What is life worth?
Popkin's cri de coeur. "To Reach the Spring" speaks to, follows up with, and updates Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring" but speaks as well to Primo Levi, James Baldwin and to many more. It is a philosophical rumination on choice, obligation, and judgment. It asks: what is a life worth? It tells us we are all victim and victimizer. It uses the Holocaust as a touchpoint to reflect on the environmental apocalypse we are living through (perhaps dangerously -- the differences outweigh the similarities, but human behavior here is the key -- when we are of the group causing harm we believe we are in the right, OR don't see a path of resistance, OR don't care enough or are too consumed by other things both trivial and important). The essays also comprise something of a memoir, whereby Popkin reaches into his childhood and young adulthood -- the story of our planet's plight, after all, is the story of our lives, of how we have learned what to value and how to make change possible. Indeed, this short but crucial book is ultimately a book of hope, despite the grim take on our humanity. It is partially framed as a letter to hypothetical grandchildren (shades of Baldwin writing to his - real - nephew) which implies that there will indeed be grandchildren around to read it. While the book to his grandchildren yet to be is in part an apology, it also is a dream. That the spring IS within our reach. We just have to be brave. "To Reach the Spring" should be up there in the pantheon with "Silent Spring." Not because of its literary merit (which it has in spades, mind you) but for its challenge to make a better world through our individual and collective choices.
(Review by Kevin M. Feinberg)
A five-star Amazon review of To Reach the Spring: