Environmental tales

Introducing SN&R’s Green Days Book Club

Next week’s topic: Certified Humane.

Maybe you can relate. I have a secret love affair with books.

Good ones are wise, compelling and influential; they expand your breadth of knowledge and gently mold your opinions, though they don’t care how long you take to get their message. They’ll wait patiently until you are ready to do so. In a book you can find an instant friend when you thought you were alone, and you can unravel your heap of emotions in front of them as they strum chords others do not reach.

Born from my affection for books, I am pleased to introduce Green Days’ very own Book Club. Through hours of surfing the Web and scouring swaths of bookshelves in various cities, I’ve compiled the following collection of environmentally related books (and reviews) to read with you, my likeminded SN&R readers, neighbors and friends.

Here’s how the Book Club will work: Those of us interested will jointly select a book to read each month or so. Readers will have an opportunity to send in their comments and reviews to Green Days, which may be included in a future Green Days issue related to the book’s general topic (listed in parentheses below each book’s title.) This will be fun! Please cast your vote by sending me an e-mail at <script type="text/javascript" language="javascript"> </script> to select our “first read.”

Out of Eden: An Odyssey of Ecological Invasion by Alan Burdick (2005)

(Ecology of invasive species)

“If these creatures make new homes for themselves, they may eat other species into extinction, infect them with new diseases, even reconfigure an entire ecosystem. Burdick’s fascination with the science is contagious, and he does a superior job of conveying the salient points of classic experiments. The Discover senior editor is at his best following invasion ecologists—a lively bunch—as they do their gritty, often ambiguous research in Guam and Hawaii, along the margins of the San Francisco Bay and on the deck of an oil tanker.”

—Publishers Weekly

Hooked: Pirates, Poaching and the Perfect Fish by G. Bruce Knecht (2006)

(Commercial fishing and its environmental impacts)

Tom Brokaw says it best about this book that documents commercial fishing of the Chilean sea bass, an American seafood obsession. “Hooked is a fish story, a global whodunit, a courtroom drama and a critically important ecological message all rolled into one.” You’ll never look at a seafood menu the same again.

Better off: Flipping the Switch on Technology by Eric Brende (2005)

(Living simply)

“Helen and Scott Nearing are the great-grandparents of the back-to-the-land movement, having abandoned the city in 1932 for a rural life based on self-reliance, good health, and a minimum of cash … Fascinating, timely, and wholly useful, a mix of the Nearings’ challenging philosophy and expert counsel on practical skills.”

—Washington Post Book World

This Common Ground: Seasons on an Organic Farm by Scott Chaskey (2006)

(Organic farming)

“Poet Chaskey, former head of the organic Quail Hill Farm on Long Island’s South Fork, gives a sprightly account of ‘the education of a gardener become farmer, representing a committed community’ as well as ‘the challenges faced by all small farms, enlivened by a wind from the sea.’ As this chronicle of a year at Quail Hill shows, Chaskey loves the way of life at the farm—a cousin to the more than 1,500 CSA (community supported agriculture) farms now in the U.S., dedicated to community and providing locally grown produce.”

Publishers Weekly

Birds of Heaven by Peter Matthiessen (2003)

(Ornithology and biological indicators)

“Matthiessen’s search for 15 different species of cranes has taken him to hidden corners of Siberia, China, Mongolia, Tibet, Sudan, and Australia. … Despite his many years of adventure and wide travels, each crane sighting is still a thrill for him, and his curiosity and contagious enthusiasm bring the book alive.” But The Birds of Heaven also serves as an ecological warning: “Perhaps more than any other living creatures, they evoke the retreating wilderness, the vanishing horizons of clean water, earth, and air upon which their species—and ours, too, though we learn it very late—must ultimately depend for survival.”

—Shawn Carkonen, Amazon.com

Rachel Carson: Witness for Nature by Linda Lear (1998)

(Rachel Carson’s biography)

“So little has been known about Carson that every page of Lear’s chronicle of her quest to help us recognize and protect the sanctity and oneness of life is full of revelations. Lear traces the path of Carson’s determined, self-sacrificing life from her nature-struck youth to her dream of becoming a writer, her focus on science instead of literature in college, her unusual career as a government scientist, and, coming full circle, her transformation into a ‘literary sensation.’ … Sadly, Carson was never able to fully enjoy her achievements, bedeviled, as she was, by complex family responsibilities and illness. Carson gave her life to save ours, and now, thanks to Lear, we can fully appreciate her sacrifices and her triumphs.”

—Donna Seaman, Booklist.

Strategic Ignorance: Why the Bush Administration is Recklessly Destroying a Century of Environmental Progress by Carl Pope and Paul Rauber (2006)

(Politics and the environment)

“What we are witnessing now … is something larger even than the gutting of the Clean Air Act, abandonment of endangered species, selling out public lands to loggers and oilmen, and allowing polluting industries to write the regulations. … In place of government as the steward and protector of our nation’s natural heritage, Bush and his political allies want to restore the nineteenth-century tradition of government as coconspirator in the economic exploitation of that heritage. Their sights are firmly set on dismantling a century of environmental progress. Brilliantly argued and full of damning evidence from the Bush administration’s environmental record, Strategic Ignorance sets forth what the American public can and must do to bring a halt to Bush’s radical experiment.”

—Sierra Club

Safe Trip to Eden by David Steinman (2006)

(Overall environmental sustainability)

Travel with David Steinman, Publisher of Healthy Living magazine, across America on a journey in search of something rare: the unbiased, dressed down, plain-as-day truth about the state of our environment. Steinman examines global issues, such as deforestation, agriculture and terrorism, through an infusion of solutions from the everyday choices consumers, or “green patriots,” can make to new government environmental policies. Packed into one book, Steinman brings readers a moving story, encounters with people who have suffered from environmental tragedies, profiles of the top green companies and a resource guide to environmentally friendly products.

Blue Frontier: Dispatches from America’s Ocean Wilderness by David Helvarg (2006)

(Health of our oceans)

“Helvarg has seamlessly updated his immensely readable texts to cover new hurricanes (Katrina among them), rising sea levels, a radical pro-development federal government, growth of an ecological ‘Dead Zone’ in the Gulf of Mexico, catastrophic blooms of hazardous organisms in rivers and estuaries and the collapse of fisheries. Interwoven are useful histories of the offshore oil industry, ocean policy in Congress and marine research institutes. Each chapter explores the links between the corruption of our political system and the destruction of critically important coastal resources. Helvarg’s love for the sea and its natural inhabitants pervades the text, giving his precise catalog of environmental horrors an affecting poetic streak and a closing note of optimism, as he discusses marine sanctuaries and ongoing grassroots efforts to rehabilitate damaged coasts and preserve healthy ones.”

—Publishers Weekly