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review 2018-10-01 07:42
Growing a Revolution by David R. Montgomery
Growing a Revolution: Bringing Our Soil Back to Life - David Montgomery

TITLE:  Growing a Revolution: Bringing Our Soil Back to Life


AUTHOR:  David R. Montgomery




FORMAT:  Paperback


ISBN-13:  9780393356090



"For centuries, agricultural practices have eroded the soil that farming depends on, stripping it of the organic matter vital to its productivity. Now conventional agriculture is threatening disaster for the world’s growing population. In Growing a Revolution, geologist David R. Montgomery travels the world, meeting farmers at the forefront of an agricultural movement to restore soil health. From Kansas to Ghana, he sees why adopting the three tenets of conservation agriculture—ditching the plow, planting cover crops, and growing a diversity of crops—is the solution. When farmers restore fertility to the land, this helps feed the world, cool the planet, reduce pollution, and return profitability to family farms."



In this book, we follow the author on an investigation of various agricultural methods all over the globe to see what works and which methods rejuvinate depleted soils.  This is a rather pleasant book to read - no doom and gloom.  The author is optimistic about humanity's ability to feed itself provided the methods described in this book are followed.  No fancy technology or equipment is necessary.  It doesn't matter if you are an organic produce farmer or a conventional farmer, farm with animals or plants, have a huge farm in the USA or a small family farm in Africa, the principles described in this book make farming profitable, improve the soil, reduce erosion, retain water, minimize weeds, reduce input costs in terms of fertilizer, herbicide and pesticide.  These principles can in all likelihood be modified to the home garden too.

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review 2018-08-12 11:59
Seaweed Chronicles by Susan Hand Shetterly
Seaweed Chronicles: A World at the Water’s Edge - Susan Hand Shetterly

TITLE:  Seaweed Chronicles:  A World at the Water's Edge


AUTHOR:  Susan Hand Shetterly




FORMAT:  hardcover


ISBN-13:  9781616205744



"“Seaweed is ancient and basic, a testament to the tenacious beginnings of life on earth,” writes Susan Hand Shetterly in this elegant, fascinating book. “Why wouldn’t seaweeds be a protean life source for the lives that have evolved since?” On a planet facing environmental change and diminishing natural resources, seaweed is increasingly important as a source of food and as a fundamental part of our global ecosystem.

In Seaweed Chronicles, Shetterly takes readers deep into the world of this essential organism by providing an immersive, often poetic look at life on the rugged shores of her beloved Gulf of Maine, where the growth and harvesting of seaweed is becoming a major industry. While examining the life cycle of seaweed and its place in the environment, she tells the stories of the men and women who farm and harvest it—and who are fighting to protect this critical species against forces both natural and man-made. Ideal for readers of such books as The Hidden Life of Trees and How to Read Water, Seaweed Chronicles is a deeply informative look at a little understood and too often unappreciated part of our habitat."


Seaweed Chronicles explores the harvest of seaweed in the Gulf of Maine.  This book is about relationships - relationships between the local people, large scale commerce, conservationists, seaweed, and all the species that depend on seaweed in one way or another.  Shetterly provides us with the personal stories of individual people who work and live at the shore, about the local ecology, about the past, present and ultimately about the future.  I found the book eloquently written, interesting and informative, but lacking in detail about the biology of seaweed as opposed to seaweed harvesting.  Photographs and a locality map would also have been nice.



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review 2018-07-30 07:00
In Search of the Canary Tree by Lauren E. Oakes
In Search of the Canary Tree: The Story of a Scientist, a Cypress, and a Changing World - Lauren Oakes

TITLE:  In Search of the Canary Tree: The Story of a Scientist, a Cypress, and a Changing World

AUTHOR:   Lauren E. Oakes



27 November 2018




ISBN-13:  9781541697126


NOTE: I received an Advanced Readers Copy of this book from NetGalley. This review is my honest opinion of the book.



Book Description:

"The surprisingly hopeful story of one woman's search for resiliency in a warming world

Several years ago, ecologist Lauren E. Oakes set out from California for Alaska's old-growth forests to hunt for a dying tree: the yellow-cedar. With climate change as the culprit, the death of this species meant loss for many Alaskans. Oakes and her research team wanted to chronicle how plants and people could cope with their rapidly changing world. Amidst the standing dead, she discovered the resiliency of forgotten forests, flourishing again in the wake of destruction, and a diverse community of people who persevered to create new relationships with the emerging environment. Eloquent, insightful, and deeply heartening, In Search of the Canary Tree is a case for hope in a warming world. "



In Search of the Canary Tree is not so much a popular science book about a specific topic, but rather the author’s personal experiences while doing research for her PhD project in Alaska.  In the author’s own words:  "This book is about a species - a tree called Callitropsis nootkatensis, how I fell under its spell, and how it inspired my search for people and plants thriving amidst change.  It chronicles my effort to answer what happens in the wake of yellow-cedar death, not only to uncover the future of these old-growth forests, but to share lessons that apply to people on other parts of the planet.  It is a book about finding faith, not of any religious variety, but as a force that summons local solutions to a global problem, that helps me live joyfully and choose what matters most in seemingly dark times.  If we start looking at the local picture and the ways in which we all depend on nature in various ways every day, solutions emerge.  I witnessed this in Alaska".


The book starts off slowly but picks up pace.  The book is a nicely-written, accessible, personable, informative, and rather intimate view of what one scientist actually did for her research project, the people that influenced her, what her findings were and how this affected her personally. 


If you are only looking for scientific information, this book is not for you.  If you want a more personal relationship with the scientists behind the number crunching, then you may enjoy this book.

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review 2018-06-26 11:36
Burning Planet by Andrew C. Scott
Burning Planet: The Story of Fire Through Time - Andrew Scott

TITLE:  Burning Planet:  The Story of Fire


AUTHOR:  Andrew C. Scott




FORMAT:  ebook


ISBN-13:  978-0-19-873484-0



In this book, Scott examines the nature and history of fire, from the inception of the Earth to present times.  He also takes a look at how humans interact with fire and the difficulty in determining a defining national fire policy.  The author covers such topics as the impact of natural and man-made fire on the Earth's atmosphere, climate, ecology, vegetation, the evolution of flora and fauna (e.g. the possible causes of mass extinctions and the spread of flowering plants and grasslands), and how early hominids tamed and used fire.  A lot of fossilized charcoal and charcoalified (I didn't know this was a word!) plants make an appearance in this book, accompanied by numerous diagrams, photographs, and graphs.  Scott also briefly discusses the current impacts and management of wildfires.  The book is clearly written without numerous, lengthy, tedious, biographical or travelogue side tangents.  The information contained within these pages is interesting and the diagrams extremely useful in understanding the information conveyed.



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review 2018-06-18 08:27
The End of the Long Summer by Dianne Dumanoski
The End of the Long Summer: Why We Must Remake Our Civilization to Survive on a Volatile Earth - Dianne Dumanoski

TITLE:  The End of the Long Summer:  Why We Must Remake Our Civilization to Survive on a Volatile Earth


AUTHOR:  Dianne Dumanoski




FORMAT:  Paperback


ISBN-13:  978-0-307-39609-9



From the blurb:

"For the past twelve thousand years, Earth’s stable climate has allowed human civilization to flourish. But this long benign summer is an anomaly in the Earth’s history and one that is rapidly coming to a close. The radical experiment of our modern industrial civilization is now disrupting our planet’s very metabolism; our future hinges in large part on how Earth responds. Climate change is already bearing down, hitting harder and faster than expected. The greatest danger is not extreme yet discrete weather events, such as Hurricane Katrina or the calamitous wildfires that now plague California, but profound and systemic disruptions on a global scale. Contrary to the pervasive belief that climate change will be a gradual escalator ride into balmier temperatures, the Earth’s climate system has a history of radical shifts–dramatic shocks that could lead to the collapse of social and economic systems.

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.




This is a clearly written and well-organized book that that describes how our current planetary civilization must  transition to the "Planetary Era." This is the era in which we are currently living, in which the human species forced Earth's living planetary system beyond its normal operating range, and in which we must face the future together as a global community.  Dianne Dumanoski explains how climate change, pollution, ozone layer destruction, species loss etc are all just symptoms of a larger problem, and suggests means to restructure human society to cope with fast-changing planetary systems. 


Dumanoski discusses everythig from the Ozone Hole issue, ice core data, historic climate change, the rise of civilization, geoengineering, and the vulnerability and apathy of governments to plan for the future.  She also discusses the survivability of human civiilization in a changing world.


I found the book interesting, with minimal hand-wringing by the author.  This is one of the few climate change books that I've come across that deals with the larger picture, looks at where we stand realsitically, and has a long term (though not easy) solution to human survival.


"...in bringing the long summer to a premature close and engaging with vast planetary systems, we have opened the door to nature's return as a major, perhaps decisive force in human history." - Dianne Dumanoski.


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