Prepare to feast your eyes and break your heart. Sebastian Copeland's Antarctica: The Global Warning is a gorgeous coffee-table book laden with photos of the white continent that are both beautiful and damning. Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth proved that the issue of global warming can't penetrate the hearts of non-scientists through words alone; it needs pictures. Pictures of melting icebergs and vanishing snow cover. Antarctica: The Global Warning follows up on the pictorial approach, bringing expert art photography into the equation. Mikhail Gorbachev, founding president of Green Cross International, wrote the book's foreword, and actor Leonardo DiCaprio contributed the preface. The book's presiding genius, though, is photographer/activist Copeland, whose photos of ice sculptures floating in warming Antarctic seas and stranded ocean birds tell most of the story. Antarctica is quietly feeling the effects of global warming at five times the rate of the rest of the world,Copeland informs us. Antarctic seas are warming faster than waters in more temperate zones. Antarctic victims birds, bears, historic ice shelves have no media voice.
It makes sense to start caring, though. If too much of Antarctica melts, it will raise the level of the world's oceans and wipe out coastal communities from New York to Santiago. Can a coffee-table book contribute seriously to the global warming discussion? Does the beauty of Antarctica's scenery goad us into action or lull us into a dream state? Readers will have to decide what they think of bewildered penguins standing valiantly atop cliffs that have been shorn of ice. And readers will have to speculate on what those giant skeletons of picked over bones, lying in the middle of an Antarctic plain, tell us about the future of our planet.