Category Archives: Earth

Rewilding the World by Caroline Fraser

Rewilding the World: Dispatches from the Conservation Revolution

by Caroline Fraser

Metropolitian Books, New York, 2009

Borrowed from the library.

Rewilding is large-scale conservation based around the idea of cores, corridors and carnivores.  This means restoring and protecting large areas of wilderness, like national or state parks,  providing connectivity between these areas through corridors or checkerboard grids and reintroducing and/or protecting top predators and keystone species.

Fraser’s book is an excellent introducing to this method of conservation biology.  Starting with a description  of the Yukon to Yellowstone initiative,  she traveled the world in search of  rewilding projects.

A wildlife crossing structure on the Trans-Canada Highway in Banff National Park, Canada. Wildlife-friendly overpasses and underpasses have helped restore connectivity in the landscape for wolves, bears, elk, and other species. Image from Wikipedia.

Some are working and some are not, ofter due to politics and too much burocracy.  These are all exciting projects but the one that most intrigues me is the European Green Belt which is being built along the former Iron Curtain.

European Green Belt. Photo by Klaus Leidorf.

Interestingly the projects that seem to be progressing and expanding are those that stretch across boundaries and borders.

Because this book  was due back at the library I had to rush through the last half of it.  I intend to search for a used copy to add to my personal library, reading about all the attempts to bring things back into balance definitely lifted my spirits.


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Filed under Animals, Earth, IYOBChallenge, Nature, Science Books 2010

Seven Tenths: The Sea and Its Tresholds by James Hamilton-Patterson

Seven Tenths: The Sea and Its Thresholds

by James Hamilton-Patterson

Europa Editions, New York,  2009

Borrowed from the library.

I first read James Hamilton-Patterson in Granta, one of my few literary indulgences.   It was years ago, an article about the sea and it stayed with me.  When I saw this book on the “New Book” shelf at the library I had to grab it.  Since reading it I have purchased my own copy.

First published in 1992, Seven Tenths is a survey of the ocean world written by someone who treasures it and who has spent years exploring its depths.   Beautifully written, it is a  mix of poetry and science, fact and myth, filled with superb imagery.

It was whale song which mariners heard filtering through their vessels’ resonant wooden hulls and which they took for Sirens’ voices, beckoning them to disaster..  To have lain in one’s bunk at night and heard on the other side of a few inches of oak and copper sheathing those directionless, distanceless cries must have been to feel the chill of utter melancholy and dissolution–also to have felt one’s nakedness.  This is the effect of listening to reef sounds at night, too.  It is more that just the nakedness of wearing next to nothing, and it is more than vulnerability.  It is the sensation of animal messages passing through one as if, being seven-tenths water, one’s body were transparent.  From page 138.

Broken into sections, it speaks of  measurement and control, mysterious islands, unknown boundaries and the deep.  Each section contains stories of our misconceptions about the oceans,  about our fears and our need to understand the unknowable.  It is filled with unusual facts and the interesting people who work on and under the sea.   Hamilton-Patterson writes with joyous excitement and great love.

That night I go to bed with my head full of marvels.  In the course of the evening I also learned that the sea levels at either end of the Panama Canal are different by nearly half a meter, and the same went for the sea on either side of the Florida Peninsula.  This was caused by such things as the heaping effect of the wind and the Coriolis force.  But I am most captivated by the idea of the earth’s crust vibrating at an ascertainable frequency since it could theoretically be possible to calculate the precise note.  True, it probably would not be a pure tone because there would be all sorts of harmonic interference from irregularities such as mountain ranges.  Yet, it ought to be possible to determine the fundamental note of the planet, the music of our spheroid.  From page 33.

I have never seen phosphorescence as bright as on that night.  Leaning over the edge of the bangka I could follow every move of the searchers below.  Only, the whirligigs of sparks, the flashings and showers of cold fire were at depths which could not be determined.  Just as the glints and refractions in the best opals can appear deeper than the thickness of the stone itself or else closer than its surface, so the divers movements excited discharges of light which were either a few feet away or in a universe beyond.  It was vertiginous to gaze down because the view was more what one normally expected to see overhead.  On nights as dark as that, it is always hard to define the horizon, to separate black sky from black sea.  From page 325.

All of these sections are bound together by the description of a swimmer lost at sea.  This description expresses the feelings of fear, loss, loneliness and wonder felt by a person floating in the middle of the ocean.

I found myself awestruck reading about our historic misunderstanding of the sea’s great depths, and our desire to make sense of it.  The very human need to mark and measure, to claim some mastery, and if we couldn’t master it to at least have some semblance of control.  I could go on quoting passages of fine text for pages and pages.

Hamilton-Patterson has written a meditation on the sea, and a warning to all those who seek economic and political gain from these waters.  There are descriptions of the mapping of Economic Enterprise Zones around islands and continents, the destruction of a small Indonesian island for the enjoyment of wealthy tourists and the rampant overfishing by factory trawlers.  This is a study of  human effects and, in this time of oil spills and acidification, I am glad that Europa has chosen to republish it.

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Filed under Earth, IYOBChallenge, Ocean, Review, Science, Science Books 2010

Hands Across The Sand

Most of the time I write about books.  Occasionally I write about my other passions.  The ocean is our planet’s life blood.

I spend lots of time on the beaches of Puget Sound with school children, and with the public, talking about the animals that live in the intertidal zone, the fishes, birds and marine mammals that share the Sound with us and our impact on this incredibly important and incredibly rich ecosystem.

On June 26th, I will be taking part in an event called Hands Across The Sand.

Hands Across the Sand is a movement made of people of all walks of life and crosses political affiliations. This movement is not about politics; it is about protection of our coastal economies, oceans, marine wildlife, fishing industry and coastal military missions. Let us share our knowledge, energies and passion for protecting all of the above from the devastating effects of oil drilling.

If you live near a beach please join us.  If not, organize a solidarity event.  It is one thing you can do to help.

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Filed under Earth, Events, Ocean

For Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day to all!   Here is something I found through one of my favorite websites, something all of us can do for humanity and for the Earth, mother of us all.  To find out more visit jointhepipe.org.

Have a great day!

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Filed under Earth, People, Politics

The Tree: A Natural History by Colin Tudge

The Tree: A Natural History of  What Trees Are, How They Live, and Why They Matter by Colin Tudge

Three Rivers Press, New York, 2005

I own this one.

I have a thing about trees.  I climbed them as a child and wanted to live in one particular Dogwood that stood outside my bedroom window.  I can’t help touching them when I walk by them.  I sit under them, listening to them,  almost becoming part of them.  Once, in the Redwoods of California, I felt the redwoods were so angry at us humans that I had to leave, hanging my head in shame.

Weird, I know, but I feel like Colin Tudge and I would understand each other.

Colin Tudge has written a book that is wordy and at times it grew tedious.  It includes so much information about trees that I had to take it in small bits.  I am still reading about our future with trees if, in fact, we have one.  It is a book I will keep close at hand.

Tudge covers what trees are, the kinds of plants they evolved from and how scientists attempt to differentiate species.  His approach is deeply scientific but also reverent in a way that is spiritual.  I understand this, and appreciate it.  Humans would not be here without  these  amazingly diverse and important members of the living world.  We must learn to value their presence instead of considering them just an economic resource or something that stands in the way of agriculture or development.

Coast Redwood

Cherry Trees on the farm.

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Filed under Earth, IYOBChallenge, Nature, Science

The International Year of Biodiversity and a Reading Challenge!

If I stopped to think about what is happening to our planet I would never get up in the morning.  So instead of allowing myself to wallow in the knowledge of the stupidity of much of our human behavior I get excited about events like this,  walk the beach at low tide and introduce people to animals like this,

Burrowing Anemone

and try and learn everything I can about animals and plants that live in my neighborhood.

This year I am going to focus on birds.  How about you?  What trees share your block?  What birds visit  your backyard?

It turns out that there are other readers out there who get as excited about the earth as I do.  Thanks to Eva at A Striped Armchair I learned that Sylvia at Classical Bookworm has created a challenge to celebrate the IYOB.

Here is her discription of the challenge:

As a biologist, I naturally couldn’t let this international year go by without putting together a reading challenge for it! By learning more about biodiversity we can better appreciate its value and do more to ensure its protection at home and around the world. To that end I’ve put together a selection of reading challenges for this year:

Basic: 3 books on any biodiversity topic.

Biomes: 3 books about major world ecosystems: open ocean; coral reefs; lakes and rivers; arctic tundra; boreal forests; temperate forests; tropical forests; savannah; grassland/steppe/ deserts.

Branches: 3 books on different life forms: plants; fungi; invertebrates (including insects); reptiles and amphibians; birds; mammals.

Bye-bye: 2 books about endangered or extinct species or about extinction or conservation.

Back yard: Buy 2 or more field guides to your local flora & fauna and get to know your neighbours.

Biodiversity Bonanza: One of each of the above!

I’ve also devised some “field trips” to get you closer to your subject:

Level 1—Indoorsy: Visit a natural history museum or watch a documentary series on biodiversity (e.g. Planet Earth)

Level 2—Outdoorsy: Take a guided walk or hike in a local park. Check park system websites for schedules.

Level 3—Full Granola: Design your own field trip to go birding, botanizing, field-journaling, or whatever you like. Alternatively, join a local natural history club, or take a course in natural history online or at a college or community centre.

To make all this easier I’ve gathered together some helpful resources here, and will be adding to them throughout the year as I make more discoveries.

I’m signing up at the bonaza level.  How about you?

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Filed under Animals, Earth, Nature

A Full Moon and a New Year!

New Year’s Eve and a full moon, a blue moon at that.  I’m hoping the sky will clear tonight,  there is nothing better than standing in the light of a full moon.

The last few days of 2009 have been a bit stressful.  Mr G, an organ transplant recipient, has had some health issues, which meant time spent in the hospital for tests and procedures.  Things have stabilized a bit and hopefully, this will all resolve with the coming of the New Year.

I wish all of you a joyous and peace-filled 2010.  Happy reading and happy blogging!

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Filed under Earth, Events, Holiday