"Apocalyptic Planet: Field Guide to the Everending Earth" by Craig Childs

“Apocalyptic Planet: Field Guide to the Everending Earth” by Craig Childs

“The sixth mass extinction is well under way. Numbers of lost and declining species are rapidly rising with no end in sight. Some researchers offer outside estimates that as many as half of all remaining species may disappear within the next century.” xvi

The earth has died many times, and it always comes back looking different. In an exhilarating, surprising exploration of our planet, Craig Childs takes readers on a firsthand journey through apocalypse, touching the truth behind the speculation. Apocalyptic Planet is a combination of science and adventure that reveals the ways in which our world is constantly moving toward its end and how we can change our place within the cycles and episodes that rule it.

In this riveting narrative, categorized in the nature category, Childs makes clear that ours is not a stable planet, that it is prone to sudden, violent natural disasters and extremes of climate. Alternate futures, many not so pretty, are constantly waiting in the wings. Childs refutes the idea of an apocalyptic end to the earth and finds clues to its more inevitable end in some of the most physically challenging places on the globe. He travels from the deserts of Chile, the driest in the world, to the genetic wasteland of central Iowa to the site of the drowned land bridge of the Bering Sea, uncovering the micro-cataclysms that predict the macro: forthcoming ice ages, super-volcanoes, and the conclusion of planetary life cycles. Childs delivers a sensual feast in his descriptions of the natural world and a bounty of unequivocal science that provides us with an unprecedented understanding of our future.

“The word ‘apocalypse’ from the Greek apokalypsis, originally referred to the lifting of a veil or a revelation. The common definition as a destructive worldwide event is more recent. In this book, it is both.”

“A friend had been traveling in Nigeria, and he came back telling me that one year you’re taking pictures of laughing children and the next you go back and most of those children have died.” 10

Craig Childs is a commentator for NPR’s Morning Edition, and his work has appeared in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Men’s Journal, Outside, The Sun, and Orion. Awards he has won include the Ellen Meloy Desert Writers Award, the Rowell Award for the Art of Adventure, the Sigurd F. Olson Nature Writing Award, and, for his body of work, the 2003 Spirit of the West Award.

“I asked how they found his body, faceup or facedown. Faceup, they said, which was somehow a relief to me. He had not fallen over helpless. He had stopped to rest, chosen the place with what was left of his mind.” 11


  • Introduction
  • Deserts Consume
  • Ice Collapses
  • Seas Rise
  • Civilizations Fall
  • Cold Returns
  • Species Vanish
  • Mountains Move
  • Cataclysm Strikes
  • Seas Boil
  • Acknowledgments
  • Bibliography

“Some people say they feel small in places like this, their lives seeming insignificant in the face of geographic immensity.” 16-17

Thought-Provoking Questions

  • Apocalypse? xii
  • What sort of apocalypse-one that destroys civilization, life, the entire planet? xii
  • How does it work? xii
  • Is there a way to stop it or is it just going to steamroll us? xii
  • Are we even asking the right questions? xii
  • What else happens? xv
  • What massive, elemental changes could come not to one city alone but to the entire planet? xv
  • Who are we talking about being the ones to survive? Humans  with our tricky thumbs and extraordinary ability to adapt and spread, familiar ecosystems, or the simple presence of life itself? xvi
  • What would it mean to be the last ones standing on an ultimately sere and ruined planet? xvi
  • Where will the fifty million people who are uprooted by desertification go? 25

“You have to be careful with the sun, warm enough to give life, and warm enough to kill if the balance gets off.” 21


“Craig Childs is a master…He reminds us why we fell in love with the wild in the first place.”

“Childs’s own feats of asceticism are nothing if not awe-inspiring: he’s a modern-day desert father.”
The New York Times Book Review

“An elegant and absorbing account of just how violently the earth can change.”
-Bill McKibben, author of Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet

“In an adventurous tale, scientific overview, requiem, and celebration, Childs offers a mesmerizing and provocative look at our ever-changing, ‘everending’ planet. His lively writing reveals awesome, otherworldly landscapes…sharing his wonder at their existence as much as what they reveal about our planet’s future and past.”
Publisher’s Weekly (starred review

“It is impossible to read Craig Childs and see the world in the same way again.”
Neil Shubin, author of Your Inner Fish

More Books on Nature:

<- Nature & the Quest for Meaning #28 | Nature & the Quest for Meaning #30 ->

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