for yours truly.

This--despite all of the fascinating accounts of Mark's globetrotting, his meanderings about the island nation of Tuvalu (itself sufficient, IMHO, for a whole book-length treatment on its own!), and his discoveries that the same Peruvian glacier which his father spied twenty years across a pristine high-altitude glacial lake had simply disappeared due to global warming--was the lone sentiment which I carted away with me from this read. It's the same one which I'll be sharing with my friends when they ask me what I've been reading of late.

It's hard not to admire Lynas, folks.

Global travel is tough on the sojourner. It doesn't matter who's footing the bill, m'kay, so let's just dismiss the commonly held belief that travel is amazing uf you're not the one paying for it. That's poppycock! These days, intercontinental travel is pure hell, and it's not been made any easier by the state of the world we live in...and I'm talking air travel, exclusively.

In essence, the person who does the travelling is forced to adjust to time zones, potential linguistic barriers, radical temperature shifts, lingering political effects, and in poor Mark's case, what can be best described as a "near-death experience."

In vivid detail, Mark describes how he ignored his own best advice regarding too rapid high-altitude ascent in the Andes, with thank goodness only remotely-disastrous consequences.

Mark spun around the globe, literally, spanning every hemisphere: north, south, east, and west. He bore the brunt of the climactic travails and the ravages of their overall toll on his own body, to deliver up this compelling piece of too-true non-fiction.

It does get depressing at a stage. Though not due to Mark's entertaining authorial style. It has more to do with the vagaries of of the Kyoto Protocol's acceptance (as in, what does it MEAN?), and what its various stipulations and evasive phraseologies will in fact, entail (concretely, in other words) when the time comes to implement things rigidly. And, like Lynas and other climatologists have long since been evangelizing--and they've already purchased jars of white talcum powder to mask just how blue in the face they really are from preaching to us the vital message--the reckoning is certainly coming.

In the British edition of the book, there's this great section toward the end where Mark is himself being interviewed about the latest developments *since* his publication of HIGH TIDE. In what could be best described as "I told you so," things indeed had tumbled precipitously since the 2004 publication year. We had Katrina in New Orleans, the tsunami in Southeast Asia, and restrictions on population flow between Tuvalu and New Zealand as part of those latter two countries' "special [population] arrangement."

SIX DEGREES, Mark's announced next book, will only be better, but only because it will be more vivid, more viseral, and more hard-hitting, as more and more people will identify with its descriptions...all because more people will have been directly affected by the things that Mark's been writing about all along.

Think of all he's seen, done, heard about, and learned in the interim--not to mention the "degree" to which he'd internalized the things he'd seen and heard during his travels. How much better he's improved, though the overall global prognosis has gotten terribly worse.

I'm looking forward to getting my hands on a copy. But "looking forward" is too passive.

Like I said in the subject heading, this is certainly no primer, kids! For a first effort, it's challenged a heck of a lot of preconceived notions, and caused wide swathes of people to start talking. In this reviewer's hands, that's a heck of a lot more than I can say for some other people who don't walk the proverbial talk.

--ADM in Prague
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on 20 January 2012
Very well written book. BUT... as we enter decades of probable global cooling with no sea level rises and possibly even advancing glaciers, this book it now a bit of an oddity. A journalistic observational piece rather than a scientific cruncher but this book certainly has its place in history. It was the first "climate" book I read and it is what got me interested in the topic in the first place. Sadly for me though I keep thinking that he was a wee bit too obsessed with the fact glaciers are mostly in retreat... this in the grand scheme of climate change during decades and centuries is irrelevant. Glaciers do shrink, they also advance... so what !? anyway, its well written and a good book to have around for a dig into now and then but content light in the areas that these days matter , ie peer reviewed evidence and uncompromised data.
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on 21 April 2004
I had high hopes for this after hearing an interview with the author onRadio 5 Live. But ultimately, this book is a complete let-down. Lynas isnever sure what he's doing - travel writing, or making a critique ofgovernment intransigence in the face of global warming - and as a result,he produces a messy hybrid. The overall output thus just sounds like somerich kid hopping around the globe spending his trust fund but trying tosilence his guilt by writing a pretty little book about what a shame allthis hot weather is: his concern for the the environment, you feel, comesa distant second to his concern for hot-footing it around the globe'finding himself'. From page 27:
"Speaking personally , the impact of these flights ['researching' thebook] is so enormous that it wipes out all the other aspects of myrelatively green lifestyle (no car, green electricity, local food and soon) and is equivalent to my total sustainable personal carbon budget forabout twenty years. Oh dear."
Indeed, the big climax of the book is not some ground-breaking idea ofwhat we can al do to make things better, but a description of how henearly died from severe altitude sickness. A very telling prioritisationand one that leaves you with the feeling you've just sat through a threehour description of some 19 year old's year out in Feshers Week.
So ultimately, very shallow. The little science there is Janet and John,and there are no meaningful prescriptive conclusions whatsoever. No wonderNaomi Klein liked it....
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