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
The Washington Redskins will retire their controversial name and logo, the National Football League (NFL) team announced Monday.
By Alyssa Murdoch, Chrystal Mantyka-Pringle and Sapna Sharma
Summer has finally arrived in the northern reaches of Canada and Alaska, liberating hundreds of thousands of northern stream fish from their wintering habitats.
A Good News Story?<p>On the surface, the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/fwb.13569" target="_blank">results from our study</a> appear to provide a "good news" story. Warming temperatures were linked to higher numbers of fish, more species overall and, therefore, potentially more fishing opportunities for northerners.</p><p>Initially, we were surprised to learn that warming was increasing the distribution of cold-adapted fish. We reasoned that modest amounts of warming could lead to benefits such as increased food and winter habitat availability without reaching stressful levels for many species.</p>
Photo of Arctic grayling (left) and Dolly Varden trout (right). Alyssa Murdoch / Lilian Tran / Nunavik Research Centre and Tracey Loewen / Fisheries and Oceans Canada<p>Yet, not all fish species fared equally well. Ecologically unique northern species — those that have evolved in colder, more nutrient-poor environments, such as Arctic grayling and Dolly Varden trout — were showing declines with warming.</p>
Fish Strandings and Buried Eggs<p>Recent news headlines run the gamut for Pacific salmon — from their increased escapades <a href="https://nunatsiaq.com/stories/article/more-pacific-salmon-showing-up-in-western-arctic-waters/" target="_blank">into the Arctic</a> to <a href="https://www.juneauempire.com/news/warm-waters-across-alaska-cause-salmon-die-offs/" target="_blank">massive pre-spawning die-offs</a> in central Alaska. Similarly, results from our study revealed different outcomes for fish depending on local climatic conditions, including Pacific salmon.</p><p>We found that warmer spring and fall temperatures may be helping juvenile salmon by providing a longer and more plentiful growing season, and by supporting early egg development in northern regions that were previously too cold for survival.</p><p>In contrast, salmon declined in regions that were experiencing wetter fall conditions, pointing to an increased risk of flooding and sedimentation that could bury or dislodge incubating eggs.</p>
Headwaters of the Wind River within the largely intact Peel River watershed in northern Canada. Don Reid / Wildlife Conservation Society Canada / Author provided<p>Interestingly, we found that certain climatic combinations, such as warmer summer water temperatures with decreased summer rainfall, were important in determining where Pacific salmon could survive. Summer warming in drier watersheds led to declines, suggesting that lowered streamflows may have increased the risk of fish becoming stranded in subpar habitats that were too warm and crowded.</p>
The Fate of Northern Fisheries<p>The promise of a warmer and more accessible Arctic has attracted mounting interest in new economic opportunities, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpol.2019.103637" target="_blank">including fisheries</a>. As warming rates at higher latitudes are already <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/" target="_blank">two to three times global levels</a>, it seems probable that northern biodiversity will experience dramatic shifts in the coming decades.</p><p>Despite the many unknowns surrounding the future of Pacific salmon, many fisheries are currently <a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/03632415.2017.1374251" target="_blank">thriving following warmer and more productive northern oceans</a>, and some <a href="https://doi.org/10.14430/arctic68876" target="_blank">Arctic Indigenous communities are developing new salmon fisheries</a>.</p><p>As warming continues, the commercial salmon fishing industry is poised to expand northwards, but its success will largely depend on extenuating factors such as <a href="https://www.eenews.net/stories/1060023067" target="_blank">changes to marine habitat and food sources</a> and <a href="https://www.yukon-news.com/news/promising-chinook-salmon-run-failed-to-materialize-in-the-yukon-river-panel-hears/" target="_blank">how many fish are caught during the freshwater stages of their journey</a>.</p><p>Even with the potential for increased northern biodiversity, it is important to recognize that some northern communities may be unable to adapt or may <a href="https://thenarwhal.ca/searching-for-the-yukon-rivers-missing-chinook/" target="_blank">lose individual species that are associated with important cultural values</a>.</p>
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If you get a call from a number you don't recognize, don't hit decline — it might be a contact tracer calling to let you know that someone you've been near has tested positive for the coronavirus.
Interviews With Contact Tracers<p>Contact tracing is a public health strategy that involves identifying everyone who may have been in contact with a person who has the coronavirus. Contact tracers collect information and provide guidance to help contain the transmission of disease.</p><p>It's been used during outbreaks of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), Ebola, measles, and now the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.</p><p>It starts when the local department of health gets a report of a confirmed case of the coronavirus in its community and gives that person a call. The contact tracer usually provides information on how to isolate and when to get treatment, then tries to figure out who else the person may have exposed.</p><p>"We ask who they've been in contact with in the 48 hours prior to symptom onset, or 2 days before the date of their positive test if they don't have symptoms," said <a href="https://case.edu/medicine/healthintegration/people/heidi-gullett" target="_blank">Dr. Heidi Gullett</a>, associate director of the Center for Community Health Integration at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and medical director of the Cuyahoga County Board of Health in Ohio.</p>
“You’ve Been Exposed”<p>After the case interview, contact tracers will get to work calling the folks who may have been exposed to the coronavirus by the person who tested positive.</p><p>"We give them recommendations about quarantining or isolating, getting tested, and what to do if they become sick. If they're not already sick, we still want them to self-quarantine so that they don't spread the disease to anyone else if they were to become sick," said Labus.</p><p>Generally, the contact tracer won't ask for additional contacts unless they happen to call someone who is sick or has a confirmed case of the virus. They will help ensure the contact has the resources they need to isolate themselves, if necessary. The contact tracer may continue to stay in touch with that person over the next 14 days.</p><p>"We follow the percentage of people that were contacts, then converted into being actual cases of the virus. It's an important marker to help us understand what kind of transmission happens in our community and how to control the virus," said Gullett.</p>
Why You Should Participate (and What Happens If You Don’t)<p>A <a href="https://www.thelancet.com/journals/laninf/article/PIIS1473-3099(20)30457-6/fulltext" target="_blank">Lancet study</a> from June 16, which looked at data from more than 40,000 people, found that COVID-19 transmission could be reduced by 64 percent through isolating those who have the coronavirus, quarantining their household, and contacting the people they may have exposed.</p><p>The combination strategy was significantly more effective than mass random testing or just isolating the sick person and members of their household.</p><p>However, contact tracing is only as effective as people's willingness to participate, and a small number of people who've contracted the coronavirus or were potentially exposed are reluctant to talk.</p><p>"Contact tracers have all been hung up on, cussed at, yelled at," said Gullet.</p><p>The hesitation to talk to contact tracers often stems from concerns over privacy — a serious issue in healthcare.</p>
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