From Nathaniel Rich, author of Losing Earth, comes a beautifully told exploration of our post-natural world that points the way to a new mode of ecological writing.
We live in a time when scientists race to reanimate extinct beasts, our most essential ecosystems require monumental engineering projects to survive, chicken breasts grow in test tubes, and multinational corporations conspire to poison the blood of every living creature. No rock, leaf, or cubic foot of air on Earth has escaped humanity’s clumsy signature. The old distinctions—between natural and artificial, dystopia and utopia, science fiction and science fact—have blurred, losing all meaning. We inhabit an uncanny landscape of our own creation. In Second Nature, ordinary people make desperate efforts to preserve their humanity in a world that seems increasingly alien. Their stories—obsessive, intimate, and deeply reported—point the way to a new kind of environmental literature, in which dramatic narrative helps us to understand our place in a reality that resembles nothing human beings have known.
From Odds Against Tomorrow to Losing Earth to the film Dark Waters (adapted from the first chapter of this book), Nathaniel Rich’s stories have come to define the way we think of contemporary ecological narrative. Through the essays in Second Nature, he asks what it means to live in an era of terrible responsibility. The question is no longer How do we return to the world that we’ve lost? It is What world do we want to create in its place?
"[Second Nature is] an unwavering look at our increasingly dystopian world . . . Rich presents humanity's war against nature in vivid detail . . . Flowing and deeply researched prose paints scene after scene of the ubiquitous entropy that is gaining momentum . . . Rich manages to fluently and empathetically depict in a digestible way the predicament in which we now find ourselves."
—Dahr Jamail, The New York Times Book Review
"Nathaniel Rich’s electric Second Nature . . . is a tour de force examining the influence humans exert on the world . . . The reading experience is by turns demoralizing and galvanizing, like most worthwhile things."
"Rich's elegy to a planet he likens to a critical care patient is lyrical, erudite, and devastating...[His] investigation of "crimes against nature" and the people who are trying to stop them is alarming, enlightening, and necessary."
"The essays in Second Nature reveal important truths that gather power when they are read together."
"One of the singular pleasures of reading Nathaniel Rich’s Losing Earth is his ability to find and bring to life on the page the women and men engaged in saving the planet. This skill is not surprising, given that Rich is also an acclaimed novelist, but it does help explain why he is so good at what he does, as amply demonstrated in his latest book of nonfiction, Second Nature: Scenes from a World Remade."
—Air Mail Interview
"If Losing Earth was maddening (the only thing worse than staring down the barrel of endless scorching summers, soupy winters, and catastrophic wildfire seasons is knowing politicians could’ve done something about it and didn’t), Second Nature is unsettling."
"[A] vividly reported survey . . . Frightening but with an undercurrent of humor, Rich's study is packed with moving insight." —Publishers Weekly