While visiting the Festival of the Cranes at the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, I naturally peeked in to the visitors center and the little shop operated by the Friends of the Bosque located there. Experience has taught me that very often these little refuge shops can be excellent locations to discover some very interesting books addressing the natural history of the local area – and indeed, this was the case here. While there were literally dozens of books seen on the shelves that were worthy of note, those that follow particularly caught my attention. Keep reading…
Recent Book Reviews
Unless you’re a scuba diver or have access to a diving bell, the only in-the-wild view you’re likely to get of the world’s oceans is from above their respective surfaces. Consequently, views of the free living creatures in those oceans will also only be from above the surface of the waters. So when it comes to field guides, while detailed, fully illustrated volumes depicting the marine mammals, fish, and myriad other denizens of the deep are both fascinating for the general reader and essential for the professional one, the vast majority of us – should we find ourselves wishing to identify an ocean-dwelling creature we saw during a pelagic nature trip or vacation cruise – need a field guide written with the specific purpose of depicting just what we might actually see above the surface of the water. Fortunately, thanks to the work of Steve N.G. Howell and Brian L. Sullivan, not just one but two new guides expressly for this purpose have recently been published by Princeton University Press: the Offshore Sea Life ID Guide; West Coast and the Offshore Sea Life ID Guide; East Coast. Keep reading…
Of all the passages from all the novels I’ve read in my forty-seven years, Margret Schlegel’s brilliant call in E.M. Forster’s Howard’s End for the uniting of the seemingly disparate parts of human existence continues with me most strongly whenever I am faced with a problem that could be easily solved if the opposing forces could “Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon. Only connect the prose and the passion and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer.”
I have also long thought that such an idea could lead to the solution to a number of modern social, political, and ecological problems – if the opposing sides could “only connect” the things they had in common perhaps the single problem that plagued them most could in itself be solved. As one raised religious and with a strong affinity for the natural world, I have long been particularly curious why so many of the world’s religious and so many of the world’s conservationists have so long seemed to be at odds. Keep reading…
Newly Noted Books
Of all the national wildlife refuges in the United States, the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge has one of the more curious – as well as little known – pasts. It is also home to the largest number of endangered species of any refuge in the national wildlife refuge system.
As one who was raised in an area where an extractive industry – in my case logging – was a key part of the local economy, I have long been familiar with the toll such industries can take on the land and the landscape if not practiced with a larger view to the sustained health kept clearly in mind.
Of all the fields of popular natural history, few are as challenging for newcomers to “find the door into” as astronomy. While most everyone with at least one good eye can look up at the sky and enjoy the visual beauty of the moon and stars, going beyond this is, for most, bewildering.
What with All Hallows Eve being just a day away, many of us are knee-deep in imagery of things – both real and imaginary – that go bump in the night, presumably with nefarious intentions. Of these a sizable portion are depictions of bats. However rather than being the malicious harbingers of doom they are generally portrayed to be, bats are in fact both fascinating and ecologically essential creatures.
While petroleum was the dominant natural resource influencing world events throughout the 20th century, by most indications, the one poised to usurp its position in the 21st – to be the source of geopolitical conflict and unrestrained economic exploitation – is water. While you’re mulling that one over, consider as well just how much you actually know about it. If you’re like most people, you’ve likely not given it much thought beyond secondary school science classes.
Strolling near the Bloomsbury display at the British BirdFair, it was impossible to miss seeing the vividly-colored Bluethroat adorning the cover of Peter Clement’s then forthcoming book Robins and Chats. Not surprisingly, it was generally surrounded by inquisitive birders eager for a look at it and inquiring when it would be released for sale.
Recently I’ve become dissatisfied with my knowledge of trees. I’m not entirely certain what has caused these feelings at this point in my life – I just find myself looking at a tree and becoming irritated with myself if I can’t identify it.
Therefore I’ve begun a course of study in the trees in my local area; an activity made much easier than it otherwise would be thanks to the superb book Trees to Know in Oregon by Ed Jensen as published by Oregon State University Press Extension Service.
The Well-equipped Naturalist
For as long as I’ve ventured afield in search of whatever nature might wish to show me, I’ve gone fully vested. That is to say, I’ve worn a field vest. Not that I have anything against day packs or shoulder bags, mind you; I just find that vests (or as my British friends call them, waistcoats) allow me to carry what I need in a way that allows me easy access to all of it while still letting me move about with a feeling of being unencumbered.
It was on this date in 1859 that Charles Darwin entered the words “all copies ie 1250 sold first day” in his journal. He was writing, of course, about his then just published book On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection – the book that would become the most famous of all his many works, would spark debates that still rage to this very day, and would end up being far more talked about than actually read.
Gaia Vince’s Adventures in the Anthropocene; a Journey to the Heart of the Planet We Made (Milkweed Editions / Chatto & Windus) has been awarded the 2015 Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books.
In their decision, the Winton Prize judges said, “Vince’s passion and strong voice grabs you instantly and the story she tells is truly original. A finely-crafted book on an important, urgent topic.”