Walking Home: A Traveler In The Alaskan Wilderness, A Journey Into The Human Heart
Bloomsbury, 2010, 272 pages
Best Book: Mountain Literature, 2010 Banff Mountain Book Festival
I first encountered Lynn Schooler’s writing half a decade ago when I read The Blue Bear, the story of his multi-year effort to find and photograph the fabled sub-species of black bear with a blue tinged coat. Being one of the first books I reviewed for the Banff Mountain Book Festival competition, I paid more attention to the writing details in The Blue Bear than I normally would have. Based on this earlier work, I was not surprised to find Schooler’s prose in Walking Home clear and colorful.
Schooler spent over forty years as a commercial fisherman, wilderness guide and photographer in Alaska before beginning his “walk home” in 2007. In a sense, the title is a metaphor for his return to the wilderness of coastal Alaska. The trek occurred after a hiatus from wilderness adventure during which Schooler married and built a house. Walking Home is the story of a man at middle age coming to grips with his station in life. It is a story of contemplating the decisions made and their impact on one’s present and future. In this wilderness trek, Schooler seeks therapy for what he fears is a failing marriage and the loss of focus in his life brought about by years with too little contact with nature.
The book contains plenty of adventure. There are stories of bear encounters, mishaps crossing raging torrents, and slogging through the temperate rain forest and along boulder studded coasts. After a time, these can become mundane repetition. Schooler avoids the trap of repetition by digging into the historical aspects of his route, and shares some interesting history of Alaska’s southeast coast. The interplay between past and present adds considerable interest to the book.
The trip ends in anything but the therapeutic manner Schooler intended. He spent his last hours on the trail fleeing an erratically behaving grizzly bear. He ends the book nearly as abruptly as the trip ended. This abrupt transition mirrors the shocks that await Schooler on his return home and the real world.
Energy: Perspectives, Problems, & Prospects
Michael B. McElroy
Oxford University Press, 2010, 409 pages
The preeminent energy policy analyst Amory Lovins once stated, “Our energy future is choice, not fate.” In order to understand our energy future, one needs to explore the past and current energy situation. No book explains energy resources and policy in all their complexities better than this excellent book.
This book begins with an incredibly detailed and well-written history of civilization, with numerous clear connections to energy as an essential element and influence throughout history. McElroy states, “The success of civilizations depended invariably on a favorable local climate together with access to reliable sources of energy.”
McElroy, a Harvard University Professor of Environmental Science, then explores in excellent detail all of the common sources of energy. For example, one chapter is titled, “Coal: Origin, History, and Problems,” while another is titled, “Energy from Water and Wind.”
The author has an excellent chapter concerning the challenge of global climate change. “For the first time in the history of our species we have developed the capacity to alter our environment globally. The long-term consequences are difficult to forecast but assuredly momentous,” McElroy states.
This book provides a succinct, healthy energy policy for our country and the international community, one that is clearly obtainable. The author writes, “A responsible future energy policy should address two interrelated objectives: first to reduce the carbon intensity of global economies; second to scale back their dependence on unreliable sources of oil.”
The concluding chapter discusses a vision for a low-carbon energy future. McElroy clarifies that “there are options at our disposal that can ensure the future progress for our global civilization while sustaining and maintaining the integrity of the global life support system.”
Used as a textbook in higher education, this important book should be a must-read for everyone. I highly recommend it, as it provides a detailed but enjoyable explanation of energy use and policies, and clarifies how energy plays a significant role in all aspects of society.
Peter G. Williams