Building from his acclaimed anthology Tales of Two Americas, writer and editor John Freeman draws together a group of our greatest writers from around the world to help us see how the environmental crisis is hitting some of the most vulnerable communities where they live.
... a mosaic-like compendium...full of such varied writing that there’s no opportunity for cliché to take hold. Some surprising connections flow through its different parts, however ... The sheer variety of approaches in the book reflect something of that frenzied feeling; the collection takes you on a joltingly rapid journey across the world (India, Bangladesh, Hawaii, Iceland). But that eclecticism is also what prevents A Tale of Two Planets from sinking in the kind of ideological mud which bogs down [other books], and a reminder that excellent environmental writing can come from literally anywhere—not just the frozen tundras of macho adventure-stories.
When the introduction has more content and brilliance than most books, you know you are in for a treat in the remaining pages ... Each part of the collection underlines the real physical consequences of the extractive economy that has led us to this climatic crisis and the vast range of human emotion that makes climate change much more than a scientific concept ... This collection may be best savored, contemplated, and reread as a prayer and as a call to action: think about what he’s saying but also enjoy the way he’s saying it.
True to the anthology’s title, these tales paint a picture of a world divided, but there are also hints about how to unite. I was struck, for instance, by a strand of conservatism running through the pain of those most deeply affected by poverty, environmental devastation, and climate change ... I came to see how conservation and conservatism, divided politically, come from the same spiritual root, giving me hope that we can unite people with disparate values around the shared intuition that destroying ancient systems is deeply tragic, and should not be undertaken merely for the sake of luxury condominiums. There are a few weaker moments of oversimplification...but far more often the authors highlight complicated truths ... Tales of Two Planets is not soothing. It is not simple or stable, and it refuses easy pieties. You may struggle to make sense of the voices, to fit them into your own overarching narrative, and you will fail because there is no single narrative—these are tales, not a tale, and they force you to ask instead of answering, to continue asking, each tale an answer you’ve probably never heard. When writing can make you do that, at least for a moment, it’s another reason for hope.