Melanie Lenart, Ph.D.: Environmental Scientist and Writer

Life in the Hothouse


Electronic Green Journal
“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,” wrote Elery Hamilton-Smith of Charles Sturt University, Australia.
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The Quarterly Review
of Biology

“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,” wrote Jeffrey T. Kiehl, a researcher with the National Center for Atmospheric Research.
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Environmental Practice
Robert Paehlke, Ph.D., has this to say about Life in the Hothouse in his review for the Cambridge journal Environmental Practice: "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."
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Lee Gutowski for Zócalo
"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."
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Bryan Walker for Celsius
"Lenart does an excellent job of pulling together information from numerous studies, often updated by direct communication with the experts involved, and building it into a sustained overall picture. The story is enlivened by some of her own direct experience in forest and desert."
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Starre Vartan for Mother Nature Network
Starre Vartan called Life in the Hothouse "the best global warming book I've read." The environmental writer and author of The Eco Chick Guide to Life wrote this in a tweet about her review/Q&A piece in Mother Nature Network.
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Lois Henderson for Book Pleasures (5 out of 5 stars)
"Her skill in expressing the most scientific and complex phenomena enables her to convey her message so clearly that even someone with only a very basic knowledge of how the planet functions will be able to understand what she has to say. … Lenart establishes a certain rapport with her audience, which makes her arguments all the more convincing."
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Michelle Kaye for Good Reads (5 out of 5 stars)
"I found the topics covered in this book compelling to read. It was a learning progression that I truly enjoyed."
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M. Evans for CHOICE Reviews
"Environmental scientist/writer Lenart presents a readable narrative of Earth's role as a living organism ...
Summing Up:
Highly recommended for lower- and upper-division undergraduates and professionals."
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cover of book, Life in the Hothouse


University of
Arizona Press

"A highly entertaining yet superbly informative look at Earth's climate and its intricate dance with life, including us."
- Kerry Emanuel, author, Divine Wind: The History and Science of Hurricanes

"The interwoven tapestry of Earth system science as manifested through weather, oceans, rocks, organisms, wetlands, plants, and forests is portrayed by Melanie Lenart in all of its wonderful regulatory interactions that help make Earth habitable."
- Kevin E. Trenberth, author, Climate System Modeling

“What do you get when you mix earth, wind, water, and fire with biology and the chemicals of life? A living, self-organizing entity facing 21st century challenges. Through research, experience, and interviews, the author explores Gaia’s current struggles, and the ways in which we can help the Earth regulate the human-induced impacts of climate change.”
- Tim Brown, Director, Western Regional Climate Center



C-SPAN Interview: Climate Change Panel with Melanie Lenart

Melanie Lenart discussed her recent book, Life in the Hothouse: How A Living Planet Survives Climate Change, at the Tucson Festival of Bookson March 12 as part of a panel called Hot Times: Can Nature Survive Us? Other panelists were Laura Lopez-Hoffman, author of Conservation of Shared Environments, and Mitch Tobin, author of Endangered. The authors talked about their findings and took questions from the audience.

Gary Dillard of Focus on Bisbee interviews Melanie Lenart during a December 10, 2010, show that coincided with her book-signing event at Atalanta's Music and Books in Bisbee.



Our living planet has been through hot times before when greenhouse gas levels were high. Comparing earlier hothouses and past ice ages to our climate of today can help us gauge what’s in store for the near future, if we continue adding heat-trapping greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.

The higher temperatures that come with higher greenhouse gas levels spur on stronger hurricanes and bigger floods. The news is not all bad, though. Evidence from the past also highlights that forests and wetlands expanded during warmer times and contracted during ice ages. It turns out that bigger hurricanes, floods and forests – including the wooded wetlands known as swamps – play crucial roles in keeping the planet suitable for life.

These findings make sense in the context of Gaia theory, which maintains that the living Earth has some means for regulating its temperature. Of course, the premise assumes the planet and its natural systems have leeway to respond to climate changes. Yet humans have claimed much of the Earth’s surface for farms and factories, cars and cities. This, in turn, affects air, land and sea, as well as society. Can the planet's regulatory system function under these conditions?

After describing the complexities of some of the planet’s temperature moderating skills, the author suggests how people can fit into the regulatory system in ways that will promote life’s continuation. The findings suggest that the more the planet can count on forests and wetlands to moderate climate, the less it will need to employ hurricanes and floods to cool off.

The good news is, the same practices that make the Earth more resilient to global warming also make conditions better on the surface, where the world’s many species, including humans, live.

Q&A with author Melanie Lenart

Press Release

Source Notes
For scholars and other readers interested in footnotes, this link shares additional references that informed the book’s content.



Girls Making Media features Life in the Hothouse
Here are some wonderful videos about Life in the Hothouse done by Margaret McKay as the interviewer and Angel Hudson on camera. Both were participating in a Girls Making Media program in Tucson, with guidance from mentor Quynn Elizabeth.


University of Arizona Press




Life in the Hothouse

Global Warming in the Southwest


Translating Environmental Science

Courses and Workshops


Nature Reports Climate Change

Climate, Forests and Woodlands Website

Southwest Climate Change Network

Southwest Climate Outlook

Tree-Ring Times

UA News

Other Publications


Tucson Green Times/
The New Southwest

Other Opinion Pieces


Additional Background