Endangered Lions, Climate Justice and Towering Trees: The 15 Best New Eco-Books for September
By John R. Platt
It's September, which means summer vacation is over, the kids are back in school and it's time for everyone to learn something new. Here are a ton of new, thought-provoking new books that publishers have scheduled for release this month, with titles covering lions and other endangered species, an important era in environmental history, vital new ideas in agriculture, an iconic tree and a whole lot more.
Here you'll find our pick for the best 15 books of the month, with a selection of titles for wildlife lovers, dedicated activists, treehuggers, farmers, kids, history buffs and everyone in between.
Wildlife and Endangered Species:
Poached: Inside the Dark World of Wildlife Trafficking by Rachel Love Nuwer—Few journalists cover the poaching and wildlife trafficking crisis as well as Nuwer, whose work frequently appears in The New York Times and other publications. Now her first book takes us on a journey around the world, covering everything from the "killing fields" of Africa to the seedy Asian markets selling wild meat and live animals. This gets our vote as the must-read book of the month.
When the Last Lion Roars: The Rise and Fall of the King of the Beasts by Sara Evans—Africa's lions are rapidly disappearing, and many experts fear the big cats won't survive the 21st century. Evans travelled across Africa, visiting the continent's shrinking lion populations to see why they're in conflict with humans and what's being done to prevent their possible extinction.
Big Lonely Doug: The Story of One of Canada's Last Great Trees by Harley Rustad—A single, 20-story-tall Douglas fir tree looms over an ex-forest on Vancouver Island, where every other tree that once grew around it has been logged. Now known as "Big Lonely Doug," the tree has become a touchpoint for conservation, First Nation rights, ecotourism and the importance of old-growth trees, as Rustad recounts in this powerful new book.
Vaquita: Science, Politics, and Crime in the Sea of Cortez by Brooke Bessesen—An updated edition of Bessesen's book about Mexico's vaquita porpoise, one of the most endangered species on the planet, which may go extinct in the next couple of years. What lessons can we learn from this crisis to help prevent other species from suffering the same fate?
A Cast in the Woods: A Story of Fly Fishing, Fracking, and Floods in the Heart of Trout Country by Stephen Sautner—You can't enjoy life on a river if waterways are threatened by fossil fuel extraction, climate change, invasive species and other dangers. Sautner provides a firsthand account of how he resisted these dangers and helped to protect the trout, trees, salamanders, bears and birds near his cabin in the Catskill Mountains.
Climate Change and Energy:
Climate Justice: Hope, Resilience, and the Fight for a Sustainable Future by Mary Robinson—Robinson, the first woman to be elected president of Ireland and former U.N. high commissioner on human rights, travelled the world to see how grassroots efforts—often driven by women—are battling for justice in the face of global warming and often creating important change in the process.
This Is the Way the World Ends: How Droughts and Die-offs, Heat Waves and Hurricanes Are Converging on America by Jeff Nesbit—Okay, this is the book with the most depressing title of the month, but don't slit your wrists quite yet. Nesbit, the executive direct of Climate Nexus, lays out why we're all screwed, but he also presents hope: We've solved other problems in the past, he writes, and we can do it again.
Pipe Dreams: The Fight for Canada's Energy Future by Jacques Poitras—We've all heard of the Keystone XL pipeline, but here's the lesser-known tale of the similar Energy East pipeline, a $15 billion project that was intended to cut through 180 indigenous territories but ultimately (and luckily) went nowhere.
Unlikely Ally: How the Military Fights Climate Change and Protects the Environment by Marilyn Berlin Snell—War is about as awful as it gets, but once in a while the military does a pretty good job of environmental stewardship, writes talented journalist Snell. Maybe we can learn a thing or two from that.
Indigenous Knowledge for Climate Change Assessment and Adaptation edited by Douglas Nakashima, Igor Krupnik and Jennifer T. Rubis—This unique book stems from a collaboration between UNESCO, the United Nations and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, among other organizations, and includes case studies (many written by indigenous peoples) about how intergenerational traditional knowledge is already helping communities adapt to an uncertain future.
Ecology and Agriculture:
Call of the Reed Warbler: A New Agriculture, A New Earth by Charles Massy—If you want healthy plants (or a healthy planet), you need healthy soil. A "radical ecologist farmer" tells his story of how he moved away from chemicals and pesticides—and how others can make that move, too.
The Wondrous Workings of Planet Earth: Understanding Our World and Its Ecosystems by Rachel Ignotofsky—A delightfully illustrated book for teens offering accessible lessons about what makes the world work, with more than two dozen chapters devoted to some of the most important ecosystems on the planet.
Seeds of Resistance: The Fight to Save Our Food Supply by Mark Schapiro—Right now about half of the world's commercially traded agricultural seeds are sold by just three companies. But around the world, people are developing their own methods of seed cultivation and distribution, and those seeds may actually be the ones to feed the planet once climate change makes their more commercial cousins less able to thrive. This book-length work of investigative journalism digs into the movement to save our seeds—and our food.
Poisons and Pollution:
Waste Land by David T. Hanson—If you've ever wanted to see what a toxic waste site looks like, here's your chance: Hanson photographed 67 of them in 45 states back in the mid-eighties. This expanded version of his earlier book includes all of his photos taken for the project—including many previously unpublished pictures—along with updated information on each soul-shuddering site.
The Poison Squad: One Chemist's Single-Minded Crusade for Food Safety at the Turn of the Twentieth Century by Deborah Blum—Meat treated with borax? Milk dosed with formaldehyde? Food that could kill you and companies that didn't care? It sounds terrible, but it used to be common—until chemistry professor Harvey Washington Wiley, journalist Upton Sinclair and other crusaders began a 30-year quest to make America's food safe from an unregulated industry. This book is history, sure, but it offers lessons that resonate with the current push to deregulate so many industries that affect human health.
That's our list for this month. For dozens of additional recent eco-books, check out our "Revelator Reads" archives.
Did we miss any of your favorites? Feel free to post your own recommendations in the comments.
Reposted with permission from our media associate The Revelator.
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It is undisputed that vitamin D plays a role everywhere in the body and performs important functions. A severe vitamin D deficiency, which can occur at a level of 12 nanograms per milliliter of blood or less, leads to severe and painful bone deformations known as rickets in infants and young children and osteomalacia in adults. Unfortunately, this is where the scientific consensus ends.
Where Does the Deficiency Begin?<p>Nobody knows exactly how much vitamin D a person actually needs. The question of when a deficiency starts is correspondingly controversial. However, vitamin D is becoming increasingly popular.Not only is the pseudo-scientific literature on the "sun vitamin" experiencing an upswing, but the number of published studies has also increased enormously in recent years. For example, in 2019 <a href="https://academic.oup.com/edrv/article/40/4/1109/5126915" target="_blank">a study found that</a> Vitamin D is responsible for keeping the skeleton functional and is associated with cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and various types of cancer. <br></p>
An All-Rounder<p>Vitamin D levels in the body rise and fall according to sun exposure. If sufficient UV rays reach the skin, the body is able to produce the vitamin itself. However, the human body only derives an estimated 10 to 20 percent of its daily requirement from food.</p><p>The vitamin D that we synthesize from sunlight or food is not biologically active at first. Before the kidneys can produce the biologically active form of the vitamin, known as calcitriol, and release it into the blood, some metabolic processes must take place beforehand.</p><p>In addition, many organs have receptors to which the precursor of calcitriol binds. Further, this substance is also present in blood.</p><p>From this precursor, the organs then produce calcitriol themselves, which the body then uses for countless other processes in the body. This form of vitamin D thus regulates insulin secretion, inhibits tumor growth, and promotes the formation of red blood cells as well as the survival and activity of macrophages, which are important for the <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/5/7/2502/htm" target="_blank">immune system.</a></p>
Low Vitamin D, Severe COVID-19 Disease?<p>A research study carried out <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352364620300067?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">at the University of Hohenheim</a> has now established a link between vitamin D deficiency, certain previous diseases, and severe cases of COVID-19.</p><p>According to the study, "there is a lot of evidence that several non-communicable diseases (high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, metabolic syndrome) are associated with low vitamin D plasma levels. These comorbidities, together with the often accompanying vitamin D deficiency, increase the risk of severe COVID-19 events."</p><p>"This statement is completely correct," said Martin Fassnacht, head of endocrinology at the University Hospital of Würzburg. However, he qualifies that it is a pure association, "i.e. a mere observation that these events occur together.</p><p>Dr. Fassnacht is very critical of the hype surrounding vitamin D, but not because he denies the vitamin serves important functions. However, studies on humans have not been able to show that vitamin D has the healing powers many often propagate.</p><p>Fassnacht says, "If you take a closer look, the hopes that the administration of vitamin D has a healing effect have not been confirmed so far."</p>
Association Versus Intervention Studies<p>Many studies on the vitamin are association or observational studies. "By definition, these studies cannot prove the causal relationship, but only point to mere correlations," said Fassnacht. The physician tries to illustrate this with an example:</p><p>"Imagine two groups of 80-year-olds. One group is spry, active and does sports. If you compare them with another group living in nursing homes, the difference in vitamin D levels will be dramatic. Life expectancy would also be extremely different."</p><p>But to try to explain the difference in fitness by vitamin D status alone is far too simplistic. "Vitamin D levels are a good measure of how sick someone is. But not more," says Fassnacht. </p><p>According to Fassnacht, none of the intervention studies carried out to date -- that specifically examined the effect of vitamin D on various diseases -- has been able to confirm the previous association and laboratory studies or the presumed positive effect of vitamin D.</p>
Further Research Is Needed<p>"If a coronavirus infection is suspected, it is therefore absolutely necessary to check the vitamin D status and quickly correct any possible deficit," said the recommendation of the paper published by the University of Hohenheim.</p><p>"Studies are underway to see whether vitamin D helps in COVID-19 infection, but I personally do not believe that this is really the case," says endocrinologist Fassnacht. Nevertheless, he says it is of course useful to carry out these studies.<br></p><p>"I don't want to rule out that there are actually subgroups of people who benefit from an additional vitamin D dose," he says. After all, this has been proven to be the case with a severe deficit.</p><p>In view of the study situation, Fassnacht does not think much of preventive, nationwide vitamin D substitutes. "My belief that the vitamin helps somewhere is very low. But, of course, I can be wrong."</p>
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