Sunday, March 13, 2005

State of Fear – Book Review

I’m a big fan of Michael Crichton. I’ve read most of what he’s written and have watched him on C-Span. And I received this book as a gift, twice. The first was as a Christmas present from one of my children. The second was from The Heartland Institute, a libertarian think-tank based in nearby Chicago.

I’m unconvinced by the arguments on either side of the global warming debate. I tend to think that it’s less of a problem than is popularized on CNN, but I don’t dismiss it entirely. And I follow the debate with interest, reading and watching most everything relevant that I can get my hands on.

So, having the opportunity to read a book by one of my favorite authors about a subject that I’m very interested in was a juicy proposition. I made a deliberate effort to partially clear my calendar so that I could spend a couple of evenings and read State of Fear.

To sum up, it was OK, but I expected better. I think the premise, some environmental wacko’s deliberately setting out to engineer global catastrophes so that they can point to them as being caused by global climate change (and thus being able to push their own agenda) is just plain silly. Its one thing for saboteurs to plant iron booby-traps in trees in old-growth forests to prevent loggers from cutting them down. It’s quite another to postulate these same wacko’s trying to engineer the breaking off of a huge chunk of the Antarctica ice-shelf or engineering a tsunami, both in the name of “scaring” people into believing that catastrophic climate change is upon us. That’s just not believable or even plausible. I was particularly struck by a very fanciful ending. Suffice it to say that I just did not find it believable that an island dwelling tribe of head-hunters (who had presumably lived there forever) was unable to capture an out-of-shape, white, city-guy who shared the island with them even though they knew he was there. Read the book if you want to know more. And, finally, on the negative side, the character development was simply not up to the Chrichton standards.

On the plus side, there was a very effective debunking of many environmental myths. The ice sheet covering the Antarctic continent is not shrinking, it’s not getting warmer there either, the number of violent weather incidents around the world is not increasing, the average temperature at many cities around the world is getting colder not warmer, etc. If you’ve followed the debate as I have, none of these items are news flashes. But for someone who gets all their news from CNN, items like this will probably come as a revelation. Whether or not their minds are open to this new information is another thing of course, but I applaud Chrichton’s attempt at reaching the “popular reading” audience. I hope he succeeds.

Weblog Commenting and Trackback by