Earth A.D.: The Poisoning of the American Landscape and the Communities That Fought Back by Michael Lee Nirenberg
Non-fiction | Environmental
Published by Process
Released 28 July 2020
Goodreads | Amazon
In Earth A.D.: The Poisoning of the American Landscape and the Communities That Faught Back, Michael Lee Nirenberg takes a microscope to two American environmental disasters: Tar Creek in Oklahoma and Greenpoint in Brooklyn, NY.
They are very different places. Tar Creek is isolated and remote in northeast Oklahoma, while Greenpoint is right in the middle of New York City. Tar Creek was once a bustling mining town and Greenpoint has had a variety of people make the area their home.
The book is written in an interview format, which bothered me. It distracted me from the conversation. I wished Nirenberg would have taken all of his interviews and compiled them into a more approachable narrative. Nirenberg is better known as a documentary filmmaker, which might explain his use of this format, but again, it would have been more linear and understandable as a narrative.
I very much appreciated that Nirenberg didn’t just speak to people that were promoting environmental stewardship – he also spoke to the politicians and people responsible for making the mess in the first place or failing to clean it up properly. While I’m very much on the side of the environmentalists, non-fiction books, especially books about current events, are significantly better when they contain information from both sides.
Earth A.D. teaches the reader that it is very possible to pursue environmental justice within your community. It’s the type of inspiration that a lot of people living in polluted areas need. At the same time, however, Nirenberg’s interviewees don’t hide the fact that it’s immensely difficult to do. There’s so much red tape, bureaucracy, and cover-ups that citizens have to really fight to get what they want.
I’d recommend this book to anyone interesting in environmental stewardship or that have a connection to either Tar Creek or Greenpoint. Overall, however, for the casual reader, this might be a book worth skipping. I’m sure there are other options for more readable books on the topic.