His in-the-moment descriptions are precise and vital, but he renders them uniquely evocative and haunting by paralleling current dilemmas with ancient myths, Greek tragedies, literature, and art. Farrier further guides us to new and wrenching environmental perceptions by tracking the long lives of a plastic bottle and nuclear waste, increasing jellyfish blooms, and the toxic markings of mines, drugs, roads, and the carbon-burning servers powering our consuming digital lives. Farrier sees Earth as a vast library, and encourages us to recognize and think deeply about the indelible stories of destruction and catastrophic loss we’re adding to the planet’s archive.
Blending science, literature, and art, this work leads readers to imagine time, backward and forward; writing in a remarkably fluid style, Farrier is as adept at retelling ancient myth as he is at explaining little-known science ... A compelling thought experiment that is sometimes unsettling in its findings but always cleverly conceived and beautifully expressed.
Farrier’s background is in literature, not science, and the more literary elements of his work tend to be the most effective. But even his science is clear and well-written. That said, Footprints would have been even more powerful if it focused a bit more on uncovering not merely the facts of how we are irrevocably changing the planet, but also excavating what those facts tell about us—the hidden story revealed in the future fossil record—and how we might use that revelation to change ... This is, all told, a powerful and fascinating approach to the great crisis of our time. And it gets to the heart of why climate change such a vexing and all-encompassing challenge. While each future fossil has a unique story, collectively they represent a radical transformation of the physical composition of the planet.
The feel of the text is matter-of-fact melancholic, a too-little, too-late somberness. If those other books (and others besides them) have already reported most of the data, the author captures a moment that finds us standing on the brink ... There’s not much new here, but Farrier sounds a convincing argument all the same.