Beavers, National Parks and Trump’s Attacks on Science: 16 New Environmental Books for June
By John R. Platt
We've made it past Memorial Day weekend, which means that for many of us it's time to start planning our summer reading lists. Luckily there are plenty of new environmentally themed books coming out in June—more than any one person could read at the beach or by the campfire, but enough for everyone to easily pick out a few titles that appeal to them.
Here's our list of the 16 best-looking books being published this month, including books about whales, beavers, sea-level rise, national parks, the Trump administration's attacks on science, the history of radical environmentalism and a whole lot more. As usual, we've tried to pick a wide range of titles for dedicated environmentalists, nature-loving kids, mystery fans and everyone in between.
Wildlife, Animals and Endangered Species:
North America's ecosystems are messed up, and the eradication of beavers is often to blame. Millions of these crafty critters were trapped and killed for their fur, leaving the ecosystems that depended on them up a creek without a beaver. Goldfarb looks at the consequences of the loss of beavers, as well as the people who are trying to restore their populations. (Related: read Goldfarb's recent essay, Can Wildlife Services Learn to Believe in Beavers?)
The Last Lobster: Boom or Bust for Maine's Greatest Fishery? by Christopher White
As someone who spent eight years living in coastal Maine, I know how utterly reliant the local economy is on lobster fishing. But that industry, currently booming, could soon crash as a result of climate change and warming oceans. White bites into this critical issue and talks to the lobstermen who are working their tails off now but already bracing for an uncertain future.
How did whales evolve, and can they continue to survive in the face of climate change and other threats to the world's oceans? Pyenson, one of the world's most influential marine mammal researchers, dives deep into these issues in his important new book.
The Animal Lover's Guide to Changing the World by Stephanie Feldstein
Subtitled "Practical Advice and Everyday Actions for a More Sustainable, Humane and Compassionate Planet," this book by Feldstein, an activist with the Center for Biological Diversity (publishers of The Revelator) takes fans of pets and wildlife through the actions they can take to protect the planet and all of its denizens.
The Intrinsic Value of Endangered Species by Ian A. Smith
This academic book, from a series on studies in ethics and moral theory, argues that species have a right to exist because they are capable of existing and reproducing in the first place. Sounds like a good argument.
Squidtoons: Exploring Ocean Science with Comics by Garfield Kwan, Dana Song
Kids love weird creatures, and the ocean is full of them. So is this book. The illustrations are pretty neat, too.
Science and Politics:
Corrupted Science: Fraud, Ideology and Politics in Science (Revised & Expanded) by John Grant
I was a huge fan of this book when it was first released as a small hardcover 10 years ago. Now it's back in a much larger and massively updated format. Grant (an award-winning science-fiction writer and editor) looks at centuries of history to expose how science has been misused and misrepresented since the age of Galileo—and into the modern climate-change denial movement and the Trump administration.
What the Eyes Don't See: A Story of Crisis, Resistance, and Hope in an American City by Mona Hanna-Attisha
A first-person account of how the author, a pediatrician and activist, helped to uncover and expose the devastating lead-water contaminant crisis in Flint, Michigan.
National Parks and Public Lands:
Yosemite Fall: A National Park Mystery by Scott Graham
A mystery novel, book four in a series set in national parks, about an archeologist trying to solve two murders: one from 150 years ago and another, in the present day, in which he's just been implicated.
Where the Fire Falls: A Vintage National Parks Novel by Karen Barnett
Here's another mystery set in a national park, this time a romantic thriller that takes place in Yellowstone during the 1920s.
This month's third and final work of fiction set in a national park, this time an epoch-leaping kids' book that explores thousands of years of history of Maine's Acadia National Park.
This heavily researched book—nonfiction, to set it apart from the others in this category—lays out the arguments for privatizing public land … and then obliterates them, showing why these landscapes are an asset for the country and its people.
Rising: Dispatches From the New American Shore by Elizabeth Rush
A heavily reported look at the plants, animals and people in the United States who are already being affected by climate change and sea-level rise. Billed as "a shimmering meditation on vulnerability and vulnerable communities," as well as a look at "how to let go of the places we love." Uh-oh.
Environmentalism and Sustainability:
The Ecocentrists: A History of Radical Environmentalism by Keith Makoto Woodhouse
A look at the radical environmentalism movement that arose during the 1980s, from Earth First! and beyond.
What the heck are we eating, and what's happening to our bodies as a result? Lawless looks at the deteriorating nutritional content of our food, the chemicals it's packaged with, and how that's reshaping our brains, microbiota and genes.
A New Reality: Human Evolution for a Sustainable Future by Jonas Salk and Jonathan Salk
A look at the future of human population and related issues, with Jonathan Salk expanding upon ideas developed by his father, the famous creator of the polio vaccine.
That's it for this month, but there are lots more recent books waiting for you at your local bookstore or library. Check out our previous "Revelator Reads" columns for dozens of additional recent recommendations—and feel free to recommend your own recent favorites in the comments.
Reposted with permission from our media associate The Revelator.
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By Eric Tate and Christopher Emrich
Disasters stemming from hazards like floods, wildfires, and disease often garner attention because of their extreme conditions and heavy societal impacts. Although the nature of the damage may vary, major disasters are alike in that socially vulnerable populations often experience the worst repercussions. For example, we saw this following Hurricanes Katrina and Harvey, each of which generated widespread physical damage and outsized impacts to low-income and minority survivors.
Mapping Social Vulnerability<p>Figure 1a is a typical map of social vulnerability across the United States at the census tract level based on the Social Vulnerability Index (SoVI) algorithm of <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/1540-6237.8402002" target="_blank"><em>Cutter et al.</em></a> . Spatial representation of the index depicts high social vulnerability regionally in the Southwest, upper Great Plains, eastern Oklahoma, southern Texas, and southern Appalachia, among other places. With such a map, users can focus attention on select places and identify population characteristics associated with elevated vulnerabilities.</p>
Fig. 1. (a) Social vulnerability across the United States at the census tract scale is mapped here following the Social Vulnerability Index (SoVI). Red and pink hues indicate high social vulnerability. (b) This bivariate map depicts social vulnerability (blue hues) and annualized per capita hazard losses (pink hues) for U.S. counties from 2010 to 2019.<p>Many current indexes in the United States and abroad are direct or conceptual offshoots of SoVI, which has been widely replicated [e.g., <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13753-016-0090-9" target="_blank"><em>de Loyola Hummell et al.</em></a>, 2016]. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) <a href="https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/placeandhealth/svi/index.html" target="_blank">has also developed</a> a commonly used social vulnerability index intended to help local officials identify communities that may need support before, during, and after disasters.</p><p>The first modeling and mapping efforts, starting around the mid-2000s, largely focused on describing spatial distributions of social vulnerability at varying geographic scales. Over time, research in this area came to emphasize spatial comparisons between social vulnerability and physical hazards [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-009-9376-1" target="_blank"><em>Wood et al.</em></a>, 2010], modeling population dynamics following disasters [<a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11111-008-0072-y" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Myers et al.</em></a>, 2008], and quantifying the robustness of social vulnerability measures [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-012-0152-2" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Tate</em></a>, 2012].</p><p>More recent work is beginning to dissolve barriers between social vulnerability and environmental justice scholarship [<a href="https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2018.304846" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Chakraborty et al.</em></a>, 2019], which has traditionally focused on root causes of exposure to pollution hazards. Another prominent new research direction involves deeper interrogation of social vulnerability drivers in specific hazard contexts and disaster phases (e.g., before, during, after). Such work has revealed that interactions among drivers are important, but existing case studies are ill suited to guiding development of new indicators [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijdrr.2015.09.013" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Rufat et al.</em></a>, 2015].</p><p>Advances in geostatistical analyses have enabled researchers to characterize interactions more accurately among social vulnerability and hazard outcomes. Figure 1b depicts social vulnerability and annualized per capita hazard losses for U.S. counties from 2010 to 2019, facilitating visualization of the spatial coincidence of pre‑event susceptibilities and hazard impacts. Places ranked high in both dimensions may be priority locations for management interventions. Further, such analysis provides invaluable comparisons between places as well as information summarizing state and regional conditions.</p><p>In Figure 2, we take the analysis of interactions a step further, dividing counties into two categories: those experiencing annual per capita losses above or below the national average from 2010 to 2019. The differences among individual race, ethnicity, and poverty variables between the two county groups are small. But expressing race together with poverty (poverty attenuated by race) produces quite different results: Counties with high hazard losses have higher percentages of both impoverished Black populations and impoverished white populations than counties with low hazard losses. These county differences are most pronounced for impoverished Black populations.</p>
Fig. 2. Differences in population percentages between counties experiencing annual per capita losses above or below the national average from 2010 to 2019 for individual and compound social vulnerability indicators (race and poverty).<p>Our current work focuses on social vulnerability to floods using geostatistical modeling and mapping. The research directions are twofold. The first is to develop hazard-specific indicators of social vulnerability to aid in mitigation planning [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-020-04470-2" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Tate et al.</em></a>, 2021]. Because natural hazards differ in their innate characteristics (e.g., rate of onset, spatial extent), causal processes (e.g., urbanization, meteorology), and programmatic responses by government, manifestations of social vulnerability vary across hazards.</p><p>The second is to assess the degree to which socially vulnerable populations benefit from the leading disaster recovery programs [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/17477891.2019.1675578" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Emrich et al.</em></a>, 2020], such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) <a href="https://www.fema.gov/individual-disaster-assistance" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Individual Assistance</a> program and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) <a href="https://www.hudexchange.info/programs/cdbg-dr/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Disaster Recovery</a> program. Both research directions posit social vulnerability indicators as potential measures of social equity.</p>
Social Vulnerability as a Measure of Equity<p>Given their focus on social marginalization and economic barriers, social vulnerability indicators are attracting growing scientific interest as measures of inequity resulting from disasters. Indeed, social vulnerability and inequity are related concepts. Social vulnerability research explores the differential susceptibilities and capacities of disaster-affected populations, whereas social equity analyses tend to focus on population disparities in the allocation of resources for hazard mitigation and disaster recovery. Interventions with an equity focus emphasize full and equal resource access for all people with unmet disaster needs.</p><p>Yet newer studies of inequity in disaster programs have documented troubling disparities in income, race, and home ownership among those who <a href="https://eos.org/articles/equity-concerns-raised-in-federal-flood-property-buyouts" target="_blank">participate in flood buyout programs</a>, are <a href="https://www.eenews.net/stories/1063477407" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">eligible for postdisaster loans</a>, receive short-term recovery assistance [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijdrr.2020.102010" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Drakes et al.</em></a>, 2021], and have <a href="https://www.texastribune.org/2020/08/25/texas-natural-disasters--mental-health/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">access to mental health services</a>. For example, a recent analysis of federal flood buyouts found racial privilege to be infused at multiple program stages and geographic scales, resulting in resources that disproportionately benefit whiter and more urban counties and neighborhoods [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/2378023120905439" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Elliott et al.</em></a>, 2020].</p><p>Investments in disaster risk reduction are largely prioritized on the basis of hazard modeling, historical impacts, and economic risk. Social equity, meanwhile, has been far less integrated into the considerations of public agencies for hazard and disaster management. But this situation may be beginning to shift. Following the adage of "what gets measured gets managed," social equity metrics are increasingly being inserted into disaster management.</p><p>At the national level, FEMA has <a href="https://www.fema.gov/news-release/20200220/fema-releases-affordability-framework-national-flood-insurance-program" target="_blank">developed options</a> to increase the affordability of flood insurance [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 2018]. At the subnational scale, Puerto Rico has integrated social vulnerability into its CDBG Mitigation Action Plan, expanding its considerations of risk beyond only economic factors. At the local level, Harris County, Texas, has begun using social vulnerability indicators alongside traditional measures of flood risk to introduce equity into the prioritization of flood mitigation projects [<a href="https://www.hcfcd.org/Portals/62/Resilience/Bond-Program/Prioritization-Framework/final_prioritization-framework-report_20190827.pdf?ver=2019-09-19-092535-743" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Harris County Flood Control District</em></a>, 2019].</p><p>Unfortunately, many existing measures of disaster equity fall short. They may be unidimensional, using single indicators such as income in places where underlying vulnerability processes suggest that a multidimensional measure like racialized poverty (Figure 2) would be more valid. And criteria presumed to be objective and neutral for determining resource allocation, such as economic loss and cost-benefit ratios, prioritize asset value over social equity. For example, following the <a href="http://www.cedar-rapids.org/discover_cedar_rapids/flood_of_2008/2008_flood_facts.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2008 flooding</a> in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, cost-benefit criteria supported new flood protections for the city's central business district on the east side of the Cedar River but not for vulnerable populations and workforce housing on the west side.</p><p>Furthermore, many equity measures are aspatial or ahistorical, even though the roots of marginalization may lie in systemic and spatially explicit processes that originated long ago like redlining and urban renewal. More research is thus needed to understand which measures are most suitable for which social equity analyses.</p>
Challenges for Disaster Equity Analysis<p>Across studies that quantify, map, and analyze social vulnerability to natural hazards, modelers have faced recurrent measurement challenges, many of which also apply in measuring disaster equity (Table 1). The first is clearly establishing the purpose of an equity analysis by defining characteristics such as the end user and intended use, the type of hazard, and the disaster stage (i.e., mitigation, response, or recovery). Analyses using generalized indicators like the CDC Social Vulnerability Index may be appropriate for identifying broad areas of concern, whereas more detailed analyses are ideal for high-stakes decisions about budget allocations and project prioritization.</p>
By Jessica Corbett
Sen. Bernie Sanders on Tuesday was the lone progressive to vote against Tom Vilsack reprising his role as secretary of agriculture, citing concerns that progressive advocacy groups have been raising since even before President Joe Biden officially nominated the former Obama administration appointee.