Thursday, June 21, 2018

Book Preview: A new James Hansen non-fiction book that promises climate prophecies and warming warnings

by Danny Bloom

"Sophie's Planet'' is a new book of letters to a grandchild Sophie Kivlehan, 19 years old, by James Hansen, 77 years old, and it promises more of Dr. Hansen's climate prophecies and co2 warnings. If you read his earlier book "Storm of My Grandchildren," you will know what I mean.

That book was a bestseller; this new one will be a bestseller, too.

Publishing sources in New York and London
are already say it's going to be a major book for 2019. So get ready. Pub date is January 22, 2019, not so far away.

The book, which is a series of heartfelt letters to Hansen's 19 year-old-grand-daughter Sophie Kivlehan, a college sophomore now and the oldest child of his daughter Christine and son-in-law Christoper Kivlehan, is about what we can do about the risks and perils of runaway global warming, and it's a positive, optimistic book at that.

Hansen's backstory is interesting: he was born in Dennison, Iowa, the fifth of seven children, and the seven kids slept in two rooms in the Hansen house there.

Jim's father worked a bartender and his mother took care of the home and the kids. Before going off the college (and worldwide fame as an astro-physicist), Jim as a high school student had a newspaper bicycle route delivering daily copies of the Omaha World-Herald newspaper to earn some money for his college tuition.

Now Jim and his wife Anniek live in a comfortable penthouse apartment in Manhattan, according to Seth Borenstein, a reporter for the Associated Press who interviewed him for a major AP story in June 2018.
Jim and his wife also own an 18th century country house in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, where the Hansen clan -- the Hansen son and daughter and their children, including the soon to be famous Sophie Kivlehan -- the daughter of Hansen's daughter and son-in-law  -- often get together for family gatherings in the rural countryside.

Wealthy beyond his wildest childhood imaginings, Hansen now takes home $1,000,000 sustainability recognition prizes that come with climate awards in Israel and Taiwan, among many other nations, and he flies all over the world for climate conferences and academic addresses, famous beyond famous, he of the trademark wide-brimmed boaters hat, bald on top, bearded in front, with a long arrest sheet for his various protest activities in the USA, a New York Times front page ''shout out'' in 1988, friends with Naomi Oreskes, Naomi Klein, Bill McKibben, Andy Revkin, Michael Mann and dozens (hundreds) of other climate activists worldwide, and what this blog post is really all about: the proud grandfather of five grandchildren, including ''Sophie'' of the book's title.

Jim and Anniek have an adult son and daughter, both married now and living in Pennsylvania with their own children. Hansen married Anniek, a Dutch woman he met in Holland in 1969 when he went there to study at a Dutch research institute for a year. Their meeting in Holland set the stage of their long marriage and a honeymoon in Florida near Cape Canaveral where the couple went to watch an Apollo launch. It's romantic.

So now comes ''Sophie's Planet," perhaps Hansen's last will and testament in terms of books. Perhaps his swan song. Will anyone be listening (and reading)? Will the rightwing climate denialists take new pot shots at him and swing and miss? Wil the New York Times book review review the book? In this age of so many distractions and popular cat videos on Twitter and the internet, will anyone take notice or care about "Sophie's Planet" and its contents?

Time will tell. I for one will be reading the book, come January 22, 2019.

Will you?

[HANSEN BIO POST-SCRIPT: James Hansen writes in another place: ''I grew up in western Iowa, one of seven children. My father was a tenant farmer, educated only through the eighth grade, and my parents divorced when I was young.'']

By the way, reporter Elizabeth Kolbert wrote a very good profile about Jim and Anniek in the New Yorker magazine in 2009 here. Titled "The Catastrophist," it's worth a read.


"The fifth of seven children, Hansen grew up in Denison, Iowa, a small, sleepy town close to the western edge of the state. His father was a tenant farmer who, after the Second World War, went to work as a bartender. All the kids slept in two rooms. As soon as he was old enough, Hansen went to work, too, delivering the Omaha World-Herald. When he was eighteen, he received a scholarship to attend the University of Iowa. It didn’t cover housing, so he rented a room for twenty-five dollars a month and ate mostly cereal. He stayed on at the university to get a Ph.D. in physics, writing his dissertation on the atmosphere of Venus. From there he went directly to the Goddard Institute for Space Studies where he took up the study of Venusian clouds.''
''By all accounts, including his own, Hansen was preoccupied by his research and not much interested in anything else. His office was a few blocks south of Columbia University; when riots shut down the campus, in 1968, he barely noticed. At that point,the lab computer was the fastest in the world, but it still had to be fed punch cards. 'I was staying here late every night, reading in my decks of cards,' Hansen recalled. In 1969, he left the institute for six months to study in the Netherlands. There he met his wife, Anniek, who is Dutch; the couple honeymooned in Florida, near Cape Canaveral, so they could watch an Apollo launch.''

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