Extinction Risk and Rebellion: 15 Environmental Books Coming in June
By John R. Platt
When 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg spoke to the British Houses of Parliament last month, she had harsh words for the politicians in the audience: "You did not act in time," she said.
Want to learn how not to be like the Houses of Parliament? This month will see the publication of more than a dozen important new environmental books (including one by Thunberg) offering readers the opportunity to take action — and not just any action, but the best actions to protect the environment. These books offer policymakers, activists, conservationists and other environmentalists the latest information and tools to help do their jobs and make this a better planet.
We've picked the best 15 environmentally themed books of June 2019, with new titles about activism, climate change, conserving rare species (everything from rhinos to butterflies), wildlife trafficking, sustainable energy and a whole lot more. Links are to publishers' websites, but you can also find any of these titles at your favorite neighborhood bookstore. Pick your favorites, learn a few new things, and then put that information to good use.
This Is Not a Drill: An Extinction Rebellion Handbook — Worried about climate breakdown? This new book contains dozens of chapters about how to take action, mostly written by participants in the Extinction Rebellion movement that has taken Europe by storm over the past few months.
No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference by Greta Thunberg — A slim, inspirational volume collecting 80 pages of speeches by the 16-year-old Swedish school strike organizer who's putting the adult world on notice to take action on climate change.
The Ice at the End of the World: An Epic Journey into Greenland's Buried Past and Our Perilous Future by Jon Gertner — The story of Greenland's rapidly melting glacial ice contains the history of the planet…and insight into our future. But studying this remote, dangerous territory comes with its own set of challenges. Gertner helps tell the story of the scientists who work there and what they're revealing.
The Fate of Food: What We'll Eat in a Bigger, Hotter, Smarter World by Amanda Little — How do we feed the growing population of the planet when the world itself is experiencing the dramatic effects of climate change? Little takes us on a global journey looking for answers.
How Solar Energy Became Cheap: A Model for Low-Carbon Innovation by Gregory F. Nemet — A rather pricey tome about the history of solar power and how it might offer policy recommendations to accelerate future innovation in other low-impact energy technologies.
Wildlife, Extinction and Endangered Species:
The Last Butterflies: A Scientist's Quest to Save a Rare and Vanishing Creature by Nick Haddad — An ecologist takes us into the conservation efforts to protect six rare butterfly species. Haddad shows that they may need intense and cooperative efforts to keep them flying — a process that may help other species along the way.
Survival or Extinction? How to Save Elephants and Rhinos by Bridget Martin — We recently lost the last male Sumatran rhino in Malaysia. Will other rhino and elephant species soon follow? This new academic book explores how we can prevent that through collaboration, law enforcement and investigation into the illegal markets fueling elephant and rhino extinctions. And speaking of those markets….
The Illegal Wildlife Trade in China: Understanding the Distribution Networksby Rebecca W. Y. Wong — The latest volume in a series on "green criminology" offers insight for policymakers and law enforcement to help understand and take down the illegal smuggling networks that are killing endangered animals in China and around the world.
A Death in the Rainforest: How a Language and a Way of Life Came to an End in Papua New Guinea by Don Kulick — Extinction happens to cultures, too. And when they go, so does everything around them. An important history lesson from an anthropologist who spent three decades watching a language and a people go extinct as the rainforest around them disappeared.
Slime: How Algae Created Us, Plague Us, and Just Might Save Usby Ruth Kassinger — We often look for big solutions, but the reality is that the smallest things often offer hope. This globetrotting book showcases the "algae innovators" (the phrase of the month) exploring what we can learn from these often-ignored plants.
Human-Wildlife Interactions: Turning Conflict Into Coexistence edited by Beatrice Frank, Jenny A. Glikman and Silvio Marchini — A massive academic book with contributors from around the world of conservation offering case studies on improving how people can live better with their animal neighbors.
Conservation Politics: The Last Anti-colonial Battle by David Johns — The author argues that conservation often fails because humans continue to impose their colonial mindset on the natural world. As he writes in his introduction, "Conservation is essentially an anti-colonial struggle with one important difference — non-human species are ill-equipped to effectively resist and overcome the human onslaught, amplified as it is by technology and social organization." Challenging stuff.
Nature, Wild Spaces and Public Land:
Underland: A Deep Time Journey by Robert Macfarlane — A rather magical look at the world beneath our feet, and what that world means to humanity, from the award-winning author of The Lost Words and The Death of Grass. This contains the most beautiful writing of the month, and some of the most thought-provoking.
Arches Enemy by Scott Graham — Sometimes you need to get away from the real world in order to understand it better. This latest volume in Graham's National Parks Mystery series includes, as you'd expect, fictional murder most foul, but it also addresses the history and environmental importance of the American West. (Check out our interview with Grahamabout his previous book, Yosemite Fall.)
Up in Arms: How the Bundy Family Hijacked Public Lands, Outfoxed the Federal Government, and Ignited America's Patriot Militia Movement by John Temple — If you want to understand the extremist militia groups popping up around the country lately, you need to start with Nevada's notorious Bundy clan. Temple shines a light on the people as well as the religious, political and economic factors that gave rise to this dangerous movement.
That's our list for this month, but there's a lot more to add to your reading lists. For dozens of additional recent eco-books, check out the "Revelator Reads" archive.
Reposted with permission from our media associate The Revelator.
By Dana M Bergstrom, Euan Ritchie, Lesley Hughes and Michael Depledge
In 1992, 1,700 scientists warned that human beings and the natural world were "on a collision course." Seventeen years later, scientists described planetary boundaries within which humans and other life could have a "safe space to operate." These are environmental thresholds, such as the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and changes in land use.
The Good and Bad News<p><span>Ecosystems consist of living and non-living components, and their interactions. They work like a super-complex engine: when some components are removed or stop working, knock-on consequences can lead to system failure.</span></p><p>Our study is based on measured data and observations, not modeling or predictions for the future. Encouragingly, not all ecosystems we examined have collapsed across their entire range. We still have, for instance, some intact reefs on the Great Barrier Reef, especially in deeper waters. And northern Australia has some of the most intact and least-modified stretches of savanna woodlands on Earth.</p><p><span>Still, collapses are happening, including in regions critical for growing food. This includes the </span><a href="https://www.mdba.gov.au/importance-murray-darling-basin/where-basin" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Murray-Darling Basin</a><span>, which covers around 14% of Australia's landmass. Its rivers and other freshwater systems support more than </span><a href="https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/[email protected]/latestproducts/94F2007584736094CA2574A50014B1B6?opendocument" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">30% of Australia's food</a><span> production.</span></p><p><span></span><span>The effects of floods, fires, heatwaves and storms do not stop at farm gates; they're felt equally in agricultural areas and natural ecosystems. We shouldn't forget how towns ran out of </span><a href="https://www.mdba.gov.au/issues-murray-darling-basin/drought#effects" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">drinking water</a><span> during the recent drought.</span></p><p><span></span><span>Drinking water is also at risk when ecosystems collapse in our water catchments. In Victoria, for example, the degradation of giant </span><a href="https://theconversation.com/logging-must-stop-in-melbournes-biggest-water-supply-catchment-106922" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Mountain Ash forests</a><span> greatly reduces the amount of water flowing through the Thompson catchment, threatening nearly five million people's drinking water in Melbourne.</span></p><p>This is a dire <em data-redactor-tag="em">wake-up</em> call — not just a <em data-redactor-tag="em">warning</em>. Put bluntly, current changes across the continent, and their potential outcomes, pose an existential threat to our survival, and other life we share environments with.</p><p><span>In investigating patterns of collapse, we found most ecosystems experience multiple, concurrent pressures from both global climate change and regional human impacts (such as land clearing). Pressures are often </span><a href="https://besjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/1365-2664.13427" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">additive and extreme</a><span>.</span></p><p>Take the last 11 years in Western Australia as an example.</p><p>In the summer of 2010 and 2011, a <a href="https://theconversation.com/marine-heatwaves-are-getting-hotter-lasting-longer-and-doing-more-damage-95637" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">heatwave</a> spanning more than 300,000 square kilometers ravaged both marine and land ecosystems. The extreme heat devastated forests and woodlands, kelp forests, seagrass meadows and coral reefs. This catastrophe was followed by two cyclones.</p><p>A record-breaking, marine heatwave in late 2019 dealt a further blow. And another marine heatwave is predicted for <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/dec/24/wa-coastline-facing-marine-heatwave-in-early-2021-csiro-predicts" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">this April</a>.</p>
What to Do About It?<p><span>Our brains trust comprises 38 experts from 21 universities, CSIRO and the federal Department of Agriculture Water and Environment. Beyond quantifying and reporting more doom and gloom, we asked the question: what can be done?</span></p><p>We devised a simple but tractable scheme called the 3As:</p><ul><li>Awareness of what is important</li><li>Anticipation of what is coming down the line</li><li>Action to stop the pressures or deal with impacts.</li></ul><p>In our paper, we identify positive actions to help protect or restore ecosystems. Many are already happening. In some cases, ecosystems might be better left to recover by themselves, such as coral after a cyclone.</p><p>In other cases, active human intervention will be required – for example, placing artificial nesting boxes for Carnaby's black cockatoos in areas where old trees have been <a href="https://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/factsheet-carnabys-black-cockatoo-calyptorhynchus-latirostris" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">removed</a>.</p><p><span>"Future-ready" actions are also vital. This includes reinstating </span><a href="https://www.abc.net.au/gardening/factsheets/a-burning-question-fire/12395700" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cultural burning practices</a><span>, which have </span><a href="https://theconversation.com/australia-you-have-unfinished-business-its-time-to-let-our-fire-people-care-for-this-land-135196" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">multiple values and benefits for Aboriginal communities</a><span> and can help minimize the risk and strength of bushfires.</span></p><p>It might also include replanting banks along the Murray River with species better suited to <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/gardening/factsheets/my-garden-path---matt-hansen/12322978" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">warmer conditions</a>.</p><p>Some actions may be small and localized, but have substantial positive benefits.</p><p>For example, billions of migrating Bogong moths, the main summer food for critically endangered mountain pygmy possums, have not arrived in their typical numbers in Australian alpine regions in recent years. This was further exacerbated by the <a href="https://theconversation.com/six-million-hectares-of-threatened-species-habitat-up-in-smoke-129438" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2019-20</a> fires. Brilliantly, <a href="https://www.zoo.org.au/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Zoos Victoria</a> anticipated this pressure and developed supplementary food — <a href="https://theconversation.com/looks-like-an-anzac-biscuit-tastes-like-a-protein-bar-bogong-bikkies-help-mountain-pygmy-possums-after-fire-131045" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Bogong bikkies</a>.</p><p><span>Other more challenging, global or large-scale actions must address the </span><a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iICpI9H0GkU&t=34s" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">root cause of environmental threats</a><span>, such as </span><a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41559-018-0504-8" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">human population growth and per-capita consumption</a><span> of environmental resources.</span><br></p><p>We must rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero, remove or suppress invasive species such as <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/mam.12080" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">feral cats</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/the-buffel-kerfuffle-how-one-species-quietly-destroys-native-wildlife-and-cultural-sites-in-arid-australia-149456" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">buffel grass</a>, and stop widespread <a href="https://theconversation.com/to-reduce-fire-risk-and-meet-climate-targets-over-300-scientists-call-for-stronger-land-clearing-laws-113172" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">land clearing</a> and other forms of habitat destruction.</p>
Our Lives Depend On It<p>The multiple ecosystem collapses we have documented in Australia are a harbinger for <a href="https://www.iucn.org/news/protected-areas/202102/natures-future-our-future-world-speaks" target="_blank">environments globally</a>.</p><p>The simplicity of the 3As is to show people <em>can</em> do something positive, either at the local level of a landcare group, or at the level of government departments and conservation agencies.</p><p>Our lives and those of our <a href="https://theconversation.com/children-are-our-future-and-the-planets-heres-how-you-can-teach-them-to-take-care-of-it-113759" target="_blank">children</a>, as well as our <a href="https://theconversation.com/taking-care-of-business-the-private-sector-is-waking-up-to-natures-value-153786" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">economies</a>, societies and <a href="https://theconversation.com/to-address-the-ecological-crisis-aboriginal-peoples-must-be-restored-as-custodians-of-country-108594" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cultures</a>, depend on it.</p><p>We simply cannot afford any further delay.</p><p><em><a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/dana-m-bergstrom-1008495" target="_blank" style="">Dana M Bergstrom</a> is a principal research scientist at the University of Wollongong. <a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/euan-ritchie-735" target="_blank" style="">Euan Ritchie</a> is a professor in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, Centre for Integrative Ecology, School of Life & Environmental Sciences at Deakin University. <a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/lesley-hughes-5823" target="_blank">Lesley Hughes</a> is a professor at the Department of Biological Sciences at Macquarie University. <a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/michael-depledge-114659" target="_blank">Michael Depledge</a> is a professor and chair, Environment and Human Health, at the University of Exeter. </em></p><p><em>Disclosure statements: Dana Bergstrom works for the Australian Antarctic Division and is a Visiting Fellow at the University of Wollongong. Her research including fieldwork on Macquarie Island and in Antarctica was supported by the Australian Antarctic Division.</em></p><p><em>Euan Ritchie receives funding from the Australian Research Council, The Australia and Pacific Science Foundation, Australian Geographic, Parks Victoria, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, and the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC. Euan Ritchie is a Director (Media Working Group) of the Ecological Society of Australia, and a member of the Australian Mammal Society.</em></p><p><em>Lesley Hughes receives funding from the Australian Research Council. She is a Councillor with the Climate Council of Australia, a member of the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists and a Director of WWF-Australia.</em></p><p><em>Michael Depledge does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.</em></p><p><em>Reposted with permission from <a href="https://theconversation.com/existential-threat-to-our-survival-see-the-19-australian-ecosystems-already-collapsing-154077" target="_blank" style="">The Conversation</a>. </em></p>
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