Plastic, Insects, Salmon and Climate Change: The 13 Best Environmental Books of July
By John R. Platt
Summer is officially upon us, which means it's time to pick the season's best beach reads. And there's no rule that says beach reads have to be frothy and lightweight. Why not choose compelling and informative instead? We've picked the best new environmentally themed books coming out this July, with titles covering everything from insects and salmon to climate change and plastic pollution. There are even a few eco-poetry collections for those of you who'd like a little art with your inspiration.
Our full list — an amazing 13 titles — appears below. Links are to publishers' websites, but you can also buy many of these titles at your favorite bookstore. We hope you find one near a beach.
Wildlife & Conservation:
Buzz, Sting, Bite: Why We Need Insects by Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson — An ecologist provides an entertaining look at "the little creatures that make the world go round," something that's severely needed in this era of worryingly dangerous insect declines.
Stronghold: One Man's Quest to Save the World's Wild Salmon by Tucker Malarkey — The true and inspirational story of Guido Rahr, who fought everyone from fossil fuel developers to Russian oligarchs to help save Pacific salmon from extinction.
Humans and Lions: Conflict, Conservation and Coexistence by Keith Somerville — Cecil the lion wasn't an isolated occurrence. Humans and lions have been living together (and clashing) for millennia, and the existence of these two species will forever be intertwined — unless lions get crowded off the planet. Somerville looks at history and the state of Africa today to explore how they can be saved from extinction.
In Oceans Deep: Courage, Innovation and Adventure Beneath the Waves by Bill Streever — A vivid portrait of the pioneering explorers and scientists who broadened our understanding of the oceans' depths. Along the way, the book also shows how humans threaten these remote and important parts of the world.
A Terrible Thing to Waste: Environmental Racism and Its Assault on the American Mind by Harriet A. Washington — This book will open your eyes, make you angry, and then point you toward solutions for ending the plague of pollution-related health problems in marginalized communities of color.
Poisonous Skies: Acid Rain and the Globalization of Pollution by Rachel Emma Rothschild — You know, it almost feels quaint to be talking about acid rain these days, but sometimes you need to pay attention to history in order to better understand the present. Rothschild looks at the history of acid rain to explore what happened, how countries fought about it, how scientists led the charge against it, and how all of that offers lessons for the modern world of climate change. Essential reading, and not quaint at all.
How to Give Up Plastic: A Guide to Changing the World, One Plastic Bottle at a Time by Will McCallum — Do you know to capture the microfiber plastic particles your clothes shed in the washing machine and stop them from ending up in the ocean? If not, this book offers info on how to do just that — and plenty of other tips for leading a plastic-free life.
Every Breath You Take: A User's Guide to the Atmosphere by Mark Broomfield — Why read a romance or thriller that will leave you breathless when you could learn more about what you're actually breathing? And how to improve air quality?
Purrmaids: Quest for Clean Water by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen — An ecological fable about cleaning up the ocean, for the kids in the audience. (But seriously, someone explain that mermaid cat to me.)
This Land: How Cowboys, Capitalism and Corruption are Ruining the American West by Christopher Ketcham — A full-force, book-length investigation of the forces destroying protections for public lands and wildlife, not just in the West but throughout the entire country. Illuminating and disturbing.
My Ancestors Are Reindeer Herders and I Am Melting in Extinction by Ron Riekki — This collection of nonfiction, fiction and poetry explores the American landscape and disappearing wildlife from a nomadic Saami-American perspective.
One Less River by Terry Blackhawk — A poetry collection about the Detroit River and its surroundings, written by an award-winning educator and activist.
Republic of Apples, Democracy of Oranges: New Eco-poetry from China and the U.S. edited by Frank Stewart — Nearly 100 poets turn their pens toward looking for answers to the environmental destruction committed by their home countries: the planet's two most carbon-heavy nations.
That's our list for this month, but if you need more, check out dozens of other recent eco-books in the "Revelator Reads" archive.
John R. Platt is the editor of The Revelator. An award-winning environmental journalist, his work has appeared in Scientific American, Audubon, Motherboard, and numerous other magazines and publications.
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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