Monday, April 20, 2009

The Good Earth


Yes, I know. Earth Day is actually Wednesday. But what if you wanted to read a book in honor of Earth Day? By posting this Monday, you'll have time to run by the library (literally, without powering up your SUV), pay your overdue fines, get the book, and read a goodly portion before Wednesday.

For anyone interested in filming a nature documentary, here is the formula: two parts wonders-of-the-earth followed by one part gloom-and-doom, with the transition between being someone taking a chainsaw to a tree that's been around since Jesus and felling it in thirty seconds. Watch any nature documentary and tell me I'm lying.

Actually, I'm lying. I just thought of the wonderful Planet Earth series which was more like nine parts wonders-of-the-earth to one part gloom-and-doom, and not a chainsaw to be seen. But that may only have been because the creators had a fascination that verged on obsession with animals eating each other. Seriously. The show should have been subtitled "Really Cool Animals and the Animals that Eat Them."

In any case, back to the "books" part of this "Books and Beyond" blog. Here are some recent earth-related ones I've enjoyed, followed by their gloom-and-doom rating:

* THE WEATHER MAKERS by Tim Flannery. A very readable, very well-supported examination of our changing climate and the ecosystems and species already affected. Gloom Rating: 10 (you may want to keep a noose handy and have someone standing by to kick away the stool).

* COAL: A HUMAN HISTORY by Barbara Freese. Fascinating jaunt through history and one of humankind's favored sources of energy. If you live in the Pacific Northwest, you come away feeling smug because, heck, most of our power is hydroelectric, and nobody minds that but the salmon. Gloom Rating: 6.

* THE WILD TREES by Richard Preston. Had this on my website. A look at the truly giant redwoods and the folks who study and climb them. Gloom Rating: 3 (because no one is cutting down these beauties anymore. The damage is mostly past).

* THE GOLDEN SPRUCE by John Vaillant. Not really an earth book so much as a history of how an extreme, ex-logger-turned-environmentalist did huge sentimental and environmental damage to "get back at" the logging companies. Gloom Rating: 5 (who knew you could get so bummed about one tree?).

* THE CREATION by E. O. Wilson. If you read any books about nature or biology, the writers are forever quoting Wilson. This renowned biologist writes this book as a plea to the right-wing, Wal-Mart-shopping, Hummer-caravan-driving, old-growth-clear-cutting, NRA-lifetime-membership-holding, Christian fundamentalists of America. Please, you nutjobs, he writes (in so many words), please take care of the earth because it's cool. While you may disagree with his portrayal of Christians, it turns out the earth is, in fact, pretty cool. A little too much on worms and bugs, for my taste, but otherwise interesting. Gloom Rating: 5.

Let me know if you have some favorites!

1 comment:

  1. The animals feasting on each other *was* the doom in gloom in Planet Earth. It was beautiful, yes, but it was a keen reminder of the absolutes in the food chain.

    Otherwise, thanks for the reading suggestions. I might have to try a few in honor of Earth Day. Meanwhile, I'm making "Earth" shaped sugar cookies that don't look very much like our planet.

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