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Good Reads—2012 Orion Book Award Finalists Announced
In a 2009 interview with The Daily Beast Editor Tina Brown, the novelist Philip Roth—who's won every major literary award created, some of which multiple times—claimed the novel would be mostly dead within 25 years, enjoying, at best, an audience about as large as Latin poetry enjoys now. Asked whether he was being provocative, he replied he was being optimistic.
Yes, the literary world is in an awkward state of flux, bookstores are closing and the attention spans required for books are dwindling as access to information grows more immediate, and as a result, alluring.
Nevertheless, I don't share Mr. Roth's outlook. The publishing world is going through the growing pains associated with evolution, for sure, but nothing will stop good books from being written, and just as miraculously, being published.
If you're looking for a good read, Orion Magazine has just made things easier with the announcement of their 2012 Orion Book Award Finalists. According to Orion's website, the Orion Book Award "is given annually to a book that addresses the human relationship with the natural world in a fresh, thought provoking, and engaging manner." Books are judged against these three criteria:
- That it deepens our connection to the natural world
- That it presents new ideas about our relationship with nature
- That it achieves excellence in writing
This year's finalists are listed below:
by Philip Connors (Ecco)
“In elegant and measured prose, Connors broadens and enriches the whole tradition of nature writing with his own unique experience in the great wilderness. As fire lookout in New Mexico's Gila National Forest, Connors takes the reader inside his own musings and reveals his intimacy with the remote area, its flora and fauna, and inevitably, with its fires. His larger purpose is to reveal the behavior of fire and its crucial role in a healthy ecosystem, as well as to examine our complex relationship with it. A graceful, memorable book.”
by Helon Habila (W.W. Norton & Co.)
“In this beautiful, truth-seeking novel, journalists Rufus and Zaq make their way through the fetid, oil-choked waters of the Nigerian Delta in search of the kidnapped wife of an oil executive. Rufus, young and eager to prove himself, is thrilled at the prospect of a big story and to be working with his hero, Zaq. But their journey into the dense wilderness takes on a much different form than either expected, and they are thrust into events beyond their control. Oil on Water is a suspenseful story about globalization, ambition and the unwieldy nature of truth.”
—Amanda Hurley, Inkwood Books, Tampa, Fla.
by Karen Russell (Vintage)
“Located in the Florida Everglades, the Swamplandia island theme park is also home to the Bigtrees, a family of alligator wrestlers. When the mom and star of the show dies, the Bigtree way of life unravels. Dad heads to the mainland to find investors, while his three teenagers are left to deal with their losses. Kiwi attempts to infiltrate a rival amusement park, Ossie falls in love with a ghost, and the story's 13-year-old narrator, Ava, wrestles with a force more fearsome than gators: the loss of innocence. Karen Russell's sentences are so beautiful and original, they will leave you breathless!”
—Michael Keefe, Annie Bloom's Books, Portland, OR
by Carl Safina (Picador)
"Safina’s book soars….I had to—and wanted to—read The View from Lazy Point very slowly, allowing myself to digest its wealth of information, to revel in the beauty of Safina’s writing, and to absorb fully the implications of his musings…What a pleasure it is to find such an enlightening, provocative companion for walking and talking—and reading. We can ask no more from those who warn about dark days ahead than that they also awaken us to the miracle of everyday life."
—Dominique Browning, The New York Times Book Review
by Sandra Steingraber (De Capo)
“One part memoir and one part educational treatise, and thoroughly informative and entertaining…Steingraber has taken a work that could have been a dry and didactic expository and turned it into a fluid, intimate narrative—sometimes funny, always entertaining and definitely illuminating. It’s a book that everyone—parents and otherwise—should avail themselves of for the good of those they care about.”
—New York Journal of Books
For more information, click here.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
A new multiyear study found that people living or working within 2,000 feet, or nearly half a mile, of a hydraulic fracturing (fracking) drill site may be at a heightened risk of exposure to benzene and other toxic chemicals, according to research released Thursday by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE)
The crowd appears to attack a protestor in a video shared on Twitter by ITV journalist Mahatir Pasha. VOA News / Youtube screenshot
Some London commuters had a violent reaction Thursday morning when Extinction Rebellion protestors attempted to disrupt train service during rush hour.
By Kristen Fischer
Though the science has shown sugary drinks are not healthy for children, fruit drinks and similar beverages accounted for more than half of all children's drink sales in 2018, according to a new report.
Farms with just one or a handful of different crops encourage fewer species of pollinating and pest-controlling insects to linger, ultimately winnowing away crop yields, according to a new study.
Up to half of the detrimental impacts of the "landscape simplification" that monocropping entails come as a result of a diminished mix of ecosystem service-providing insects, a team of scientists reported Oct. 16 in the journal Science Advances.
Monocrop palm oil plantation Honduras.
SHARE Foundation / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0
"Our study shows that biodiversity is essential to ensure the provision of ecosystem services and to maintain a high and stable agricultural production," Matteo Dainese, the study's lead author and a biologist at Eurac Research in Bolzano, Italy, said in a statement.
It stands to reason that, with declines in the sheer numbers of insects that ferry pollen from plant to plant and keep crop-eating pests under control, these services will wane as well. But until now, it hasn't been clear how monocultures affect the number and mix of these species or how crop yields might change as a result.
Aiming to solve these questions, Dainese and his colleagues pulled together data from 89 studies cutting across a variety of landscapes, from the tropics of Asia and Africa to the higher latitudes of northern Europe. They tabulated the number of pollinating and pest-controlling insects at these sites — both the absolute number of individuals and the number of species — along with an assessment of the ecosystem services the insects provided.
In almost all of the studies they looked at, the team found that a more diverse pool of these species translated into more pollination and greater pest control. They also showed that simplified landscapes supported fewer species of service-providing insects, which ultimately led to lower crop yields.
The researchers also looked at a third measure of the makeup of insect populations — what they called "evenness." In natural ecosystems, a handful of dominant species with many more individuals typically live alongside a higher number of rarer species. The team found as landscapes became less diverse, dominant species numbers dwindled and rare species gained ground. This resulting, more equitable mix led to less pollination (though it didn't end up affecting pest control).
"Our study provides strong empirical support for the potential benefits of new pathways to sustainable agriculture that aim to reconcile the protection of biodiversity and the production of food for increasing human populations," Ingolf Steffan-Dewenter, one of the study's authors and an animal ecologist at the University of Würzburg in Germany, said in the statement.
The scientists figure that the richness of pollinator species explains around a third of the harmful impacts of less diverse landscapes, while the richness of pest-controlling species accounts for about half of the same measure. In their view, the results of their research point to the need to protect biodiversity on and around crops in an uncertain future.
"Under future conditions with ongoing global change and more frequent extreme climate events, the value of farmland biodiversity ensuring resilience against environmental disturbances will become even more important," Steffan-Dewenter said.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Mongabay.
Ivory Coast's rainforests have been decimated by cocoa production and what is left is put in peril by a new law that will remove legal protections for thousands of square miles of forests, according to The Guardian.
By Karin Kirk
Greenland had quite the summer. It rose from peaceful obscurity to global headliner as ice melted so swiftly and massively that many were left grasping for adjectives. Then, Greenland's profile was further boosted, albeit not to its delight, when President Trump expressed interest in buying it, only to be summarily dismissed by the Danish prime minister.
During that time I happened to be in East Greenland, both as an observer of the stark effects of climate change and as a witness to local dialogue about presidential real estate aspirations, polar bear migrations and Greenland's sudden emergence as a trending topic.