Sustainable Putnam

The Story of More v. The Story of Hope

Book Review: The Story of More: how we got to climate change and where to go from here, by Hope Jahren. Vintage Books, 2020. 210 pages.

As an excellent story teller and a very knowledgeable scientist, Hope Jahren is a rare climate change author. This is certainly the most readable book I’ve read on climate change by layman or scientist, and I recommend it strongly.

If you’re at all interested in the topic, I think you’ll find it entertaining and informative. If you’ve already read a number of books, you might not learn all that much, but you’ll certainly learn something. What is most unique about the Story of More is that — despite informing us about climate change’s causes and implications — you won’t be freaked out into a state of paralysis. This isn’t an attack on corporate America, the Republican Party, or the American people. But she doesn’t pull punches either. Jahren states the facts, and lets the reader draw her own conclusions.

More importantly, she wrote this book knowing what is now commonly understood by wise policy makers in this field: scare tactics lead people to shutting down, rather than taking action. Taking in the full implications of climate change is just too difficult to live with. (Ironic, no?) Jahren takes many pages to explain how we got here, and relatively few pages to explain the implications. I’m OK with that. In part, because she makes thoughtful suggestions for taking action, and that’s also rare in climate change writing. (As a self-proclaimed expert in this area, I think these suggestions are overly general, but hey, it’s a 205 page book.)

Overall, Jahren’s personal warmth and humane sensibilities come through. Reading The Story of More felt like learning in the classroom of a personable and humble science teacher that you really like and respect as a human being (in fact, she is a college professor who hails from Minnesota and now lives in Norway, home of her ancestors). A science teacher with very good social skills; who cares; who wants you to learn what’s most important without overwhelming you; who knows how to get that information across through stories. Lots and lots of stories. It’s a worthy read.