Icelandic author and activist Andri Snær Magnason’s new book On Time and Water takes a unique approach to climate change that recalls W. G. Sebald. Taking a path to climate science through ancient myths about sacred cows, stories of ancestors and relatives and interviews with the Dalai Lama, Magnason allows himself to be both personal and scientific. The result is an absorbing mixture of travel, history, science and philosophy.
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On Time and Water by Andri Snær Magnason
A few years ago, Andri Snaer Magnason, one of Iceland’s most beloved writers and public intellectuals, was asked by a leading climate scientist why he wasn’t writing about the greatest crisis mankind has faced. Magnason demurred: he wasn’t a specialist, he said; it wasn’t his field. But the scientist persisted: “If you cannot understand our scientific findings and present them in an emotional, psychological, poetic or mythological context,” he told him, “then no one will really understand the issue, and the world will end.”
Based on interviews and advice from leading glacial, ocean, climate, and geographical scientists, and interwoven with personal, historical, and mythological stories, Magnason’s response is a rich and compelling work of narrative nonfiction that illustrates the reality of climate change―and offers hope in the face of an uncertain future. Moving from reflections on how one writes an obituary for an iceberg to exhortation for a heightened understanding of human time and our obligations to one another, throughout history and across the globe, On Time and Water is both deeply personal and globally-minded: a travel story, a world history, and a desperate plea to live in harmony with future generations. Already a massive bestseller in Iceland, and selling in two dozen territories around the world, this is a book unlike anything that has yet been published on the current climate emergency.