Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Review: Lost Antarctica by James McClintock

Antarctica is often cited when people are trying to make a point about global warming and the impact that we humans are having on our planet.  But often the person pointing to Antarctica is using an example so large or inconceivable that it loses its impact almost entirely.  James McClintock, in his non-fiction book about the Antarctica that our careless environmental habits are destroying, makes the evidence much smaller and easier to grasp for the lay person.  From the decline in certain penguin populations because of the change in weather in their breeding grounds to the appearance of voracious, omnivorous, predatory crabs at closer to sea level than ever before to the change in microscopic algae populations at the very bottom of the food ladder which negatively effect all of the flora and fauna of the area to the uncovering of heretofore unseen land due to enormous glaciers calving at record high intervals to the acidification of entire oceans, McClintock discusses, in accessible terms, the impact of each and every small link in the chain of climate change on this vast, mostly untouched continent.
As a scientist who has long studied Antarctica and what it can teach us, not only in terms of global warming but also in the biomedical ways the flora could teach us ways to combat epidemics and deadly diseases like cancer, McClintock weaves irreproachable science from years of data with personal observation and entertaining stories from his many times on the continent at the bottom of the world.  The chapters are occasionally repetitive as much of the research about each different organism from largest animal to the smallest plant compliments each other but it does drive home the precariousness of situation we find ourselves in and the dire need to change our habits and to arrest what we can.  The narrative is readable, compelling, and hard to gainsay and serves as a good first foray into the science of climate change. 

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of the book for review.


  1. When I was in high school, in Model UN my team wrote a bill designating Antarctica as a wildlife refuge so countries like France, which was blasting a runway through a Penguin rookery under the baffling idea that they would build a hotel there, would stop it. I think I'd find this book interesting, but it still looks wonky to me, even if you say it's accessible.

  2. This sounds quite interesting. Maybe I'll give it a go.


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