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Three Books Offer New Ways to Think About Environmental Disaster

It’s always a good idea to prepare for a disaster, especially one you see coming.

Pogue, a former New York Times tech columnist and current contributor, has got you covered. This is a climate change worst-case scenario survival guide: stronger hurricanes, forest fires, droughts, tick- and mosquito-borne illnesses, heat waves, tornadoes, plus how to prepare your business and also how to invest your money before the capitalist superstructure crumbles, apparently. (“Preparing for Social Breakdown” is one chapter.)

If Pogue is living the life he’s advising, he is eating homegrown beans, calmly explaining the crisis to his children and monitoring their psychological health, asking his contractor to deepen the soffits in his roof on which he is mounting solar panels, buying several air purifiers and organizing with his fellow citizens.

Much of the book, especially the sections on what to look for in an insurance policy, is helpful. It also includes an explanation of climate science and the obligatory feel-good sections on hope: actions some are taking and how you can participate.

It wouldn’t be wrong to do as he suggests; climate change will make these disasters worse and more frequent. Still, there’s something unsettling about the project, especially since many can’t act as advised, for financial or other reasons, and the real problem is that governments and corporations are failing us.

A particularly eerie chapter covers which American cities will “do well” in a warmer climate. This isn’t a new idea; it’s not necessarily wrong to lay out the climate risks of living in some places and the benefits of others. But, who is this advice for? Not everyone can move to Boulder, Colo., to take advantage of its hiking trails and ambitious climate targets.

What about the rest of us, the people who can’t afford or wouldn’t want to move away from the Gulf Coast? What about the people who already live in Boulder, or the diminishing water supply in the Rockies? No book can do everything, but planning for our collective future should be about everyone, including those without the means to prepare, since they are in the most danger. Inequality is a large part of what got us here; preparing for climate change shouldn’t make that worse.