Under a White Sky

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First edition
(publ. Crown Publishing Group)

Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future is a 2021 environmental book by Elizabeth Kolbert.[1] The book follows many of the themes she explored in The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History.


Under a White Sky is focused on the various kinds of environmental crises created by the Anthropocene and different degrees of technological solutions available to humanity to address them – while also being critical of full-blown techno-solutionism.[2][3]

The title refers to the most extreme climate change mitigation strategy, solar geoengineering, designed to reflect sunlight from the earth.[2] Throughout the book she explores how a technological fix for one problem can lead to further problems while also acknowledging the important role those technologies might play.[4]


Reception of the book was generally positive. The Washington Post praised it for "expertly mix[ing] travelogue, science reporting, and explanatory journalism, all with the authority of a writer confident enough to acknowledge ambiguity."[4] The New York Times review focused on how the book explores the ambiguities of our current environmental crisis.[2] A NPR review described the book as "tell[ing] by showing. Without beating the reader over the head, she makes it clear how far we already are from a world of undisturbed, perfectly balanced nature – and how far we must still go to find a new balance for the planet's future that still has us humans in it."[3] The Rolling Stone's Jeff Goodell lauded Kolbert by saying, "To be a well-informed citizen of Planet Earth, you need to read Elizabeth Kolbert..."[5]

Under a White Sky was shortlisted for the 2021 Wainwright Prize in the Global Conservation Writing category.[6] The book made the long list for the 2022 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction.[7] It was selected for The Washington Post's "10 Best Books of 2021" list.[8]


  1. ^ "UNDER A WHITE SKY". Kirkus. 2020-12-22. Retrieved 2021-08-06.
  2. ^ a b c Szalai, Jennifer (2021-02-10). "Electrified Rivers and Other Attempts to Save the Environment". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-03-08.
  3. ^ a b Frank, Adam (8 February 2021). "'Under A White Sky' Examines What It Might Take For Humans To Continue To Exist". NPR. Retrieved 2021-03-08.
  4. ^ a b Lozada, Carlos. "Review | Why humanity can't be trusted to repair its own environmental damage". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2021-03-08.
  5. ^ "Elizabeth Kolbert".
  6. ^ Comerford, Ruth (2021-08-21). "Sethi, Winn and Rebanks shortlisted for Wainwright Prize". The Bookseller. Retrieved 2021-08-05.
  7. ^ "2022 Winners". American Library Association. 17 October 2021. Retrieved November 16, 2021.
  8. ^ "The 10 Best Books of 2021". The Washington Post. November 18, 2021. Retrieved December 18, 2021.

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