Chasing Dragonflies: A Natural, Cultural, and Personal History is an engaging, beautifully illustrated introduction to these remarkable insects. Drawing on her experiences as a natural history instructor, dragonfly monitor, cancer survivor, grandmother, and steward, Crosby tells the stories of dragonflies: their roles in poetry and art, their fascinating sex life—unique within the animal kingdom—and their evolution from dark-water dwellers to denizens of the air. We follow Crosby and other citizen-scientists into the prairies, wetlands, and woodlands of the Midwest, where they observe the environment and chronicle dragonfly populations and migration to decipher critical clues about our changing waterways and climate.
Woven throughout are personal stories: reflections on the author’s cancer diagnosis and recovery, change, loss, aging, family, joy, and discovering what it means to be at home in the natural world. Crosby draws an intimate portrait of a landscape teeming with variety and mystery, one that deserves our attention and conservation. As warm as it is informative, this book will interest gardeners, readers of literary nonfiction, and anyone intrigued by transformation, whether in nature or our personal lives.
In this social and ecological account of the Chicago River, Libby Hill tells the story of how a sluggish waterway emptying into Lake Michigan became central to the creation of Chicago as a major metropolis and transportation hub.
This widely acclaimed volume weaves the perspectives of science, engineering, commerce, politics, economics, and the natural world into a chronicle of the river from its earliest geologic history through its repeated adaptations to the city that grew up around it. While explaining the river’s role in massive public works, such as drainage and straightening, designed to address the infrastructure needs of a growing population, Hill focuses on the synergy between the river and the people of greater Chicago, whether they be the tribal cultures that occupied the land after glacial retreat, the first European inhabitants, or more recent residents.
In the first edition, Hill brought together years of original research and the contributions of dozens of experts to tell the Chicago River’s story up until 2000. This revised edition features discussions of disinfection, Asian carp, green strategies, the evolution of the Chicago Riverwalk, and the river’s rejuvenation. It also explores how earlier solutions to problems challenge today’s engineers, architects, environmentalists, and public policy agencies as they address contemporary issues.
Revealing the river to be a microcosm of the uneasy relationship between nature and civilization, The Chicago River offers the tools and knowledge for the city’s residents to be champions on the river’s behalf.
Roads and parking lots in the United States cover more ground than the entire state of Georgia. And while proponents of sustainable transit often focus on getting people off the roads, they will remain at the heart of our transportation systems for the foreseeable future. In Creating Green Roadways, James and Matthew Sipes demonstrate that roads don’t have to be the enemy of sustainability: they can be designed to minimally impact the environment while improving quality of life.
The authors examine traditional, utilitarian methods of transportation planning that have resulted in a host of negative impacts: from urban sprawl and congestion to loss of community identity and excess air and water pollution. They offer a better approach—one that blends form and function. Creating Green Roadways covers topics including transportation policy, the basics of green road design, including an examination of complete streets, public involvement, road ecology, and the economics of sustainable roads. Case studies from metropolitan, suburban, and rural transportation projects around the country, along with numerous photographs, illustrate what makes a project successful.
The need for this information has never been greater, as more than thirty percent of America’s major roads are in poor or mediocre condition, more than a quarter of the nation’s bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, and congestion in communities of all sizes has never been worse. Creating Green Roadways offers a practical strategy for rethinking how we design, plan, and maintain our transportation infrastructure.
In this thoughtful and highly readable book, Noël Sturgeon illustrates the myriad and insidious ways in which American popular culture depicts social inequities as “natural” and how our images of “nature” interfere with creating solutions to environmental problems that are just and fair for all. Why is it, she wonders, that environmentalist messages in popular culture so often “naturalize” themes of heroic male violence, suburban nuclear family structures, and U.S. dominance in the world? And what do these patterns of thought mean for how we envision environmental solutions, like “green” businesses, recycling programs, and the protection of threatened species?
Although there are other books that examine questions of culture and environment, this is the first book to employ a global feminist environmental justice analysis to focus on how racial inequality, gendered patterns of work, and heteronormative ideas about the family relate to environmental questions. Beginning in the late 1980s and moving to the present day, Sturgeon unpacks a variety of cultural tropes, including ideas about Mother Nature, the purity of the natural, and the allegedly close relationships of indigenous people with the natural world. She investigates the persistence of the “myth of the frontier” and its extension to the frontier of space exploration. She ponders the popularity (and occasional controversy) of penguins (and penguin family values) and questions assumptions about human warfare as “natural.”
The book is intended to provoke debates—among college students and graduate students, among their professors, among environmental activists, and among all citizens who are concerned with issues of environmental quality and social equality.
“Preternaturally hardened whale dung” is not the first image that comes to mind when we think of perfume, otherwise a symbol of glamour and allure. But the key ingredient that makes the sophisticated scent linger on the skin is precisely this bizarre digestive by-product—ambergris. Despite being one of the world’s most expensive substances (its value is nearly that of gold and has at times in history been triple it), ambergris is also one of the world’s least known. But with this unusual and highly alluring book, Christopher Kemp promises to change that by uncovering the unique history of ambergris.
A rare secretion produced only by sperm whales, which have a fondness for squid but an inability to digest their beaks, ambergris is expelled at sea and floats on ocean currents for years, slowly transforming, before it sometimes washes ashore looking like a nondescript waxy pebble. It can appear almost anywhere but is found so rarely, it might as well appear nowhere. Kemp’s journey begins with an encounter on a New Zealand beach with a giant lump of faux ambergris—determined after much excitement to nothing more exotic than lard—that inspires a comprehensive quest to seek out ambergris and its story. He takes us from the wild, rocky New Zealand coastline to Stewart Island, a remote, windswept island in the southern seas, to Boston and Cape Cod, and back again. Along the way, he tracks down the secretive collectors and traders who populate the clandestine modern-day ambergris trade.
Floating Gold is an entertaining and lively history that covers not only these precious gray lumps and those who covet them, but presents a highly informative account of the natural history of whales, squid, ocean ecology, and even a history of the perfume industry. Kemp’s obsessive curiosity is infectious, and eager readers will feel as though they have stumbled upon a precious bounty of this intriguing substance.
Winner of the 2005 John Burroughs Medal Award for Natural History Writing
Living at the limits of our ordinary perception, mosses are a common but largely unnoticed element of the natural world. Gathering Moss is a beautifully written mix of science and personal reflection that invites readers to explore and learn from the elegantly simple lives of mosses.
In this series of linked personal essays, Robin Wall Kimmerer leads general readers and scientists alike to an understanding of how mosses live and how their lives are intertwined with the lives of countless other beings. Kimmerer explains the biology of mosses clearly and artfully, while at the same time reflecting on what these fascinating organisms have to teach us.
Drawing on her diverse experiences as a scientist, mother, teacher, and writer of Native American heritage, Kimmerer explains the stories of mosses in scientific terms as well as in the framework of indigenous ways of knowing. In her book, the natural history and cultural relationships of mosses become a powerful metaphor for ways of living in the world.
Mushrooms hold a peculiar place in our culture: we love them and despise them, fear them and misunderstand them. They can be downright delicious or deadly poisonous, cute as buttons or utterly grotesque. These strange organisms hold great symbolism in our myths and legends. In this book, Nicholas P. Money tells the utterly fascinating story of mushrooms and the ways we have interacted with these fungi throughout history. Whether they have populated the landscapes of fairytales, lent splendid umami to our dishes, or steered us into deep hallucinations, mushrooms have affected humanity from the earliest beginnings of our species.
As Money explains, mushrooms are not self-contained organisms like animals and plants. Rather, they are the fruiting bodies of large—sometimes extremely large—colonies of mycelial threads that spread underground and permeate rotting vegetation. Because these colonies decompose organic matter, they are of extraordinary ecological value and have a huge effect on the health of the environment. From sustaining plant growth and spinning the carbon cycle to causing hay fever and affecting the weather, mushrooms affect just about everything we do. Money tells the stories of the eccentric pioneers of mycology, delights in culinary powerhouses like porcini and morels, and considers the value of medicinal mushrooms. This book takes us on a tour of the cultural and scientific importance of mushrooms, from the enchanted forests of folklore to the role of these fungi in sustaining life on earth.
The Natural and Moral History of the Indies, the classic work of New World history originally published by José de Acosta in 1590, is now available in the first new English translation to appear in several hundred years. A Spanish Jesuit, Acosta produced this account by drawing on his own observations as a missionary in Peru and Mexico, as well as from the writings of other missionaries, naturalists, and soldiers who explored the region during the sixteenth century. One of the first comprehensive investigations of the New World, Acosta’s study is strikingly broad in scope. He describes the region’s natural resources, flora and fauna, and terrain. He also writes in detail about the Amerindians and their religious and political practices. A significant contribution to Renaissance Europe's thinking about the New World, Acosta's Natural and Moral History of the Indies reveals an effort to incorporate new information into a Christian, Renaissance worldview. He attempted to confirm for his European readers that a "new" continent did indeed exist and that human beings could and did live in equatorial climates. A keen observer and prescient thinker, Acosta hypothesized that Latin America's indigenous peoples migrated to the region from Asia, an idea put forth more than a century before Europeans learned of the Bering Strait. Acosta's work established a hierarchical classification of Amerindian peoples and thus contributed to what today is understood as the colonial difference in Renaissance European thinking.
An engaging look at the history of the piñon pine and its ecosystem. Combining natural history and observations of the cultural importance of the tree to both native Indians and European settlers, Lanner provides information on the management of the tree and its interdependence with the birds and animals of the piñon-juniper woodland. Science, cultural history, and ecologicall issues, plus delicious recipes using the piñon pine nuts, make for a concise natural and cultural history of the piñon pine.
Plugged by no fewer than twenty-five dams, the Colorado is the world’s most regulated river drainage, providing most of the water supply of Las Vegas, Tucson, and San Diego, and much of the power and water of Los Angeles and Phoenix, cities that are home to more than 25 million people. If it ceased flowing, the water held in its reservoirs might hold out for three to four years, but after that it would be necessary to abandon most of southern California and Arizona, and much of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. For the entire American Southwest the Colorado is indeed the river of life, which makes it all the more tragic and ironic that by the time it approaches its final destination, it has been reduced to a shadow upon the sand, its delta dry and deserted, its flow a toxic trickle seeping into the sea.
In this remarkable blend of history, science, and personal observation, acclaimed author Wade Davis tells the story of America’s Nile, how it once flowed freely and how human intervention has left it near exhaustion, altering the water temperature, volume, local species, and shoreline of the river Theodore Roosevelt once urged us to “leave it as it is.” Yet despite a century of human interference, Davis writes, the splendor of the Colorado lives on in the river’s remaining wild rapids, quiet pools, and sweeping canyons. The story of the Colorado River is the human quest for progress and its inevitable if unintended effects—and an opportunity to learn from past mistakes and foster the rebirth of America’s most iconic waterway.
A beautifully told story of historical adventure and natural beauty, River Notes is a fascinating journey down the river and through mankind’s complicated and destructive relationship with one of its greatest natural resources.
Tall green grass. Subtle melodies of songbirds. Sharp whines of muskrats. Rustles of water running through the grasses. And at low tide, a pungent reminder of the treasures hidden beneath the surface.All are vital signs of the great salt marshes' natural resources.
Now championed as critical habitats for plants, animals, and people because of the environmental service and protection they provide, these ecological wonders were once considered unproductive wastelands, home solely to mosquitoes and toxic waste, and mistreated for centuries by the human population. Exploring the fascinating biodiversity of these boggy wetlands, Salt Marshes offers readers a wealth of essential information about a variety of plants, fish, and animals, the importance of these habitats, consequences of human neglect and thoughtless development, and insight into how these wetlands recover.
Judith S. Weis and Carol A. Butler shed ample light on the human impact, including chapters on physical and biological alterations, pollution, and remediation and recovery programs. In addition to a national and global perspective, the authors place special emphasis on coastal wetlands in the Atlantic and Gulf regions, as well as the San Francisco Bay Area, calling attention to their historical and economic legacies.
Written in clear, easy-to-read language, Salt Marshes proves that the battles for preservation and conservation must continue, because threats to salt marshes ebb and flow like the water that runs through them.
In this second edition of their classic text, Klyza and Trombulak use the lens of interconnectedness to examine the geological, ecological, and cultural forces that came together to produce contemporary Vermont. They assess the changing landscape and its inhabitants from its pre-human evolution up to the present, with special focus on forests, open terrestrial habitats, and the aquatic environment. This edition features a new chapter covering from 1995 to 2013 and a thoroughly revised chapter on the futures of Vermont, which include discussions of Tropical Storm Irene, climate change, eco-regional planning, and the resurgence of interest in local food and energy production. Integrating key themes of ecological change into a historical narrative, this book imparts specific information about Vermont, speculates on its future, and fosters an appreciation of the complex synergy of forces that shaped this region. This volume will interest scholars, students, and Vermonters intrigued by the state’s long-term natural and human history.
A one-of-a-kind reference book, Tennessee Tragedies examines a wide variety of disasters that have occurred in the Volunteer State over the past several centuries. Intended for both general readers and emergency management professionals, it covers natural disasters such as floods, tornadoes, and earthquakes; technological events such as explosions, transportation wrecks, and structure fires; and societal incidents including labor strikes, political violence, lynchings, and other hate crimes.
At the center of the book are descriptive accounts of 150 of the state’s most severe events. These range from smallpox epidemics in the eighteenth century to the epic floods of 1936–37, from the Sultana riverboat disaster of 1865 (the worst inland marine accident in U.S. history) to the 1968 assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Included as well are stories of plane crashes, train wrecks, droughts, economic panics, and race riots. An extensive chronology provides further details on more than 900 incidents, the most complete listing ever compiled for a single state. The book’s introduction examines topics that include our fascination with such tragedies; major causes of death, injury, and destruction; and the daunting problems of producing accurate accountings of a disaster’s effects, whether in numbers of dead and injured or of economic impact. Among the other features are a comprehensive glossary that defines various technical terms and concepts and tables illustrating earthquake, drought, disease, and tornado intensity scales.
A work of great historical interest that brings together for the first time an impressive array of information,Tennessee Tragedies will prove exceptionally useful for those who must respond to inevitable future disasters.
The array of bottles is impressive, their contents finely tuned to varied tastes. But they all share the same roots in Mesoamerica's natural bounty and human culture.
The drink is tequila—more properly, mescal de tequila, the first mescal to be codified and recognized by its geographic origin and the only one known internationally by that name. In ¡Tequila! A Natural and Cultural History, Ana G. Valenzuela-Zapata, the leading agronomist in Mexico's tequila industry, and Gary Paul Nabhan, one of America's most respected ethnobotanists, plumb the myth of tequila as they introduce the natural history, economics, and cultural significance of the plants cultivated for its production.
Valenzuela-Zapata and Nabhan take you into the agave fields of Mexico to convey their passion for the century plant and its popular by-product. In the labor-intensive business of producing quality mescal, the cultivation of tequila azul is maintained through traditional techniques passed down over generations. They tell how jimadores seek out the mature agaves, strip the leaves, and remove the heavy heads from the field; then they reveal how the roasting and fermentation process brings out the flavors that cosmopolitan palates crave.
Today in Oaxaca it's not unusual to find small-scale mescal-makers vending their wares in the market plaza, while in Jalisco the scale of distillation facilities found near the town of Tequila would be unrecognizable to old José Cuervo. Valenzuela-Zapata and Nabhan trace tequila's progress from its modest beginnings to one of the world's favored spirits, tell how innovations from cross-cultural exchanges made fortunes for Cuervo and other distillers, and explain how the meteoric rise in tequila prices is due to an epidemic—one they predicted would occur—linked to the industry's cultivation of just one type of agave.
The tequila industry today markets more than four hundred distinct products through a variety of strategies that heighten the liquor's mystique, and this book will educate readers about the grades of tequila, from blanco to añejo, and marks of distinction for connoisseurs who pay up to two thousand dollars for a bottle. ¡Tequila! A Natural and Cultural History will feed anyone's passion for the gift of the blue agave as it heightens their appreciation for its rich heritage.