16 Must-Read Books for Food Lovers
I have gardening on my mind. In fact, I was just looking over Organic Gardening’s February to-do list. But here in Zone 5, there’s little to do.
As Danielle Nierenberg, Food Tank co-founder explains, these books “educate us on how to make changes on a personal level, through eating more wild foods, and on an institutional level, through developing knowledge and awareness of agricultural sustainability.”
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock
Here are Food Tank’s 16 spring must-reads for your bookshelf (alphabetical by title):
Bestselling author Vicki Robin pledges to eat only food sourced from within a 10-mile radius of her home on Whidbey Island in Puget Sound, WA for a whole month. This challenging diet is eye opening in more ways than she originally thought, exposing society’s dependence on high sugar and high fat foods and revealing major faults in the food industry. But this is a story of hope—Robin discovers a new sense of community as she befriends neighboring farmers and receives support in her personal challenge.
2. Browsing Nature’s Aisles: A Year of Foraging for Wild Food in the Suburbs by Wendy Brown and Eric Brown
This is the story of one American suburban family’s quest to close the gap between what they can provide for their family and what a family actually needs to survive. Wendy and Eric Brown spend a year integrating foraged, wild foods into their family’s everyday meals. It’s an inspiring read on self-reliance and one family’s determination to find true harmony with nature.
3. Chicken Poop for the Soul: Backyard Adventures by Teri Metcalf
Chicken Poop for the Soul is a how-to-guide on raising backyard chickens. This book was written by author, Metcalf, and her husband, after several years of observing their own chicken’s behavior. And whether you’re raising your own eggs or chicken meat, this is a book that explores how humans connect with the animals they raise.
4. Consumed: Food for a Finite Planet by Sarah Elton
This is an investigative book about very real threats to the food system. Elton explores the world to tell the stories of people who are deeply invested in food—and sustainability. She travels from the mountains of southern France to vacant plots in Detroit, telling hopeful stories while also recommending a plan to get the food system back on track.
5. Diversifying Food and Diets: Improving Agricultural Biodiversity to Improve Nutrition and Health by Jessica Fanzo, Danny Hunter, Teresa Borelli and Frederico Mattei
This book, published by Bioversity International, is a reminder of the infinite variety of food species which exist, but are often under-utilized or forgotten. The authors highlight the importance of agricultural biodiversity and diversifying diets for improved health and nutritional value. This is a good guide for food policy makers and farmers alike, helping identify best practices, gaps in research and investment, and opportunities in preserving biodiversity.
6. Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health by Jo Robinson
Robinson wonderfully blends history and cooking instructions into a book that reveals the nutritional history of fruits and vegetables. According to Robinson, the most nutrient-dense option is to “eat on the wild side,” and she explains how to choose fruits and vegetables that most resemble their wild ancestors.
7. Food: An Atlas by Darin Jensen and Molly Roy
This atlas is a collection of maps that examine food across broad geographical locations, scales and issues. The editors use infographics, poster art, cartography and other creative platforms to illuminate complicated issues and create a deeper understanding for readers.
8. Food and the City: Urban Agriculture and the New Food Revolution by Jennifer Cockrall-King
The future of farming exists in cities, according to Cockrall-King. This book explores what people in cities all over the world are doing to successfully deal with hunger and poverty, taking food security into their own hands.
9. The Grazing Revolution: A Radical Plan to Save the Earth by Allan Savory
In this TED book, Savory explains the causes of “desertification” and presents a solution that’s radical yet simple—through livestock management. Using his personal story of discovery, Savory chronicles the process of wasteland to robust ecosystem, putting to rest some common misconceptions.
10. Growing a Garden City by Jeremy Smith
Fifteen people—and a class of first graders—give first-hand accounts of how farms, gardens and local food are changing their lives. The book also has a “how-it-works” section on community gardens, student farms, farm work therapy and more than 80 full color photographs of diverse local food in different communities.
11. The Farm as Ecosystem by Jerry Brunetti
Brunetti, a natural product formulator and farm consultant, shares his knowledge of farm dynamics including the geology, biology and diversity of life on the farm. This book is filled with stories and science, but also real world advice.
12. The History of Aquaculture by Colin Nash
The fastest growing segment of agriculture, aquaculture, was unheard of until recently, and includes cultivating plants and fish for food. This book traces the history of fish farming from its ancient roots to its more modern uses today.
13. The Meat Racket: The Secret Takeover of America’s Food Business by Christopher Leonard
Leonard, a former agribusiness reporter, critically assesses the meat industry through the practices of Tyson Foods, showing how the company has eliminated free market competition. And the story details how factory farming has changed small-town life for the worse in Arkansas, Iowa, Oklahoma and other states across the U.S.
Eighty percent of the carbon from the world’s soil has been lost, according to Ohlson. She makes a passionate case for “our great green hope,” a way to heal the land, sequester carbon and potentially reverse global warming.
All gardeners want to maximize their yields, providing more return on their time and money, and this book provides expert advice on the top performing plants for your garden. Fell has planted hundreds of varieties and guided the best of the best in gardening. This book is based on his first-hand experience with the winners and losers of gardening.
16. 1,000 Days Project by Roger Thurow
Thurow’s next book (coming soon) is a story of the first 1,000 days of pregnancy and the importance of good nutrition and health care from the beginning of the mother’s pregnancy to her child’s second birthday. This time period is crucial to development, preventing malnutrition and preventing lifelong negative impacts on the child.
What are some of your favorite books that have inspired you to eat local food or diversify your diet, to form a better understanding of agriculture or to take part in cultivating a more sustainable food system?
Yet another former Trump administration staffer has come out with an endorsement for former Vice President Joe Biden, this time in response to President Donald Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
- Trump Denies CDC Director's 2021 Timeline for Coronavirus Vaccine ›
- Trump Orders Hospitals to Stop Sending COVID-19 Data to CDC ... ›
- Two White House Staffers Test Positive for Coronavirus - EcoWatch ›
- Trump Admin to Disband Coronavirus Task Force - EcoWatch ›
- Pence Offers 'Prayers' as Hurricane Laura Hits Gulf Coast While ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Every September for the past 11 years, non-profit the Climate Group has hosted Climate Week NYC, a chance for business, government, activist and community leaders to come together and discuss solutions to the climate crisis.
- Covering the 2020 Elections as a Climate Story - EcoWatch ›
- Coronavirus Delays 2020 Earth Overshoot Day by Three Weeks ... ›
By Elliot Douglas
The coronavirus pandemic has altered economic priorities for governments around the world. But as wildfires tear up the west coast of the United States and Europe reels after one of its hottest summers on record, tackling climate change remains at the forefront of economic policy.
- German Business Leaders Call for Climate Action With COVID-19 ... ›
- Climate Activists Protest Germany's New Datteln 4 Coal Power Plant ... ›
By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.