Contrary to what so many Americans learn in school, the pre-Columbian Indians were not sparsely settled in a pristine wilderness; rather, there were huge numbers of Indians who actively molded and influenced the land around them. The astonishing Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan had running water and immaculately clean streets, and was larger than any contemporary European city. Mexican cultures created corn in a specialized breeding process that it has been called man’s first feat of genetic engineering. Indeed, Indians were not living lightly on the land but were landscaping and manipulating their world in ways that we are only now beginning to understand. Challenging and surprising, this a transformative new look at a rich and fascinating world we only thought we knew.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
A major book about the future of the world, blending intellectual and natural history and field reporting into a powerful account of the mass extinction unfolding before our eyes
Over the last half a billion years, there have been five mass extinctions, when the diversity of life on earth suddenly and dramatically contracted. Scientists around the world are currently monitoring the sixth extinction, predicted to be the most devastating extinction event since the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs. This time around, the cataclysm is us. In The Sixth Extinction, two-time winner of the National Magazine Award and New Yorker writer Elizabeth Kolbert draws on the work of scores of researchers in half a dozen disciplines, accompanying many of them into the field: geologists who study deep ocean cores, botanists who follow the tree line as it climbs up the Andes, marine biologists who dive off the Great Barrier Reef. She introduces us to a dozen species, some already gone, others facing extinction, including the Panamian golden frog, staghorn coral, the great auk, and the Sumatran rhino. Through these stories, Kolbert provides a moving account of the disappearances occurring all around us and traces the evolution of extinction as concept, from its first articulation by Georges Cuvier in revolutionary Paris up through the present day. The sixth extinction is likely to be mankind's most lasting legacy; as Kolbert observes, it compels us to rethink the fundamental question of what it means to be human.
A hunt for the American buffalo—an adventurous, fascinating examination of an animal that has haunted the American imagination.
In 2005, Steven Rinella won a lottery permit to hunt for a wild buffalo, or American bison, in the Alaskan wilderness. Despite the odds—there’s only a 2 percent chance of drawing the permit, and fewer than 20 percent of those hunters are successful—Rinella managed to kill a buffalo on a snow-covered mountainside and then raft the meat back to civilization while being trailed by grizzly bears and suffering from hypothermia. Throughout these adventures, Rinella found himself contemplating his own place among the 14,000 years’ worth of buffalo hunters in North America, as well as the buffalo’s place in the American experience. At the time of the Revolutionary War, North America was home to approximately 40 million buffalo, the largest herd of big mammals on the planet, but by the mid-1890s only a few hundred remained. Now that the buffalo is on the verge of a dramatic ecological recovery across the West, Americans are faced with the challenge of how, and if, we can dare to share our land with a beast that is the embodiment of the American wilderness.
American Buffalo is a narrative tale of Rinella’s hunt. But beyond that, it is the story of the many ways in which the buffalo has shaped our national identity. Rinella takes us across the continent in search of the buffalo’s past, present, and future: to the Bering Land Bridge, where scientists search for buffalo bones amid artifacts of the New World’s earliest human inhabitants; to buffalo jumps where Native Americans once ran buffalo over cliffs by the thousands; to the Detroit Carbon works, a “bone charcoal” plant that made fortunes in the late 1800s by turning millions of tons of buffalo bones into bone meal, black dye, and fine china; and even to an abattoir turned fashion mecca in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District, where a depressed buffalo named Black Diamond met his fate after serving as the model for the American nickel.
Rinella’s erudition and exuberance, combined with his gift for storytelling, make him the perfect guide for a book that combines outdoor adventure with a quirky blend of facts and observations about history, biology, and the natural world. Both a captivating narrative and a book of environmental and historical significance, American Buffalo tells us as much about ourselves as Americans as it does about the creature who perhaps best of all embodies the American ethos.
This P.S. edition features an extra 16 pages of insights into the book, including author interviews, recommended reading, and more.
If chaos theory transformed our view of the universe, biomimicry is transforming our life on Earth. Biomimicry is innovation inspired by nature – taking advantage of evolution’s 3.8 billion years of R&D since the first bacteria. Biomimics study nature’s best ideas: photosynthesis, brain power, and shells – and adapt them for human use. They are revolutionising how we invent, compute, heal ourselves, harness energy, repair the environment, and feed the world.
Science writer and lecturer Janine Benyus names and explains this phenomenon. She takes us into the lab and out in the field with cutting-edge researchers as they stir vats of proteins to unleash their computing power; analyse how electrons zipping around a leaf cell convert sunlight into fuel in trillionths of a second; discover miracle drugs by watching what chimps eat when they’re sick; study the hardy prairie as a model for low-maintenance agriculture; and more.
Just as he demystified the soil food web in his ground-breaking book Teaming with Microbes, in this new work Jeff Lowenfels explains the basics of plant nutrition from an organic gardener’s perspective. Most gardeners realize that plants need to be fed but know little or nothing about the nature of the nutrients and the mechanisms involved. In his trademark down-to-earth, style, Lowenfels explains the role of both macronutrients and micronutrients and shows gardeners how to provide these essentials through organic, easy-to-follow techniques. Along the way, Lowenfels gives the reader easy-to-grasp lessons in the biology, chemistry, and botany needed to understand how nutrients get into the plant and what they do once they’re inside.
Entirely new to the third edition are chapters on urban sustainability and methods of spatial analysis, with enhanced emphasis throughout on the role of gender in human-adaptability research and on global environmental change as it affects particular ecosystems. In addition, new sections in each chapter guide students to websites that provide access to relevant material, complement the text's coverage of biomes, and suggest ways to become active in environmental issues.
The Thinking Beekeeper is the definitive do-it-yourself guide to natural beekeeping in top bar hives. Based on the concept of understanding and working with bees' natural systems as opposed to trying to subvert them, the advantages of this approach include:Simplicity, sustainability, and cost-effectiveness Increased safety due to less heavy lifting and hive manipulation Chemical-free colonies and healthy hives
Top bar hives can be located anywhere bees have access to forage, and they make ideal urban hives due to their small footprint.
Emphasizing the intimate connection between our food systems, bees, and the well-being of the planet, The Thinking Beekeeper will appeal to the new breed of beekeeper who is less focused on maximizing honey yield, and more on ensuring the viability of the bee population now and in the coming years.
Christy Hemenway is the owner and founder of Gold Star Honeybees, a complete resource for all things related to beekeeping in top-bar hives. A passionate bee-vangelist and advocate for natural, chemical-free beekeeping, Christy is a highly sought-after speaker, helping audiences to understand the integral connection between bees, food, human health, and the future of the planet.
Animal tracks, word magic, the speech of stones, the power of letters, and the taste of the wind all figure prominently in this intellectual tour de force that returns us to our senses and to the sensuous terrain that sustains us. This major work of ecological philosophy startles the senses out of habitual ways of perception.
For a thousand generations, human beings viewed themselves as part of the wider community of nature, and they carried on active relationships not only with other people with other animals, plants, and natural objects (including mountains, rivers, winds, and weather patters) that we have only lately come to think of as "inanimate." How, then, did humans come to sever their ancient reciprocity with the natural world? What will it take for us to recover a sustaining relation with the breathing earth?
In The Spell of the Sensuous David Abram draws on sources as diverse as the philosophy of Merleau-Ponty, Balinese shamanism, Apache storytelling, and his own experience as an accomplished sleight-of-hand of magician to reveal the subtle dependence of human cognition on the natural environment. He explores the character of perception and excavates the sensual foundations of language, which--even at its most abstract--echoes the calls and cries of the earth. On every page of this lyrical work, Abram weaves his arguments with a passion, a precision, and an intellectual daring that recall such writers as Loren Eisleley, Annie Dillard, and Barry Lopez.
• Original Instructions are ancient ways of living from the heart of humanity within the heart of nature
• Explores the convergence of indigenous and contemporary science and the re-indigenization of the world’s peoples
• Includes authoritative indigenous voices, including John Mohawk and Winona LaDuke
For millennia the world’s indigenous peoples have acted as guardians of the web of life for the next seven generations. They’ve successfully managed complex reciprocal relationships between biological and cultural diversity. Awareness of indigenous knowledge is reemerging at the eleventh hour to help avert global ecological and social collapse. Indigenous cultural wisdom shows us how to live in peace--with the earth and one another.
Original Instructions evokes the rich indigenous storytelling tradition in this collection of presentations gathered from the annual Bioneers conference. It depicts how the world’s native leaders and scholars are safeguarding the original instructions, reminding us about gratitude, kinship, and a reverence for community and creation. Included are more than 20 contemporary indigenous leaders--such as Chief Oren Lyons, John Mohawk, Winona LaDuke, and John Trudell. These beautiful, wise voices remind us where hope lies.
"A history of the human brain from the big bang, fifteen billion years ago, to the day before yesterday...It's a delight."
THE NEW YORK TIMES
From the Paperback edition.
Anarchy Evolution is a provocative look at the collision between religion and science, by an author with unique authority: UCLA lecturer in Paleontology, and founding member of Bad Religion, Greg Graffin. Alongside science writer Steve Olson (whose Mapping Human History was a National Book Award finalist) Graffin delivers a powerful discussion sure to strike a chord with readers of Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion or Christopher Hitchens God Is Not Great. Bad Religion die-hards, newer fans won over during the band’s 30th Anniversary Tour, and anyone interested in this increasingly important debate should check out this treatise on science from the god of punk rock.
In Polynesia we set sail with navigators whose ancestors settled the Pacific ten centuries before Christ. In the Amazon we meet the descendants of a true lost civilization, the Peoples of the Anaconda. In the Andes we discover that the earth really is alive, while in Australia we experience Dreamtime, the all-embracing philosophy of the first humans to walk out of Africa. We then travel to Nepal, where we encounter a wisdom hero, a Bodhisattva, who emerges from forty-five years of Buddhist retreat and solitude. And finally we settle in Borneo, where the last rainforest nomads struggle to survive.
Understanding the lessons of this journey will be our mission for the next century. For at risk is the human legacy -- a vast archive of knowledge and expertise, a catalogue of the imagination. Rediscovering a new appreciation for the diversity of the human spirit, as expressed by culture, is among the central challenges of our time.
We see the first measurement of the earth’s circumference, accomplished in the third century B.C. by Eratosthenes using sticks, shadows, and simple geometry. We visit Foucault’s mesmerizing pendulum, a cannonball suspended from the dome of the Panthéon in Paris that allows us to see the rotation of the earth on its axis. We meet Galileo—the only scientist with two experiments in the top ten—brilliantly drawing on his musical training to measure the speed of falling bodies. And we travel to the quantum world, in the most beautiful experiment of all.
We also learn why these ten experiments exert such a powerful hold on our imaginations. From the ancient world to cutting-edge physics, these ten exhilarating moments reveal something fundamental about the world, pulling us out of confusion and revealing nature’s elegance. The Prism and the Pendulum brings us face-to-face with the wonder of science.
From the Hardcover edition.
As the climate veers toward catastrophe, the innumerable losses cascading through the biosphere make vividly evident the need for a metamorphosis in our relation to the living land. For too long we’ve ignored the wild intelligence of our bodies, taking our primary truths from technologies that hold the living world at a distance. Abram’s writing subverts this distance, drawing readers ever closer to their animal senses in order to explore, from within, the elemental kinship between the human body and the breathing Earth. The shape-shifting of ravens, the erotic nature of gravity, the eloquence of thunder, the pleasures of being edible: all have their place in this book.
The canopy voyagers are young–just college students when they start their quest–and they share a passion for these trees, persevering in spite of sometimes crushing personal obstacles and failings. They take big risks, they ignore common wisdom (such as the notion that there’s nothing left to discover in North America), and they even make love in hammocks stretched between branches three hundred feet in the air.
The deep redwood canopy is a vertical Eden filled with mosses, lichens, spotted salamanders, hanging gardens of ferns, and thickets of huckleberry bushes, all growing out of massive trunk systems that have fused and formed flying buttresses, sometimes carved into blackened chambers, hollowed out by fire, called “fire caves.” Thick layers of soil sitting on limbs harbor animal and plant life that is unknown to science. Humans move through the deep canopy suspended on ropes, far out of sight of the ground, knowing that the price of a small mistake can be a plunge to one’s death.
Preston’s account of this amazing world, by turns terrifying, moving, and fascinating, is an adventure story told in novelistic detail by a master of nonfiction narrative. The author shares his protagonists’ passion for tall trees, and he mastered the techniques of tall-tree climbing to tell the story in The Wild Trees–the story of the fate of the world’s most splendid forests and of the imperiled biosphere itself.
From the Hardcover edition.
In the summer of 1997, Charles Moore set sail from Honolulu with the sole intention of returning home after competing in a trans-Pacific race. To get to California, he and his crew took a shortcut through the seldom-traversed North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, a vast "oceanic desert" where winds are slack and sailing ships languish. There, Moore realized his catamaran was surrounded by a "plastic soup." He had stumbled upon the largest garbage dump on the planet-a spiral nebula where plastic outweighed zooplankton, the ocean's food base, by a factor of six to one.
In Plastic Ocean, Moore recounts his ominous findings and unveils the secret life and hidden properties of plastics. From milk jugs to polymer molecules small enough to penetrate human skin or be unknowingly inhaled, plastic is now suspected of contributing to a host of ailments including infertility, autism, thyroid dysfunction, and some cancers. A call to action as urgent as Rachel Carson's seminal Silent Spring, Moore's sobering revelations will be embraced by activists, concerned parents, and seafaring enthusiasts concerned about the deadly impact and implications of this man made blight.
Although the threat of human-caused climate change is now widely recognized, politicians have failed to connect policy with the science, responding instead with ineffectual remedies dictated by special interests. Hansen shows why President Obama's solution, cap-and-trade, which Al Gore has signed on to, won't work; why we must phase out all coal, and why 350 ppm of carbon dioxide is a goal we must achieve if our children and grandchildren are to avoid global meltdown and the storms of the book's title. This urgent manifesto bucks conventional wisdom(including the Kyoto Protocol) and is sure to stir controversy, but Hansen-whose climate predictions have come to pass again and again, beginning in the 1980s when he first warned Congress about global warming-is the single most credible voice on the subject worldwide. Hansen paints a devastating but all-too-realistic picture of what will happen in the near future, mere years and decades from now, if we follow the course we're on. But he is also an optimist, showing that there is still time to do what we need to save the planet.
Urgent, strong action is needed, and this book will be key in setting the agenda going forward to create a groundswell, a tipping point, to save humanity-and our grandchildren-from a dire fate more imminent than we had supposed.
In his bestselling book The World Without Us, Alan Weisman considered how the Earth could heal and even refill empty niches if relieved of humanity's constant pressures. Behind that groundbreaking thought experiment was his hope that we would be inspired to find a way to add humans back to this vision of a restored, healthy planet-only in harmony, not mortal combat, with the rest of nature.
But with a million more of us every 4 1/2 days on a planet that's not getting any bigger, and with our exhaust overheating the atmosphere and altering the chemistry of the oceans, prospects for a sustainable human future seem ever more in doubt. For this long awaited follow-up book, Weisman traveled to more than 20 countries to ask what experts agreed were probably the most important questions on Earth--and also the hardest: How many humans can the planet hold without capsizing? How robust must the Earth's ecosystem be to assure our continued existence? Can we know which other species are essential to our survival? And, how might we actually arrive at a stable, optimum population, and design an economy to allow genuine prosperity without endless growth?
Weisman visits an extraordinary range of the world's cultures, religions, nationalities, tribes, and political systems to learn what in their beliefs, histories, liturgies, or current circumstances might suggest that sometimes it's in their own best interest to limit their growth. The result is a landmark work of reporting: devastating, urgent, and, ultimately, deeply hopeful.
By vividly detailing the burgeoning effects of our cumulative presence, Countdown reveals what may be the fastest, most acceptable, practical, and affordable way of returning our planet and our presence on it to balance. Weisman again shows that he is one of the most provocative journalists at work today, with a book whose message is so compelling that it will change how we see our lives and our destiny.
Changes in the Land offers an original and persuasive interpretation of the changing circumstances in New England's plant and animal communities that occurred with the shift from Indian to European dominance. With the tools of both historian and ecologist, Cronon constructs an interdisciplinary analysis of how the land and the people influenced one another, and how that complex web of relationships shaped New England's communities.
For twenty years, Sandra Ingerman has studied alternative ways to reverse environmental pollution. In this book, Ingerman takes us on a remarkable journey through the history of transmutation, teaching us how we can use this forgotten technique to change ourselves and our environment. She provides us with creative visualizations, ceremonies, rituals, and chants derived from ancient healing practices that produce miraculous, scientifically proven results. In one dramatic illustration of what can be accomplished when consciousness and awareness fuel our actions, Ingerman describes her own success in transforming the nature of chemically polluted water.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
Sharing the basics on health and beauty, work and money, home and gardening, family and fitness, and more, The Imperfect Environmentalist cuts through the clutter—both in our homes and in our heads—and offers simple approaches to help us clear out the pollutants, put down the poisons, and begin to breathe easy again—one 100% recycled page at a time.
Advance praise for The Imperfect Environmentalist
“This book really opened my eyes. Then my eyes started stinging and tearing from all the toxins in the environment I’m now aware of. Thanks, Sara, I have a lot to do now.”—Lisa Kudrow
“Sara’s passion and commitment to the environment have given me an awareness that I never had before about our planet. I learn from Sara every day and she makes me want to be a better person. See, you can teach an old dog new tricks.”—Sharon Osbourne
From the Trade Paperback edition.
Is the human species becoming dehumanized by the condition of his environment? So "Human an Animal "is an attempt to address this broad concern, and explain why so little is being done to address this issue. The book sounds both an urgent warning, and offers important policy insights into how this trend towards dehumanization can be halted and finally reversed. Dubos asserts that we are as much the product of our total environment as of our genetic endowment. In fact, the environment we live in can greatly enhance, or severely Hmit, the development of human potential. Yet we are deplorably ignorant of the effects of our surroundings on human life. We create conditions which can only thwart human nature.
So "Human an Animal "is a book with hope no less than alarm. As Joseph Wood Krutch noted at the time, Dubos shows convincingly "why science is indispensable, not omnipotent." Science'can change our suicidal course by learning to deal analytically with the living experience of human beings, by supplementing the knowledge of things and of the body machine with a science of human life. Only then can we give larger scope to human freedom by providing a rational basis for option and action. Timely, eloquent, and guided by a deep humanistic spirit, this new edition is graced by a succinct and careful outline of the life and work of the author.
It is so easy, in our modern world, to feel disconnected from the physical earth. Despite dire warnings and escalating concern over the state of our planet, many people feel out of touch with the natural world. Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai has spent decades working with the Green Belt Movement to help women in rural Kenya plant—and sustain—millions of trees. With their hands in the dirt, these women often find themselves empowered and “at home” in a way they never did before. Maathai wants to impart that feeling to everyone, and believes that the key lies in traditional spiritual values: love for the environment, self-betterment, gratitude and respect, and a commitment to service. While educated in the Christian tradition, Maathai draws inspiration from many faiths, celebrating the Jewish mandate tikkun olam (“repair the world”) and renewing the Japanese term mottainai (“don’t waste”). Through rededication to these values, she believes, we might finally bring about healing for ourselves and the earth.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
One product of his two-year sojourn was this book — a great classic of American letters. Interwoven with accounts of Thoreau's daily life (he received visitors and almost daily walked into Concord) are mediations on human existence, society, government, and other topics, expressed with wisdom and beauty of style.
Walden offers abundant evidence of Thoreau's ability to begin with observations on a mundane incident or the minutiae of nature and then develop these observations into profound ruminations on the most fundamental human concerns. Credited with influencing Tolstoy, Gandhi, and other thinkers, the volume remains a masterpiece of philosophical reflection.
A selection of the Common Core State Standards Initiative.
The question is no longer simply how can we stop climate change, but how can we as a civilization survive it.
The guiding values of modern culture have become dangerously obsolete in this new era. Yet as renowned environmental journalist Dianne Dumanoski shows, little has been done to avert the crisis or to prepare human societies for a time of growing instability. In a work of astonishing scope, Dumanoski deftly weaves history, science, and culture to show how the fundamental doctrines of modern society have impeded our ability to respond to this crisis and have fostered an economic globalization that is only increasing our vulnerability at this critical time. She exposes the fallacy of banking on a last-minute technological fix as well as the perilous trap of believing that humans can succeed in the quest to control nature. Only by restructuring our global civilization based on the principles that have allowed Earth’s life and our ancestors to survive catastrophe——diversity, redundancy, a degree of self-sufficiency, social solidarity, and an aversion to excessive integration——can we restore the flexibility needed to weather the trials ahead.
In this powerful and prescient book, Dumanoski moves beyond now-ubiquitous environmental buzzwords about green industries and clean energy to provide a new cultural map through this dangerous passage. Though the message is grave, it is not without hope. Lucid, eloquent, and urgent, The End of the Long Summer deserves a place alongside transformative works such as Silent Spring and The Fate of the Earth.
From the Hardcover edition.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
You will follow your oxygen atoms through fire and water and from forests to your fingernails. Hydrogen atoms will wriggle into your hair and betray where you live and what you have been drinking. The carbon in your breath will become tree trunks, and the sodium in your tears will link you to long-dead oceans. The nitrogen in your muscles will help to turn the sky blue, the phosphorus in your bones will help to turn the coastal waters of North Carolina green, the calcium in your teeth will crush your food between atoms that were mined by mushrooms, and the iron in your blood will kill microbes as it once killed a star.
You will also discover that much of what death must inevitably do to your body is already happening among many of your atoms at this very moment and that, nonetheless, you and everyone else you know will always exist somewhere in the fabric of the universe.
You are not only made of atoms; you are atoms, and this book, in essence, is an atomic field guide to yourself.
That August, a strange, prolonged heat wave gripped the nation and killed scores of people in New York and Chicago. Odd things seemed to happen everywhere: A plague of crickets engulfed Waco. The Bering Glacier began to shrink. Rain fell on Galveston with greater intensity than anyone could remember. Far away, in Africa, immense thunderstorms blossomed over the city of Dakar, and great currents of wind converged. A wave of atmospheric turbulence slipped from the coast of western Africa. Most such waves faded quickly. This one did not.
In Cuba, America's overconfidence was made all too obvious by the Weather Bureau's obsession with controlling hurricane forecasts, even though Cuba's indigenous weathermen had pioneered hurricane science. As the bureau's forecasters assured the nation that all was calm in the Caribbean, Cuba's own weathermen fretted about ominous signs in the sky. A curious stillness gripped Antigua. Only a few unlucky sea captains discovered that the storm had achieved an intensity no man alive had ever experienced.
In Galveston, reassured by Cline's belief that no hurricane could seriously damage the city, there was celebration. Children played in the rising water. Hundreds of people gathered at the beach to marvel at the fantastically tall waves and gorgeous pink sky, until the surf began ripping the city's beloved beachfront apart. Within the next few hours Galveston would endure a hurricane that to this day remains the nation's deadliest natural disaster. In Galveston alone at least 6,000 people, possibly as many as 10,000, would lose their lives, a number far greater than the combined death toll of the Johnstown Flood and 1906 San Francisco Earthquake.
And Isaac Cline would experience his own unbearable loss.
Meticulously researched and vividly written, Isaac's Storm is based on Cline's own letters, telegrams, and reports, the testimony of scores of survivors, and our latest understanding of the hows and whys of great storms. Ultimately, however, it is the story of what can happen when human arrogance meets nature's last great uncontrollable force. As such, Isaac's Storm carries a warning for our time.
From the Hardcover edition.
Originally published in 1982, Where the Sky Began, John Madson’s landmark publication, introduced readers across the nation to the wonders of the tallgrass prairie, sparking the current interest in prairie restoration. Now back in print, this classic tome will serve as inspiration to those just learning about the heartland’s native landscape and rekindle the passion of long-time prairie enthusiasts.
Published in 2002, Deforesting the Earth was a landmark study of the history and geography of deforestation. Now available as an abridgment, this edition retains the breadth of the original while rendering its arguments accessible to a general readership.
Deforestation—the thinning, changing, and wholesale clearing of forests for fuel, shelter, and agriculture—is among the most important ways humans have transformed the environment. Surveying ten thousand years to trace human-induced deforestation’s effect on economies, societies, and landscapes around the world, Deforesting the Earth is the preeminent history of this process and its consequences.
Beginning with the return of the forests after the ice age to Europe, North America, and the tropics, Michael Williams traces the impact of human-set fires for gathering and hunting, land clearing for agriculture, and other activities from the Paleolithic age through the classical world and the medieval period. He then focuses on forest clearing both within Europe and by European imperialists and industrialists abroad, from the 1500s to the early 1900s, in such places as the New World, India, and Latin America, and considers indigenous clearing in India, China, and Japan. Finally, he covers the current alarming escalation of deforestation, with our ever-increasing human population placing a potentially unsupportable burden on the world’s forests.
“When is the best time to plant a tree? Twenty years ago. The second best time? Today.”—Chinese proverb
Twenty years ago, David Milarch, a northern Michigan nurseryman with a penchant for hard living, had a vision: angels came to tell him that the earth was in trouble. Its trees were dying, and without them, human life was in jeopardy. The solution, they told him, was to clone the champion trees of the world—the largest, the hardiest, the ones that had survived millennia and were most resilient to climate change—and create a kind of Noah’s ark of tree genetics. Without knowing if the message had any basis in science, or why he’d been chosen for this task, Milarch began his mission of cloning the world’s great trees. Many scientists and tree experts told him it couldn’t be done, but, twenty years later, his team has successfully cloned some of the world’s oldest trees—among them giant redwoods and sequoias. They have also grown seedlings from the oldest tree in the world, the bristlecone pine Methuselah.
When New York Times journalist Jim Robbins came upon Milarch’s story, he was fascinated but had his doubts. Yet over several years, listening to Milarch and talking to scientists, he came to realize that there is so much we do not yet know about trees: how they die, how they communicate, the myriad crucial ways they filter water and air and otherwise support life on Earth. It became clear that as the planet changes, trees and forest are essential to assuring its survival.
Praise for The Man Who Planted Trees
“This is a story of miracles and obsession and love and survival. Told with Jim Robbins’s signature clarity and eye for telling detail, The Man Who Planted Trees is also the most hopeful book I’ve read in years. I kept thinking of the end of Saint Francis’s wonderful prayer, ‘And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in the world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.’ ”—Alexandra Fuller, author of Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight
“Absorbing, eloquent, and loving . . . While Robbins’s tone is urgent, it doesn’t compromise his crystal-clear science. . . . Even the smallest details here are fascinating.”—Dominique Browning, The New York Times Book Review
“The great poet W. S. Merwin once wrote, ‘On the last day of the world I would want to plant a tree.’ It’s good to see, in this lovely volume, that some folks are getting a head start!”—Bill McKibben, author of Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet
“Inspiring . . . Robbins lucidly summarizes the importance and value of trees to planet Earth and all humanity.”—The Ecologist
“ ‘Imagine a world without trees,’ writes journalist Jim Robbins. It’s nearly impossible after reading The Man Who Planted Trees, in which Robbins weaves science and spirituality as he explores the bounty these plants offer the planet.”—Audubon
From the Trade Paperback edition.
As passionate as she is persuasive, Williams, the beloved author of Refuge, is one of the country’s most eloquent and imaginative writers. The desert is her blood. Here she writes lyrically about the desert’s power and vulnerability, describing wonders that range from an ancient Puebloan sash of macaw feathers found in Canyonlands National Park to the desert tortoise–an animal that can “teach us the slow art of revolutionary patience” as it extends our notion of kinship with all life. She examines the civil war being waged in the West today over public and private uses of land–an issue that divides even her own family. With grace, humor, and compassionate intelligence, Williams reminds us that the preservation of wildness is not simply a political process but a spiritual one.
As development and subsequent habitat destruction accelerate, there are increasing pressures on wildlife populations. But there is an important and simple step toward reversing this alarming trend: Everyone with access to a patch of earth can make a significant contribution toward sustaining biodiversity. There is an unbreakable link between native plant species and native wildlife—native insects cannot, or will not, eat alien plants. When native plants disappear, the insects disappear, impoverishing the food source for birds and other animals. In many parts of the world, habitat destruction has been so extensive that local wildlife is in crisis and may be headed toward extinction.
Bringing Nature Home has sparked a national conversation about the link between healthy local ecosystems and human well-being, and the new paperback edition—with an expanded resource section and updated photos—will help broaden the movement. By acting on Douglas Tallamy's practical recommendations, everyone can make a difference.
This great work supplied the momentum for the Scientific Revolution and dominated physics for over 200 years.
It was the ancient opinion of not a few, in the earliest ages of philosophy, that the fixed stars stood immoveable in the highest parts of the world; that, under the fixed stars the planets were carried about the sun; that the earth, us one of the planets, described an annual course about the sun, while by a diurnal motion it was in the mean time revolved about its own axis; and that the sun, as the common fire which served to warm the whole, was fixed in the centre of the universe.
This was the philosophy taught of old by Philolaus, Aristarchus of Samos, Plato in his riper years, and the whole sect of the Pythagoreans; and this was the judgment of Anaximander, more ancient than any of them; and of that wise king of the Romans, Numa Pompilius, who, as a symbol of the figure of the world with the sun in the centre, erected a temple in honour of Vesta, of a round form, and ordained perpetual fire to be kept in the middle of it.
Interweaving physics, astronomy, chemistry, geology, and biology, this sweeping account tells Earth’s complete story, from the synthesis of chemical elements in stars, to the formation of the Solar System, to the evolution of a habitable climate on Earth, to the origin of life and humankind. The book also addresses the search for other habitable worlds in the Milky Way and contemplates whether Earth will remain habitable as our influence on global climate grows. It concludes by considering the ways in which humankind can sustain Earth’s habitability and perhaps even participate in further planetary evolution.
Like no other book, How to Build a Habitable Planet provides an understanding of Earth in its broadest context, as well as a greater appreciation of its possibly rare ability to sustain life over geologic time.
Leading schools that have ordered, recommended for reading, or adopted this book for course use:Arizona State University Brooklyn College CUNY Columbia University Cornell University ETH Zurich Georgia Institute of Technology Harvard University Johns Hopkins University Luther College Northwestern University Ohio State University Oxford Brookes University Pan American University Rutgers University State University of New York at Binghamton Texas A&M University Trinity College Dublin University of Bristol University of California-Los Angeles University of Cambridge University Of Chicago University of Colorado at Boulder University of Glasgow University of Leicester University of Maine, Farmington University of Michigan University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill University of North Georgia University of Nottingham University of Oregon University of Oxford University of Portsmouth University of Southampton University of Ulster University of Victoria University of Wyoming Western Kentucky University Yale University
Why do people believe bunk? And what causes them to embrace such pseudoscientific beliefs and practices? Noted skeptic Massimo Pigliucci sets out to separate the fact from the fantasy in this entertaining exploration of the nature of science, the borderlands of fringe science, and—borrowing a famous phrase from philosopher Jeremy Bentham—the nonsense on stilts. Presenting case studies on a number of controversial topics, Pigliucci cuts through the ambiguity surrounding science to look more closely at how science is conducted, how it is disseminated, how it is interpreted, and what it means to our society. The result is in many ways a “taxonomy of bunk” that explores the intersection of science and culture at large.
No one—not the public intellectuals in the culture wars between defenders and detractors of science nor the believers of pseudoscience themselves—is spared Pigliucci’s incisive analysis. In the end, Nonsense on Stilts is a timely reminder of the need to maintain a line between expertise and assumption. Broad in scope and implication, it is also ultimately a captivating guide for the intelligent citizen who wishes to make up her own mind while navigating the perilous debates that will affect the future of our planet.