Life in the Hothouse (Paperback)

How a Living Planet Survives Climate Change

By Melanie Lenart

University of Arizona Press, 9780816527236, 256pp.

Publication Date: May 15, 2010

List Price: 24.95*
* Individual store prices may vary.


In this insightful, compelling, and highly readable work, Melanie Lenart, an award-winning journalist and science writer who holds a PhD in Natural Resources and Global Change, examines global warming with the trained eye of a professional scientist. And she presents the science in a clear, straightforward manner. Why does the planet’s warming produce stronger hurricanes, rising seas, and larger floods? Simple, says Lenart. The Earth is just doing what comes naturally. Just as humans produce sweat to cool off on a hot day, the planet produces hurricanes, floods, wetlands, and forests to cool itself off.

Life in the Hothouse incorporates Lenart’s extensive knowledge of climate science—including the latest research in climate change—and the most current scientific theories, including Gaia theory, which holds that the Earth has some degree of climate control “built in.” As Lenart points out, scientists have been documenting stronger hurricanes and larger floods for many years. There is a good reason for this, she notes. Hurricanes help cool the ocean surface and clear the air of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas responsible for global warming. From the perspective of Gaia theory, these responses are helping to slow the ongoing global warming and Lenart expounds upon this in a clear and understandable fashion.

There is hope, Lenart writes. If we help sustain Earth's natural defense systems, including wetlands and forests, perhaps Mother Earth will no longer need to rely as much on the cooling effects of what we call "natural disasters"—many of which carry a human fingerprint. At a minimum, she argues, these systems can help us survive the heat.

About the Author

Melanie Lenart is an environmental scientist and writer who specializes in climate change and forests. A researcher with the University of Arizona in Tucson for many years, Lenart now focuses on writing and teaching environmental writing at the university and in workshops.

Praise For Life in the Hothouse: How a Living Planet Survives Climate Change

"In Life in the Hothouse, Melanie Lenart puts her formidable writing chops to work to produce a highly readable examination of Earth's survival mechanisms—including spikes in hurricanes and volcanic activity—through countless episodes of global warming and cooling spanning millennia."—Lee Gutowski of Zócalo

Life in the Hothouse provides readers with a concise and well-written systems perspective of how our planet responds to changes in greenhouse gases. Readers will learn much about the Earth and the role life plays in its climate system from this book.”—Jeffrey T. Kiehl, a researcher with the National Center for Atmospheric Research, for The Quarterly Review of Biology

“This is a fine book. … Although dealing with a very complex topic, its clarity is such that anybody reasonably well-read would find it both fascinating and informative while most academics would also welcome its clarity.”—Elery Hamilton-Smith ofElectronic Green Journal

"Environmental scientist/writer Lenart presents a readable narrative of Earth's role as a living organism...Highly recommended for lower- and upper-division undergraduates and professionals."—M. Evans for CHOICE Reviews

"This intelligent, well-written book makes a substantial contribution to the climate change debate. … this volume adds a great deal to the discussion of climate change and should be widely read."—Robert Paehlke, Ph.D., for the Cambridge journal Environmental Practice