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Geoscientist Online

Storm - nature & culture

rsatiThis is seemingly an age of increasingly ferocious storms, so this book is timely.  It is also excellent – fascinating, well written and hard to put down.  The seven chapters have many beautiful illustrations.  Some are very well known others not, but all were worth including.

The first chapter deals with the place of storms in religion, around the world and through the ages.  Most English-speaking readers will know the place of storms and many of the stories about them, in current, major religions.  Fewer, perhaps, will know much about them in Greek, Hindu, Roman and/or Scandinavian mythology, let alone that of the Aztecs, Maori or Nootka.  While limited – this is just one chapter – the comparisons and parallels are intriguing; a book on this one part of the topic might well be justified.

The next three chapters deal with nature, effects – changes in the course of history – and events.  Like chapter one, these hold you in place and are full of extensive information, some well known but much not.  Discussion of an event’s effects is often interesting, especially when, as here, unrelated but otherwise similar events are compared.  The occasional comparison of damage 'value' has little value, though, because the underlying costs, which tend to increase quite rapidly with time, cannot be compared.  The 'most expensive' storm, or knick-knack, rarely remains in pole position for long.

Storms in literature and spectacle are covered in their respective chapters in much the same way as above.  Both the breadth of cover and individual detail deserve top marks, although it is inevitable that many 'lesser' sources are not included.

The final chapter – futures – was slightly less satisfying than its predecessors.  The breadth of knowledge applied and the detail are both excellent, as is much of the comment.  A little more strength would have helped, however.  It is, indeed, wise to cut back on human activities likely to affect the rate and/or extent of climate change, for that and other reasons.  Such things can only work slowly, at best, though, and some of the change, however caused, is irreversible in anything less than the very long term.  It is imperative, therefore, to adapt activities, cultures, and modes of life to fit climate change, not just try to reverse, halt or slow it.  Despite that, this really is an excellent book and is a welcome addition to my collection.

Reviewed by Jeremy Joseph

STORM – NATURE AND CULTURE by John Withington, 2016.  Published by: Reaktion Books, London, UK.  ISBN: 978-1-78023-661-2.  Paperback.  192 pp.  List Price £14.95.  W: www.reaktionbooks.co.uk