Book roundup: reviews and preview

Staff Writer
Thursday, December 05, 2019
‘All Hell Breaking Loose: The Pentagon’s Perspective on Climate Change’

By Michael T. Klare

Metropolitan Books


In books such as “Resource Wars,” Blood and Oil,” and “The Race for What’s Left,” Michael Klare has examined the intersection of geopolitics, energy and resource depletion — and how that nexus so often can become a source of military conflict.

In his new book, “All Hell Breaking Loose: The Pentagon’s Perspective on Climate Change,” Klare takes a look at another alarming issue that he says could lead to future wars.

Klare is Five College professor emeritus of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College, and he has written for years on security issues for The Nation and other publications. In “All Hell Breaking Loose,” he’s looked at a number of documents and reports that show the Pentagon, by nature a conservative place, has no doubt that climate change is occurring — and that it’s a grave threat to American and international security.

In a recent article he wrote for Britain’s Guardian newspaper about the book, Klare notes that U.S. military officials believe climate change not only threatens conflict abroad, with weather disasters fanning ethnic and factional disputes and swelling refugee populations. Military planners also fear U.S. troops could be stretched way too thin as they’re called to respond to these crises, and to climate disasters at home.

As Klare notes, the U.S. Department of Defense outlined many of these issues in a 2015 report to Congress that read in part, “Climate change is an urgent and growing threat to our national security, contributing to increased natural disasters, refugee flows, and conflicts over basic resources such as food and water.”

Future trouble spots could include the Arctic, Klare writes, where the vanishing ice pack might lead to Russian naval encroachment, and Southeast Asia, where contested water supplies could spark even more tension between nuclear-armed rivals Pakistan and India.

Klare adds that there’s much to learn from the U.S. military’s detailed analysis of these potential problems. As he writes in the Guardian, “[It] should become evident that climate change will come in time to supersede all other threats to national security, requiring an even greater popular response than that now devoted to other, more familiar threats.”

‘At Home: Historic Houses of Central and Western Massachusetts’

By Beth Luey

Bright Leaf/University of Massachusetts Press


From Emily Dickinson’s homestead in Amherst, to Herman Melville’s “Arrowhead” farmhouse in Pittsfield, to Edith Wharton’s home “The Mount” in Lenox, western Massachusetts can claim its share of historic literary houses.

But the region also boasts a noted home with a less well-known story: Elizabeth “Mumbet” Freeman, an African-American slave in the Sheffield house of Colonel John Ashley in the 1700s, became the first black slave in Massachusetts to file a suit for her freedom — and win it — in 1781.

These and other stories are part of Beth Luey’s “At Home: Historic Houses of Central and Western Massachusetts,” published by Bright Leaf, an imprint of University of Massachusetts Press. As in a previous book she wrote about historic homes in the eastern part of the commonwealth, Luey, who lives near New Bedford, examines the histories behind several famous homes in this part of the state.

Included in her new book are descriptions of the Dickinson family home and the poet named Emily; profiles of Edith Wharton and Herman Melville and their homes; and a look at early Deerfield, the frontier village that predated the preserved 18th-century community of today.

A literary bash in Amherst

Just in time for the holidays — books do make great presents, after all — local state legislators, an organization that promotes reading in the commonwealth and the Jones Library are throwing a party for several Valley writers who have won honors for their work.

The Massachusetts Center for the Book, a public-private partnership in Concord affiliated with the U.S. Library of Congress, is joining with state representatives Mindy Domb, Natalie Blais, and Lindsay Sabadosa to honor the 12 authors, all of whom have won Massachusetts Book Awards or honorable mention from the group in recent years.

The party, free and open to the public, takes place Saturday, Dec. 7, from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Jones Library. The writers will give brief talks about their work, after which there will be an opportunity to “mix and mingle” and buy books from staff from Amherst Books — and have the books signed by the authors.

Looking for fiction? You can consider “Valiant Gentlemen,” an historical novel by Sabina Murray; a short story collection by Noy Holland; or Heather Abel’s “The Optimistic Decade,” a novel set in the high country of Colorado in 1990. Also on hand will be poets Ilan Stavans (“The Wall”), Ellen Doré Watson (“pray me stay eager”), and Dara Wier (“In the Still of the Night”).

Nonfiction will be represented by the Whately couple George Howe Colt (“The Game,” a look back at the dramatic Harvard-Yale football game of 1968) and Anne Fadiman (author of the memoir “The Wine Lover’s Daughter”), and by Amherst College historian Lisa Brooks (“Our Beloved Kin: A New History of King Philip’s War”).

You’ll also have a chance to meet Natasha Lowe (“Lucy Castor Finds Her Sparkle”), Richard Michelson (“The Language of Angels: A Story about the Reinvention of Hebrew”), and Jane Yolen (“Mapping the Bones”) and talk to them about the writing they do for younger readers.

More information about the Massachusetts Center for the Book can be found at massbook.org.

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at spfarrer@gazettenet.com.