ForeWord Reviews

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Small Change, Big Gains

Foreword Review — Fall 2013

This book’s genesis comes from the shadow of the statue of Gen. Douglas MacArthur on the beach of Corregidor at the entrance of Manila Bay, where MacArthur uttered his famous “I Shall Return.” What Thomas Stoner sees, though, is not a glorious past but an uncertain future in the flotilla of garbage stinking up the shoreline. What are needed are new heroes, Stoner believes, ones that can rally the troops around a new war against climate change.

Stoner adeptly illustrates how climate­-change deniers have eroded support for preventative measures by calling science into question. Yet, doubts insidiously go mainstream when you have folks on the fringe, such as Sen. James Inhofe (R­OK), who called climate change a “hoax” and “impossible because of God’s presence in protecting our home, the planet,” and compared the EPA to the Gestapo. Stoner writes that while Inhofe’s “wild claims sounded crazy to most,” it did make other false statements seem more reasonable by comparison—for example, the Wall Street Journal’s claim that CO2 is not a pollutant.

Stoner ends each chapter with “Key Observations” that would be appropriate in a classroom textbook, and some of the well-researched positions he takes have a textbook feel. Then, out of the blue, Stoner injects his own memories. For example, he takes us back to another seminal time in his life. It’s 1977, and he’s watching Star Wars, where the germ of an idea is planted: the notion that a “corrupt power system represented by mindless masses and power-hungry politicians wanting to dominate the universe” can be defeated by a small group of rebels. Of course, what was on their side was the Force. “As I see it, this concept of the Force embodies the inner determination and willfulness that are required in order to make a change.”

This memory of the first time he saw Star Wars helped set the pattern for his later career.

Howard Lovy