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Bees, Cougars and Climate: The Best New Environmental Books of April
By John R. Platt
If you're looking for some inspiration, you're in luck. Booksellers will soon see a massive influx of powerful and informative new environmental books. They cover everything from pollinators to animal cognition and predator coexistence to the morality of environmental protection.
We've picked the 17 best eco-books of April 2019, including titles for activists, scientists and eco-friendly kids. Links are to publishers' websites, and you can also find any of these books at your favorite store or library. Pick the ones that are best for you and then put this new inspiration and information to good use saving the planet.
Wildlife and Endangered Species
Protecting Pollinators: How to Save the Creatures That Feed Our World by Jodi Helmer — An in-depth look at the pollinator crisis (which is affecting bees, as well as bats, birds and other pollen-spreaders) and what people around the world are doing to reverse the declines. A buzz-worthy book.
Down From the Mountain: The Life and Death of a Grizzly Bear by Bryce Andrews — A cautionary tale of human-grizzly coexistence (or lack thereof). The book helps to illustrate the broader issues affecting grizzlies as their populations grow, pushing them closer and closer to humans (and, sadly, their guns).
Beyond Words: What Elephants and Whales Think and Feel by Carl Safina — A new version of Safina's bestselling book about the inner lives of animals, adapted for young-adult readers.
Corridor Ecology: Linking Landscapes for Biodiversity Conservation and Climate Adaptation — The second edition of this important book discusses the latest science about wildlife corridors and how to restore them. (Read our interview with co-editor Jody Hilty here.)
Our Planet by Alastair Fothergill, Keith Scholey and Fred Pearce — The directors of the BBC's Planet Earth and Blue Planet have brought their talents to Netflix for a new documentary series about conservation. This gorgeously photographed coffee-table book expands upon the documentary itself and gives us the chance to slow down and absorb every detail. David Attenborough, who narrates the TV series, provides the foreword.
The Sea Turtle Mystery — The famous "Boxcar Children Mysteries" series tackles the thorny issue of sea turtle egg poaching, a major threat to the survival of all sea turtle species. Can the kids solve the crime and save an endangered species? Geez, I sure hope so.
Yellowstone Cougars: Ecology Before and During Wolf Restoration by Toni K. Ruth, Polly C. Buotte and Maurice G. Hornocker — This massive book (525 pages, weighing 1.7 pounds!) is the result of years of fieldwork by the authors. It reveals how wolves and cougars compete with each other and sets the stage for what may be the next era of carnivore conservation and management in the West.
Don't Let Them Disappear by Chelsea Clinton and Gianna Marino — A delightful kids' book about why tigers, elephants, rhinos and other species are at risk and what we can do to help. Also available in Spanish.
Ocean Outbreak: Confronting the Rising Tide of Marine Disease by Drew Harvell — If you want to know more about diseases affecting marine wildlife, there's no better person to turn to than Harvell, the scientist who led recent research into the starfish wasting epidemic affecting the west coast. Her new book examines starfish, as well as corals, abalone and salmon to define both the problem and the necessary solutions.
History Lessons for the Future
Republic of Lies: American Conspiracy Theorists and Their Surprising Rise to Power by Anna Merlan — This isn't strictly an environmental book, but you want to better understand why some people (and certain presidents) keep insisting that climate change is a hoax, then you need this on your nightstand. Prozac not included.
Same River Twice: The Politics of Dam Removal and River Restoration by Peter Brewitt — A profile of three dam-removal projects in the Pacific Northwest with lessons for advocates throughout the world.
As Long as Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight for Environmental Justice, from Colonization to Standing Rock by Dina Gilio-Whitaker — The history of indigenous resistance may offer all of us the strength we need to keep fighting, from the co-author of "All the Real Indians Died Off" And 20 Other Myths About Native Americans.
Morality and the Environmental Crisis by Roger S. Gottlieb — How can we be good people when so many of our individual and collective actions contribute to the destruction of the planet? This major new academic book explores the philosophical, religious, political, societal and ethical challenges and opportunities of living in a time of crisis. (Or you can just watch this episode of "The Good Place.")
Pollution and Climate Change
Choked: Life and Breath in the Age of Air Pollution by Beth Gardiner — My lungs hurt just reading the description of this book. Gardiner traveled the world to find out how pollution clogs our cities, hearts and politics. Along the way she uncovers the solutions that just may help us all breathe a little easier.
Losing Earth: A Recent History by Nathaniel Rich — A book-length expansion of Rich's widely shared New York Times Magazine article about how we could have solved the climate crisis in the 1980s — and maybe how we can put those lessons to better use today.
Science Comics: Wild Weather by MK Reed and Jonathan Hill — The science of storms, meteorology and climate change in a fun, easy-to-read graphic format. Like everything in the "Science Comics" series, this is sure to entertain while it educates, no matter what your age.
Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out? by Bill McKibben — Be strong. No, seriously, that's the ultimate message of this latest book by the acclaimed environmental activist.
That's our list for this month, but there's plenty more to add to your reading lists. For dozens of additional recent eco-books, check out the "Revelator Reads" archive — and come back in just a few weeks for next month's inspiring list.
Reposted with permission from our media associate The Revelator.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Tracy L. Barnett
Sources reviewed this article for accuracy.
For Sicangu Lakota water protector Cheryl Angel, Standing Rock helped her define what she stands against: an economy rooted in extraction of resources and exploitation of people and planet. It wasn't until she'd had some distance that the vision of what she stands for came into focus.
Last week, the Peruvian Palm Oil Producers' Association (JUNPALMA) promised to enter into an agreement for sustainable and deforestation-free palm oil production. The promise was secured by the U.S. based National Wildlife Federation (NWF) in collaboration with the local government, growers and the independent conservation organization Sociedad Peruana de Ecodesarrollo.
The rallying cry to build it again and to build it better than before is inspiring after a natural disaster, but it may not be the best course of action, according to new research published in the journal Science.
"Faced with global warming, rising sea levels, and the climate-related extremes they intensify, the question is no longer whether some communities will retreat—moving people and assets out of harm's way—but why, where, when, and how they will retreat," the study begins.
The researchers suggest that it is time to rethink retreat, which is often seen as a last resort and a sign of weakness. Instead, it should be seen as the smart option and an opportunity to build new communities.
"We propose a reconceptualization of retreat as a suite of adaptation options that are both strategic and managed," the paper states. "Strategy integrates retreat into long-term development goals and identifies why retreat should occur and, in doing so, influences where and when."
The billions of dollars spent to rebuild the Jersey Shore and to create dunes to protect from future storms after Superstorm Sandy in 2012 may be a waste if sea level rise inundates the entire coastline.
"There's a definite rhetoric of, 'We're going to build it back better. We're going to win. We're going to beat this. Something technological is going to come and it's going to save us,'" said A.R. Siders, an assistant professor with the disaster research center at the University of Delaware and lead author of the paper, to the New York Times. "It's like, let's step back and think for a minute. You're in a fight with the ocean. You're fighting to hold the ocean in place. Maybe that's not the battle we want to pick."
Rethinking retreat could make it a strategic, efficient, and equitable way to adapt to the climate crisis, the study says.
Dr. Siders pointed out that it has happened before. She noted that in the 1970s, the small town of Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin moved itself out of the flood plain after one too many floods. The community found and reoriented the business district to take advantage of highway traffic and powered it entirely with solar energy, as the New York Times reported.
That's an important lesson now that rising sea levels pose a catastrophic risk around the world. Nearly 75 percent of the world's cities are along shorelines. In the U.S. alone coastline communities make up nearly 40 percent of the population— more than 123 million people, which is why Siders and her research team are so forthright about the urgency and the complexities of their findings, according to Harvard Magazine.
Some of those complexities include, coordinating moves across city, state or even international lines; cultural and social considerations like the importance of burial grounds or ancestral lands; reparations for losses or damage to historic practices; long-term social and psychological consequences; financial incentives that often contradict environmental imperatives; and the critical importance of managing retreat in a way that protects vulnerable and poor populations and that doesn't exacerbate past injustices, as Harvard Magazine reported.
If communities could practice strategic retreats, the study says, doing so would not only reduce the need for people to choose among bad options, but also improve their circumstances.
"It's a lot to think about," said Siders to Harvard Magazine. "And there are going to be hard choices. It will hurt—I mean, we have to get from here to some new future state, and that transition is going to be hard.…But the longer we put off making these decisions, the worse it will get, and the harder the decisions will become."
To help the transition, the paper recommends improved access to climate-hazard maps so communities can make informed choices about risk. And, the maps need to be improved and updated regularly, the paper said as the New York Times reported.
"It's not that everywhere should retreat," said Dr. Siders to the New York Times. "It's that retreat should be an option. It should be a real viable option on the table that some places will need to use."
Leaked documents show that Jair Bolsonaro's government intends to use the Brazilian president's hate speech to isolate minorities living in the Amazon region. The PowerPoint slides, which democraciaAbierta has seen, also reveal plans to implement predatory projects that could have a devastating environmental impact.