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Science Books

February 29, 2008

With Speed And Violence: Why Scientists Fear Tipping Points In Climate Change
Fred Pearce (2008)

While most people now concede that global warming is a fact, it's still all too easy to dismiss its consequences as something that future generations will have to endure. But increasingly, research shows that we are already experiencing the negative effects of climate change, and that we will also suffer its more serious effects within our lifetime. If this wasn't bad enough, freelance writer, environmentalist, and environment consultant Fred Pearce, Deep Jungle, Keepers of the Spring, raises an even more nightmarish scenario: abrupt climate change. Pearce has investigated and written about climate change for the past 19-years, and scientists in the field have consistently confided in him their fears of a climate rapidly getting out of kilter. According to Pearce, the speed of climate change is likely to increase by many times that of current predictions, due mostly to what he refers to as "tipping points". Tipping points may result as a consequence of any number of predicted climate change disasters, such as fire and drought causing the Amazon to disappear, or aerosol emissions in China and India ending Asia's crucial monsoon seasons. Until now not much has been said about what might happen when these important environmental systems are lost forever, but now many scientists agree that their loss could accelerate climate change dramatically. Pearce's consultations with scientists researching ocean currents, polar ice, the carbon cycle, methane, and soot, show how delicately balanced and interconnected Earth's ecosystems really are - remove one or two of them and the effects could be rapid, catastrophic, and irreversible. Though Pearce paints a bleak future as a result of our apathy toward climate change, his easy writing style and depth of research make this one of the best accounts of what is surely humanity's greatest challenge.

Gayle Greene (2008)
ISBN: 0520246306

With tens of millions of sufferers, chronic insomnia has become a problem of epidemic proportions - but you wouldn't know it. Sufferers of this debilitating condition have to suffer in silence and just get on with their lives as though nothing is wrong. Now, Gayle Greene, a member and patient representative on the board of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, breaks the silence in an effort to increase understanding and cease the trivialization of a condition that is both dangerous to sufferers and those around them. "I can't work, I can't think, I can't connect with anyone anymore," says one insomniac in Green's Insomnia. Chromic insomniacs often have little job satisfaction as well as experiencing reduced enjoyment in their social lives, but there are even more serious problems associated with the condition. Sleep deprivation has also been shown to reduce hormone levels needed to repair cells, and has been directly linked to weight gain, memory loss, high blood pressure and diabetes. Furthermore, we are constantly told that driving while tired is just as dangerous as driving while drunk, but what of the millions of insomniacs who need to drive or use heavy machinery everyday? But while insomniacs are faced with the prospect of ill health and the endangerment of others in the community, often both doctors and insomniac patients themselves regard sleep deprivation as self-inflicted. Anything from too much caffeine to a lack of regular exercise is suggested as the reason behind chronic insomnia, even though nobody knows what causes the condition. Insomniacs are eventually referred to psychotherapists and prescribed medication to deal with their condition, but Greene's dealings with these drugs to treat her own insomnia has revealed that a dependency develops, and that dosages need to be raised to be effective. Greene's discussions with neurologists, psychotherapists, sleep researchers, and doctors have provided her with an invaluable road map that will help insomniacs avoid the many pitfalls involved in choosing the right treatment for their condition.

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