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Sierra Magazine
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Sierra's May/June 2005 Let's Talk book selection:
The Future of Ice: A Journey Into Cold
A book by Gretel Ehrlich
Review by Sean McCourt

What it's about
Gretel Ehrlich paints a picture of winter's power in her latest book, The Future of Ice: A Journey Into Cold. The author of the acclaimed Solace of Open Spaces chronicles a year spent exploring the frozen landscapes of the southern Andes, Greenland, and Wyoming. Ehrlich revels in their peculiar foreboding beauty; she sees an icefield as an "archivist and historian" and yearns to "learn any lessons that a glacier might teach." She points out that we may not have long to do so: With global warming, Glacier National Park, for example, will soon lose all of its icefields. Ehrlich faces the dilemma of even the least-writerly environmentalist: wonder at the natural world combined with an aching awareness that it's all at risk. While Ehrlich says that nature is the only true artist, she proves herself a worthy apprentice.

Where to get it
The Future of Ice is available in libraries, at bookstores, and online. Pantheon Books' list price is $21.95.

About the author
Gretel Ehrlich, who lives in California and Wyoming, is the author of several books, including This Cold Heaven, The Solace of Open Spaces, and John Muir, Nature's Visionary. Her essays, short stories, and poems have also been published in such magazines as the Atlantic, Harper's, Life, Outside, and National Geographic Traveler.

Discussion questions
Author Gretel Ehrlich says that "a glacier is an archivist and historian." How hard is it to make environmental decisions based on evidence that may unveil itself over eons, and may always remain inconclusive?

Every individual has an impact on the world. How big is your ecological footprint? How do you compare with the average in your area? How about other parts of the world? What about your friends and family? (Go to www.sierraclub.org/footprint/footprint.asp to find out.)

Awestruck by the natural beauty surrounding her, Ehrlich writes: "Sometimes it's hard to remember what a mess we're making of our planet." How far do you have to travel from your home to reach an environment that hasn't been degraded by development or pollution? What is being done to protect natural areas near you?

The Kyoto treaty to curb global warming went into effect in February without the support of the United States. President Bush has outlined his own plan to deal with climate change. What would you tell the president or members of Congress?

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