Brooklyn Daily Eagle
As the former environment and energy editor for Scientific American, PBS host and science curator for TED, David Biello is a practiced translator of complicated climate issues into informative, entertaining reportage. In his debut book “The Unnatural World: The Race to Remake Civilization in Earth’s Newest Age” published by Scribner, Biello examines the historic debate on whether we now live in a new geologic age and, if so, how we should define this Anthropocene. He traverses the globe to find the innovators working to make this new epoch one where humanity can make our impact on the planet better and human civilization longer lasting.
Imagine a controversial ship circling the frigid Southern Ocean around Antarctica, dumping iron into the waters to fertilize a plankton bloom. Envision drones that can count trees, a stove fueled by human and animal waste, extinct animals brought back to life and rocks that can absorb greenhouse gas. These are just a few examples of the projects Biello highlights in his global survey of the frontier of the People’s Epoch. He goes behind the scenes to profile researchers, innovators, and tech moguls — like Elon Musk — dramatically chronicling their ingenious experiments, failures, and triumphs, while providing a historical survey of why it matters. More importantly, he argues why these projects are possible. For example, Biello cites London’s massive investment in creating closed sewer systems: a visionary project with a high cost, but even higher return.
In a time when our summers are hotter, winters colder, and oceans higher, “The Unnatural World” is an urgent and ultimately hopeful inquiry into our present and our future. Be it the advent of smart agriculture or tomorrow’s new carbon-capture program, Biello argues Earth’s new era has a glimmering edge: we are equipped, more than we know, to make the world better than it is. “The Unnatural World” is an optimistic account of how our human choices can bring positive change and exuberant life on Earth for generations to come.
“I'm convinced that the Anthropocene provides a lens to solve the planet’s big problems together,” Biello said. “Otherwise we run the risk of implementing changes that help with one challenge but hurt in another, much as shifting to biofuels like corn ethanol can help with energy security while exacerbating climate change and water pollution.”
Biello began writing about climate change in the 1990s, traveling the world to report on the biggest environmental impact sites in recent history: from the Three Gorges Dam in China to the tar sands in Alberta, coal mining in India, the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and the Fukushima meltdowns. He has reported on and produced op-eds on various topics including the 2016 Paris summit; how our energy choices can enable human progress; nuclear power; and legal efforts surrounding climate change. He also covered the birth of synthetic biology, from the discovery of CRISPR to its applications in de-extinction projects, and the rapid rise of a major extinction crisis around the world (which some have called the sixth extinction) entirely driven by human choices. From the Amazon region of Brazil to the remote forests of Yunnan Province in China and fallow land of North America, he has written about the transformation of our forests and farms. His report on modernizing the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal was a cover story for Scientific American. He currently lives with his wife, daughter and son near a Superfund site in Brooklyn.