Down from the Mountain: The Life and Death of a Grizzly Bear retraces the life of a grizzly sow and her two cubs, as they are drawn to a valley filled with apples and corn, and where the mother will eventually be shot, orphaning the cubs. The best parts of the book describe the life of wild animals, and the beautiful setting of the Montana valley where they live. The author’s aim is to illustrate how farming ultimately puts animals at risk, and indeed he spends a big chunk of the book describing his efforts to build an electric fence to protect a farmer’s corn field. His recommendations, that we stop farming in grizzly territory, seem both logical and impractical.
Tag Archives: environment
Written by a biologist, Buzz: The Nature and Necessity of Bees starts with arthropod fear (clearly not a problem for the author!) and covers how wasps became vegetarian, hence bees, the vast differences between honeybees and wild bees, and how bees of both types are used in agriculture, with intriguing descriptions of hand-pollination of data palms and attempts to attract more local bees for California almond trees. But the sweetest moments may be his descriptions of looking for bees, whether at home or at a “bee camp” on the US/Mexico border.
Like a good mystery? You will enjoy the very real story told in The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century, bringing together a brazen museum theft, a close-knit community of fly-fishing nerds, and a dedicated amateur detective who uncovers not the theft itself (that was done by the UK police) but the network of buyers who took advantage of it. It’s a thrilling entry into a world where possessing rare feathers blinds otherwise respectable people to not only thievery but also evasion of international law and willful destruction of scientific specimens. Fascinating even if you don’t care about bird, let alone fly-making!
Champion: The Comeback Tale of the American Chestnut Tree is a book with modest aim, pitched towards young readers but highly enjoyable for adults, of the science and politics behind the revival of the American chestnut tree. After a fungus infestation, scientists identified the issue and painstakingly crossed the species with others to create a resistant tree. Inspiring!
Replenish: The Virtuous Cycle of Water and Prosperity takes us to various corners of the world to examine projects to restore wetlands (and thereby revitalize cities along a previously dried-out river), to preserve natural filtration basins instead of costly water-treatment plants, to remove dikes to (counter-intuitively) lessen floods, to manage cattle grazing to restore farmland, and to reuse wastewater that would otherwise pollute oceans. Lots of good ideas, and we hope that government officials and city planners are listening…
The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative wants to convince us that contact with nature makes us better people. The journalist-author takes us on adventures around the world to prove her case, and it’s not difficult to believe that silence, calm, and beautiful vistas help make us calmer and happier. What’s not so easy to show is how to incorporate more nature in increasingly urban lives. We can only hope that city planners take heed of the benefits of squeezing in as much nature as possible into their designs.
Even if you don’t particularly care about wolves, and even if you cannot picture the Yellowstone Park vistas that feature prominently in the book, I bet you will love American Wolf: A True Story of Survival and Obsession in the West. It follows a female wolf named “06” so as not to anthropomorphize her, but the author quickly lapses into portraying her and her pack as very real characters, so we root for her all the way to her death, when she is shot by a hunter. The story of the pack is interspersed with stories of the legal disputes around reintroducing wolves into the park, and descriptions of the rapid changes to the environment brought about by the arrival of that keystone species, but the real story is that of the pack. There’s also a sympathetic and delightful portrait of a park employee who observed wolves for decades, every day, and shared his knowledge with visitors (and, likely, drove his supervisors crazy!)
It reminded me of another inspiring book about wolves, A Wolf Called Romeo.