english | nederlands
I have always been fascinated by geological time. From the time I was walking around on two billion years old rocks in Suriname, and saw the whole geological history reflected in the wide landscapes of the Colombian Andes, I cannot resist the thought that we human beings, with a history of mere 150,000 years, are only newly born babies for the Earth. We are just the skin of paint on the pinnacle-knob of the Eiffeltower, as Mark Twain puts it. We have experienced near to nothing of what the Earth is capable of.
Yet we behave as if we are the masters, the proprietors, the caretakers of the Earth; as if our ecological footstep is so huge that it tends to destroy the Earth. It is a sad, narrowly anthropocentric view. The Earth couldn’t care less. All disasters mankind is afraid of have already occurred in the geological past: carbon dioxide levels ten times as high as at present during a Greenhouse Earth without any ice caps at all; sea level 200 m above and 120 m below the present level, volcanic eruption beyond any human imagination. Our footstep is wiped off the wet beach at the next high tide.
That is the main theme of my first book The human scale – the Earth in 10 000 years from now. I look at earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, climate change, sea-level , river behaviour and evolution, starting each time on the human, daily scale, and then proceeding to ever increasing scales of time and space. I think it is relevant to consider longer time scales in all aspects of daily life. If we can consider the effect of storage of nuclear waste in 10 000 years from now, why not do the same for climate? The book was awarded the Eureka prize for the best popular science book in 2007.
My second book Why hell stinks of sulfur - Mythology and geology of the underworld is an account of my voyage to the centre of the Earth, in the footsteps of Homer, Virgil, Dante, Leonardo da Vinci, Descartes, Jules Verne, and modern science. I want to see with the eyes of a geologist, armed with hammer and compass , what hell consists of, where the sulfur and the tar come from, how much fantasy people needed to understand what’s inside the earth, and how much fantasy we need even now to that end. We have travelled to the moon, but not to the centre of the Earth, which is not farther away than Washington from Paris. The Earth should not be seen as a supermarket for human needs, as a black box to dig tunnels through, or as an easy receptacle for dead bodies and human waste. The Earth is an immensely rich archive, it is its own history book, and any hole we dig in it destroys a part of that history. Moreover it is a unique ecosystem, the wealth of which we have only just started to fathom. The book was longlisted for the Bob den Uyl prize for literary travels.
Why Hell Stinks of Sulphur: Mythology and Geology of the Underworld
Subterranean mythology is geologist Salomon Kroonenberg’s point of departure. With Dante’s Inferno to hand, he takes the reader on a journey in the footsteps of Homer, Virgil, Da Vinci, Descartes and Jules Verne. Along the way he turns a scientific spotlight on the background to myths of the underworld. At a small lake near Naples he searches for the gates of hell, as described in Virgil’s Aeneid. Kroonenberg’s vast reserves of knowledge and his expressive prose allow him to transform even inconspicuous features of the landscape into fascinating sites.
Read: the sample translation of "Why Hell Stinks of Sulphur".
Reviews: NLPVF, Reaction Book, Times Higher Education, Publishers Weekly, Inside Higher Ed, Maclean's, LA Review of Books, The Times
Reviews in german: Primus Verlag, Welt Online, Media Mania
Atlas, ISBN 97-89045018-76-8
The Human Scale: The Earth Ten Thousand Years from Now
Kroonenberg takes the reader around the globe from the Caspian Sea (with its extreme changes in surface level) to the Columbian volcano Nevado del Ruiz, which spewed tons of mud over the small town of Armero in 1985, turning it into a necropolis. At the same time he produces chains of facts and correlations, which he binds together into a kind of geological Theory of Everything. He offers a surprisingly new and topical perspective by forcing the reader to look over the edge of a vast abyss of time, measured in billions of years.
The Chinese translation has got a prize from the influential literary journal China Weekly Reading, and is recommended by the Chinese National Library as the best Non-fiction book of 2012.
Uitgeverij Atlas, ISBN 9789045006819