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Life in the Hothouse

How a Living Planet Survives Climate Change

Melanie Lenart

Publication Year: 2010

In this insightful, compelling, and highly readable work, Melanie Lenart, an award-winning journalist and science writer who holds a PhD in Natural Resources and Global Change, examines global warming with the trained eye of a professional scientist. And she presents the science in a clear, straightforward manner. Why does the planet’s warming produce stronger hurricanes, rising seas, and larger floods? Simple, says Lenart. The Earth is just doing what comes naturally. Just as humans produce sweat to cool off on a hot day, the planet produces hurricanes, floods, wetlands, and forests to cool itself off.

Life in the Hothouse incorporates Lenart’s extensive knowledge of climate science—including the latest research in climate change—and the most current scientific theories, including Gaia theory, which holds that the Earth has some degree of climate control “built in.” As Lenart points out, scientists have been documenting stronger hurricanes and larger floods for many years. There is a good reason for this, she notes. Hurricanes help cool the ocean surface and clear the air of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas responsible for global warming. From the perspective of Gaia theory, these responses are helping to slow the ongoing global warming and Lenart expounds upon this in a clear and understandable fashion.

There is hope, Lenart writes. If we help sustain Earth's natural defense systems, including wetlands and forests, perhaps Mother Earth will no longer need to rely as much on the cooling effects of what we call "natural disasters"—many of which carry a human fingerprint. At a minimum, she argues, these systems can help us survive the heat.

Check out some recent interviews with Melanie Lenart!
EcoShock Radio (May 21, 2010)
Progressive News Radio Podcast (April 27, 2010)
KUAT TV Arizona Public Media (April 20, 2010)
Don Weeks Show (March 23, 2010)
Go Green Radio with Jill Buck (April 2, 2010)
Positive Living with Patricia Raskin (April 19, 2010)

For more details including news and reviews for this timely book, check out the author's Web site!

Click here for source notes for this book.

Published by: University of Arizona Press

Front Matter

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Introduction: The Sweat of the Earth

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pp. 1-9

Sitting at a sidewalk café in Yellow Springs, Ohio, I was surprised to feel a drop of perspiration sliding down my temple. Moving that pen around the page hardly qualiWed as sweat-producing activity, although I suppose drinking hot coffee on a muggy July day did. Over the next few minutes, ...

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1. A Feverish Response: Hurricanes Come with High Temperatures

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pp. 10-37

Huddling under an overturned couch while Hurricane Hugo raged over Puerto Rico, I wondered why on earth hurricanes existed. A native of Chicago, I had never experienced the shrieking winds and incessant rains that come with major hurricanes. Tornado warnings faded away within hours, and I had never landed in the path of these relatively skinny twisters. Hurricanes...

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2. A Living System: Gaia and Climate Control

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pp. 38-51

With the birth of Gaia theory in the mid-1960s, a new worldview began to emerge in Western science. Or rather, ancient ways reemerged, with a modern twist. In this holistic view, life-forms combined, congealed, and otherwise clumped together to form bigger systems. The holistic view came to embrace cells, ecosystems— even planets. The world...

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3. Greenhouse-Gas Attack: One Way to Warm a Planet

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pp. 52-70

At the global scale, our impact on the planet may appear as invisible as the atmosphere itself at times. Viewed from a space perch, Gaia shines with her usual sapphire and emerald beauty during the day. But at night, all those sparkling diamonds of light signal we are here—and help explain...

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4. Circulation Patterns: A Pulse of Floods, to the Beat of Rising Waves

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pp. 71-95

By mid-June, I often wonder how I ended up living in the desert. Tucson temperatures regularly soar to 105 degrees or more, making daytime bicycling an exercise in endurance. In 2007, we faced thirty-nine consecutive afternoons topping 100 degrees before temperatures brieXy dropped...

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5. An Herbal Remedy: Plants Work to Restore Balance

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pp. 96-127

Walking around the Welds of winter wheat, I could tell which plants were growing under a futuristic atmosphere. The wheat plants exposed to the higher carbon dioxide levels stood knee high, while their same-age counterparts growing under normal air barely grazed the middle of my shins. None...

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6. An Internal Cleanse: The Additive Power of Soils and Wetlands

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pp. 128-150

The word “swamp” often conjures up dark images, at least in Hol - ly wood. If the movie you’re watching starts showing images of buttressed trees knee deep in water with moss draped over their branches, a scary scene probably lurks around the bend. For portraying gloom and doom,...

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7. Beneath the Surface: Weathering the Warming in Deep Time

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pp. 151-169

During a cloudburst in Puerto Rico’s Luquillo Mountains, a threefoot- wide stream sprang up between my partner, Bob Segal, and me. At the time, we were measuring tree diameters during a 1998 survey of Hurricane Georges damage. Although he was only about four feet away, the newly formed...

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8. Systematic Healing: More Ways Trees and Wetlands Boost Planetary Health

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pp. 170-190

During an overnight foray into ancient redwood forest near Eureka, California, I felt as though I had entered another world. The high winds along the coast didn’t penetrate into the tree-guarded sanctuary. The bird chatter seemed mufXed by the plush carpet of pine needles where I rested,...

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9. Conclusion: What Would Gaia Do?

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pp. 191-204

Wetlands have been called the planet’s kidneys, given their role of purifying a dilute toxic stew of chemicals into potable water. This function only works in a healthy system, though. The ongoing destruction of wetlands leaves our planet with the equivalent of one kidney to handle the toxic load of a meth addict who subsists on French fries and...

A Note on Sources

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pp. 205

Suggested Reading

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pp. 207-208

Works Cited

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pp. 209-227

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pp. 229-230

So many people helped bring this book to completion that it’s difWcult to name them all. The loving support of my spouse, Bob Segal, kept me going through many challenges. And his assistance on some of the many tasks involved, such as entering the edits I made on hard copy in coffee shops, helped lighten my load...


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pp. 231-236

About the Author, Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780816570003
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816527236

Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2010