what we’re reading this month
Fuzz | When nature breaks the rules | Mary Roach
What’s to be done about a jaywalking moose? A bear caught breaking and entering? A murderous tree? Three hundred years ago, animals that broke the law would be assigned legal representation and put on trial. These days, as New York Times best-selling author Mary Roach discovers, the answers are best found not in jurisprudence but in science: the curious science of human-wildlife conflict, a discipline at the crossroads of human behavior and wildlife biology.Roach tags along with animal-attack forensics investigators, human-elephant conflict specialists, bear managers, and danger tree faller blasters. Intrepid as ever, she travels from leopard-terrorized hamlets in the Indian Himalaya to St. Peter’s Square in the early hours before the pope arrives for Easter Mass, when vandal gulls swoop in to destroy the elaborate floral display. She taste-tests rat bait, learns how to install a vulture effigy, and gets mugged by a macaque.Combining little-known forensic science and conservation genetics with a motley cast of laser scarecrows, langur impersonators, and trespassing squirrels, Roach reveals as much about humanity as about nature’s lawbreakers. When it comes to problem wildlife, she finds, humans are more often the problem–and the solution. Fascinating, witty, and humane, Fuzz offers hope for compassionate coexistence in our ever-expanding human habitat.
An Immense World | How animal senses reveal the hidden realms around us | Ed Yong
The Earth teems with sights and textures, sounds and vibrations, smells and tastes, electric and magnetic fields. In An Immense World, Ed Yong coaxes us beyond the confines of our own senses to encounter beetles that are drawn to fires, turtles that can track the Earth’s magnetic fields, fish that fill rivers with electrical messages, and even humans who wield sonar like bats. We discover that a crocodile’s scaly face is as sensitive as a lover’s fingertips, that the eyes of a giant squid evolved to see sparkling whales, that plants thrum with the inaudible songs of courting bugs, and that even simple scallops have complex vision. We learn what bees see in flowers, what songbirds hear in their tunes, and what dogs smell on the street. We listen to stories of pivotal discoveries in the field, while looking ahead at the many mysteries that remain unsolved.Funny, rigorous, and suffused with the joy of discovery, An Immense World takes us on what Marcel Proust called “the only true voyage . . . not to visit strange lands, but to possess other eyes.”
Anthill | E.O Wilson
Winner of the 2010 Heartland Prize, Anthill follows the thrilling adventures of a modern-day Huck Finn, enthralled with the “strange, beautiful, and elegant” world of his native Nokobee County. But as developers begin to threaten the endangered marshlands around which he lives, the book’s hero decides to take decisive action. Edward O. Wilson–the world’s greatest living biologist–elegantly balances glimpses of science with the gripping saga of a boy determined to save the world from its most savage ecological predator: man himself.
Sand Talk | How Indigenous Thinking Can Save the World | Tyson Yunkaporta
A paradigm-shifting book in the vein of Sapiens that brings a crucial Indigenous perspective to historical and cultural issues of history, education, money, power, and sustainability–and offers a new template for living. As an indigenous person, Tyson Yunkaporta looks at global systems from a unique perspective, one tied to the natural and spiritual world. In considering how contemporary life diverges from the pattern of creation, he raises important questions. How does this affect us? How can we do things differently?In this thoughtful, culturally rich, mind-expanding book, he provides answers. Yunkaporta’s writing process begins with images. Honoring indigenous traditions, he makes carvings of what he wants to say, channeling his thoughts through symbols and diagrams rather than words. He yarns with people, looking for ways to connect images and stories with place and relationship to create a coherent world view, and he uses sand talk, the Aboriginal custom of drawing images on the ground to convey knowledge. In Sand Talk, he provides a new model for our everyday lives. Rich in ideas and inspiration, it explains how lines and symbols and shapes can help us make sense of the world. It’s about how we learn and how we remember. It’s about talking to everyone and listening carefully. It’s about finding different ways to look at things. Most of all it’s about a very special way of thinking, of learning to see from a native perspective, one that is spiritually and physically tied to the earth around us, and how it can save our world. Sand Talk include 22 black-and-white illustrations that add depth to the text.
Extraordinary insects | The Fabulous, Indispensable Creatures Who Run Our World | Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson
Insects comprise roughly half of the animal kingdom. They live everywhere—deep inside caves, 18,000 feet high in the Himalayas, inside computers, in Yellowstone’s hot springs, and in the ears and nostrils of much larger creatures. There are insects that have ears on their knees, eyes on their penises, and tongues under their feet. Most of us think life would be better without bugs. In fact, life would be impossible without them.Most of us know that we would not have honey without honeybees, but without the pinhead-sized chocolate midge, cocoa flowers would not pollinate. No cocoa, no chocolate. The ink that was used to write the Declaration of Independence was derived from galls on oak trees, which are induced by a small wasp. The fruit fly was essential to medical and biological research experiments that resulted in six Nobel prizes. Blowfly larva can clean difficult wounds; flour beetle larva can digest plastic; several species of insects have been essential to the development of antibiotics. Insects turn dead plants and animals into soil. They pollinate flowers, including crops that we depend on. They provide food for other animals, such as birds and bats. They control organisms that are harmful to humans. Life as we know it depends on these small creatures.
For the health of the Land | Previously Unpublished Essays and Other Writings | Aldo Leopold
Aldo Leopold’s classic work A Sand County Almanac is widely regarded as one of the most influential conservation books of all time. In it, Leopold sets forth an eloquent plea for the development of a land ethic — a belief that humans have a duty to interact with the soils, waters, plants, and animals that collectively comprise the land in ways that ensure their well-being and survival. For the Health of the Land, a new collection of rare and previously unpublished essays by Leopold, builds on that vision of ethical land use and develops the concept of land health and the practical measures landowners can take to sustain it. The writings are vintage Leopold — clear, sensible, and provocative, sometimes humorous, often lyrical, and always inspiring. Joining them together are a wisdom and a passion that transcend the time and place of the author’s life. The book offers a series of forty short pieces, arranged in seasonal almanac form, along with longer essays, arranged chronologically, which show the development of Leopold’s approach to managing private lands for conservation ends. The final essay is a never before published work, left in pencil draft at his death, which proposes the concept of land health as an organizing principle for conservation. Also featured is an introduction by noted Leopold scholars J. Baird Callicott and Eric T. Freyfogle that provides a brief biography of Leopold and places the essays in the context of his life and work, and an afterword by conservation biologist Stanley A. Temple that comments on Leopold’s ideas from the perspective of modern wildlife management. The book’s conservation message and practical ideas are as relevant today as they were when first written over fifty years ago. For the Health of the Land represents a stunning new addition to the literary legacy of Aldo Leopold.
Kinship | belonging in a world of relations | 5 volume set
For readers of Braiding Sweetgrass and The Overstory From The Center for Humans and Nature, a collection in five volumes: essays, interviews, poetry, and stories of solidarity that highlight the interdependence that exists between humans and nonhuman beings We live in an astounding world of relations. We share these ties that bind with our fellow humans–and we share these relations with nonhuman beings as well. From the bacterium swimming in your belly to the trees exhaling the breath you breathe, this community of life is our kin–and, for many cultures around the world, being human is based upon this extended sense of kinship.Kinship: Belonging in a World of Relations is a lively series that explores our deep interconnections with the living world. More than 70 contributors–including Robin Wall Kimmerer, Richard Powers, David Abram, J. Drew Lanham, and Sharon Blackie–invite readers into cosmologies, narratives, and everyday interactions that embrace a more-than-human world as worthy of our response and responsibility. These diverse voices render a wide range of possibilities for becoming better kin.Contents:
- Planet What are the sources of our deepest evolutionary and planetary connections, and of our profound longing for kinship?
- Place To what extent does crafting a deeper connection with the Earth’s bioregions reinvigorate a sense of kinship with the place-based beings, systems, and communities that mutually shape one another?
- Partners How do relations between and among different species foster a sense of responsibility and belonging in us?
- Persons Which experiences expand our understanding of being human in relation to other-than-human beings?
- Practice What are the practical, everyday, and lifelong ways we become kin?
From the recognition of nonhumans as persons to the care of our kinfolk through language and action, Kinship: Belonging in a World of Relations is a guide and companion into the ways we can deepen our care and respect for the family of plants, rivers, mountains, animals, and others who live with us in this exuberant, life-generating, planetary tangle of relations. Proceeds from sales of Kinship benefit the nonprofit, non-partisan Center for Humans and Nature, which partners with some of the brightest minds to explore human responsibilities to each other and the more-than-human world. The Center brings together philosophers, ecologists, artists, political scientists, anthropologists, poets and economists, among others, to think creatively about a resilient future for the whole community of life.
The turtle of michigan | naomi shihab nye
The stand-alone companion to National Book Award Finalist and beloved poet Naomi Shihab Nye’s The Turtle of Oman. The Turtle of Michigan is a deft and accessible novel that follows a young boy named Aref as he travels from Muscat, Oman, to Ann Arbor, Michigan, and adjusts to a new life and a new school in the United States. A wonderful pick for young middle grade readers and fans of Other Words for Home and Billy Miller Makes a Wish.
Aref is excited for his journey to reunite with his father in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Aref makes a friend on an airplane, wonders what Michigan will be like, and starts school in the United States. While he does miss his grandfather, his Sidi, Aref knows that his home in Oman will always be waiting for him.
Award-winning author Naomi Shihab Nye’s highly anticipated sequel to The Turtle of Oman explores immigration, family, and what it means to feel at home. Carrying a suitcase and memories of Oman, Aref experiences the excitement and nervousness that accompanies moving to a new home. The Turtle of Michigan is a great choice for reading aloud and a must-have for younger middle grade readers.
Illustrated in black-and-white throughout.
Love letter to the earth | thich nhat hanh
While many experts point to the enormous complexity in addressing issues ranging from the destruction of ecosystems to the loss of millions of species, Thich Nhat Hanh identifies one key issue as having the potential to create a tipping point. He believes that we need to move beyond the concept of the environment, as it leads people to experience themselves and Earth as two separate entities and to see the planet only in terms of what it can do for them. Thich Nhat Hanh points to the lack of meaning and connection in peoples’ lives as being the cause of our addiction to consumerism. He deems it vital that we recognize and respond to the stress we are putting on the Earth if civilization is to survive. Rejecting the conventional economic approach, Nhat Hanh shows that mindfulness and a spiritual revolution are needed to protect nature and limit climate change.Love Letter to the Earth is a hopeful book that gives us a path to follow by showing that change is possible only with the recognition that people and the planet are ultimately one and the same.
Regeneration: ending the climate crisis in one generation | Paul Hawken
Regeneration offers a visionary new approach to climate change, one that weaves justice, climate, biodiversity, equity, and human dignity into a seamless tapestry of action, policy, and transformation that can end the climate crisis in one generation. It is the first book to describe and define the burgeoning regeneration movement spreading rapidly throughout the world.Regeneration describes how an inclusive movement can engage the majority of humanity to save the world from the threat of global warming, with climate solutions that directly serve our children, the poor, and the excluded. This means we must address current human needs, not future existential threats, real as they are, with initiatives that include but go well beyond solar, electric vehicles, and tree planting to include such solutions as the fifteen-minute city, bioregions, azolla fern, food localization, fire ecology, decommodification, forests as farms, and the number one solution for the world: electrifying everything.Paul Hawken and the nonprofit Regeneration Organization are launching a series of initiatives to accompany the book, including a streaming video series, curriculum, podcasts, teaching videos, and climate action software. Regeneration is the inspiring and necessary guide to inform the rapidly spreading climate movement.
Finding the mother tree | Suzanne Simard
From the world’s leading forest ecologist who forever changed how people view trees and their connections to one another and to other living things in the forest–a moving, deeply personal journey of discovery. Suzanne Simard is a pioneer on the frontier of plant communication and intelligence; she’s been compared to Rachel Carson, hailed as a scientist who conveys complex, technical ideas in a way that is dazzling and profound. Her work has influenced filmmakers (the Tree of Souls of James Cameron’s Avatar) and her TED talks have been viewed by more than 10 million people worldwide.Now, in her first book, Simard brings us into her world, the intimate world of the trees, in which she brilliantly illuminates the fascinating and vital truths–that trees are not simply the source of timber or pulp, but are a complicated, interdependent circle of life; that forests are social, cooperative creatures connected through underground networks by which trees communicate their vitality and vulnerabilities with communal lives not that different from our own.
Half earth | E.O Wilson
In his most urgent book to date, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and world-renowned biologist Edward O. Wilson states that in order to stave off the mass extinction of species, including our own, we must move swiftly to preserve the biodiversity of our planet. In this “visionary blueprint for saving the planet” (Stephen Greenblatt), Half-Earth argues that the situation facing us is too large to be solved piecemeal and proposes a solution commensurate with the magnitude of the problem: dedicate fully half the surface of the Earth to nature. Identifying actual regions of the planet that can still be reclaimed–such as the California redwood forest, the Amazon River basin, and grasslands of the Serengeti, among others–Wilson puts aside the prevailing pessimism of our times and “speaks with a humane eloquence which calls to us all” (Oliver Sacks).