Book List: Ecosystems & Biodiversity

The Diversity of Life – Edward O. Wilson (Belknap Press, Harvard University Press, November 2010; originally published in 1992)

In what is considered the best book on biodiversity, and the most environmental book since Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, the author explains the complexities and history of biodiversity on earth over time and the human threats to it. Addressing factors including habitat destruction and global climate change, he urges an environmental ethic of conservation and calls for solutions that bridge environmental and economic realities and concerns.

The Future of Life – Edward O. Wilson (Vintage, March 2003)

A look at the state of our environment, the history of mass extinctions, and the biological diversity we risk losing. Author addresses environmental and economic aspects of species loss, and proposes solutions towards a global land ethic based on reversing overconsumption and overpopulation.

Apocalyptic Planet: Field Guide to the Everending Earth – Craig Childs (Pantheon, October 2012)

The author uses cutting-edge science to describe the Earth’s 4 billion year history of planetary change, of cataclysms and apocalypse. Turning an eye towards the present and future, he shares descriptions of visits to various locales whose ecosystems are deteriorating, experiencing climate extremes, mass extinction and natural disasters. The resilience of species and adaptations of human civilization in response to planetary changes offer hope and direction.

Our Dying Planet: An Ecologist’s View of the Crisis We Face – Peter F. Sale (University of California Press, 2012)

The author draws on his extensive work on coral reefs to share a scientific overview of how human activity is creating an impending ecological catastrophe and why it matters.  He looks at contributors to our growing ecological footprint, such as overfishing, deforestation, biodiversity loss, fossil fuel use, population growth, and climate change; his suggested solutions provide food for thought.

A World in One Cubic Foot: Portraits of Biodiversity – David Littschwager, author. E.O. Wilson, foreword (University of Chicago Press, November 2012)

Awe-inspiring photographs of plant, animal and insect life found over a 24-hour period in a one cubic foot cube the author set in six different ecosystems around the world, from Costa Rica to Central Park. Vivid portraits of vibrant ecosystems bring new awareness of life’s diversity.

Lost Mountain: A Year in the Vanishing Wilderness, Radical Strip Mining and the Devastation of Appalachia – Erik Reece (Riverhead Trade, February 2007)

The author chronicles a year of observing and questioning the mountaintop removal of Kentucky’s Lost Mountain by the coal strip-mining industry. The book details the ecological devastation, exploitation of coal workers, unenforced environmental laws, intimidation of anti-mining activists, and efforts to store acreage with reforestation projects.

Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations – David R. Montgomery (University of California Press, reprint edition, April 2012)

The author shares the interconnections between soil quality and the histories of civilizations, and the role of soil erosion and loss in the demise of multiple cultures. Factors such as population growth, absentee land ownership, and conventional, fossil-fueled agriculture contribute to excessive soil erosion rates and increasing loss of arable land.  The author suggests long-term stewardship practices, such as agroecological approaches to food production, are critical to rebuilding and preserving soil quality and sustaining our societies.

A Great Aridness: Climate Change and the Future of the American Southwest – William deBuys (Oxford University Press, December, 2011)

A look at the expected challenges and changes for the American Southwest due to population pressures and intensifying effects of climate change – water shortages, rising temperatures, wildfires and disappearing wildlife. The author suggests that what happens in the Southwest will provide a glimpse of what other mid-latitude arid lands worldwide can expect in the future.

Hope for Animals and Their World: How Endangered Species Are Being Rescued from the Brink – Jane Goodall (Grand Central Publishing, June 2011, first edition 2009)

Noted primatologist and anthropologist joins with Cincinnati Zoo Director to share stories of conservation success, reporting on animal and plant species brought back from the brink of extinction in the US and around the world. The stories are a testament to the resilience of nature and the persistence and determination of those who work to save at-risk species.  While acknowledging that many more species are being lost than being saved, Goodall offers a hopeful vision and a “call to arms” in response to “Why Save Endangered Species?”

Planet Without Apes – Craig B. Stanford (Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, November 2012)

The author shows the vulnerability of the great apes, humanity’s closest living relatives, to extinction within the next few generations and questions the implications to human knowledge and understanding of their loss. He notes: We’re made of the same cloth, and when we look at them, we are seeing ourselves.” Losing the great apes would also mean losing the opportunity to learn more about humans.

Plastic Ocean: How a Sea Captain’s Chance Discovery Launched a Determined Quest to Save the Oceans – Capt. Charles Moore (Avery Trade, reprint edition, September 2012)

A look at the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” as reported by the captain and oceanographic researcher who first came across this “plastic soup” in the North Pacific Gyre. The author details the impacts of plastics to marine and coastal ecosystems and implications for their future health, and issues a wake-up call for remediating the plastic load of our waterways, coasts and lands.

Rewilding North America – Dave Forman (Island Press, July 2004)

The author, one of North America’s most effective conservation leaders, takes on arguably the biggest ecological threat of our time: the global extinction crisis. He not only explains the problem in clear and powerful terms, but also offers a bold, hopeful, scientifically credible, and practically achievable solution. This book offers both a vision and a strategy for reconnecting, restoring, and rewilding the North American continent, and is an essential guidebook for anyone concerned with the future of life on earth.

Designing the Sustainable Site, Integrated Design Strategies for Small-Scale Sites and Residential Landscapes – Heather Venhar (John Wiley & Sons, Inc., June 2012)

A practical design manual for new and redeveloped sites in cities and neighborhoods with an emphasis on solutions that help repair environmental degradation.  Case studies address environmental challenges including air pollution, urban flooding and water pollution, water shortages, invasive species, and loss of biodiversity.

Attracting Native Pollinators: The Xerces Society Guide, Protecting North America’s Bees and Butterflies – The Xerces Society, author; Dr. Marla Spivak, Foreword (Storey Publishing, LLC, February 2011)

Written in response to the recent decline in honey bees and other pollinators, and the resulting challenge to our food supply and ecological health, this field guide offers information and solutions for pollinator conservation. Written gardeners, small farmers, orchardists, beekeepers, naturalists, environmentalists, and public land managers. The Xerces Society is an international non-profit conservation organization that focuses on invertebrates.

Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture – Toby Hemenway (Chelsea Green Publishing, second edition, May 2009)

Agroecology, no-till, biodynamic and organic farming, and permaculture are all approaches that help lead to a more a sustainable agricultural system. As opposed to our current industrialized system, these methods all work with Mother Nature, not against her. As you will learn in this book, permaculture is ideal for smaller properties since it is very intensive, growing high yielding crops in very small spaces. This type of gardening creates a “backyard ecosystem” by bringing together communities of plants that work cooperatively, resulting a healthy, self-sustaining habitat that conserves water, builds soil, attracts beneficial insects and birds, produces copious amounts of food, as well as looking beautiful. Many consider Gaia’s Garden the best book on permaculture.

50 Simple Steps to Save the World’s Rainforests: How to Save Our Rainforests with Everyday Acts – Kim Henderson and the Green Patriot Working Group (Freedom Press, April 2012)

This book gives a good overview of the importance of the rainforest to our environment and humanity, offers some practical ways to stem its ongoing disappearance. Tropical forest destruction is responsible for 17% of man made carbon emissions, and is driven largely by demands for agriculture, logging and resources extraction. Examining consumer choices

  • Article at Whole Life Times
  • Read about the project and book on author’s website
  • Simple Steps posts, tagged as 50 Simple Steps to Save the World’s Rainforests, at Healthy Living – Green Patriot
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