Desert takes a fresh look at one of the most significant natural aspects of our planet, as both a geographical feature and a cultural entity. It examines and often overturns our common notions about deserts, from the fear of desolation and death of thirst on the one hand, to the attraction of the exotic, adventure and freedom on the other. The book considers the immense geographical diversity of deserts from the Sahara to Antarctica, and describes how plants and animals have adapted to these hostile environments in intriguing and often bizarre ways. Diverse races have also inhabited deserts and evolved unique lifestyles and cultures in response to their environments. Desert also asks why all three of the world's great monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, originated in the deserts of the Middle East, and traces the continuing connections between the minimal materialism of desert existence and the pursuit of a spiritual dimension. Deserts have also long exerted an allure on the West, leading to the impetus for exploration, the fascination with travellers' tales and the fashion for Orientalism in art, architecture and dress. Desert also reviews the significance of desolate landscapes in literature and film and looks at artists' responses to the desert, from seeing it as empty space, devoid of interest or perspective, to devising new visual techniques through which to 'see' it.
Author: SueEllen Campbell
Publisher: Univ of California Press
Release Date: 2011-08-22
This lively book sweeps across dramatic and varied terrains—volcanoes and glaciers, billabongs and canyons, prairies and rain forests—to explore how humans have made sense of our planet’s marvelous landscapes. In a rich weave of scientific, cultural, and personal stories, The Face of the Earth examines mirages and satellite images, swamp-dwelling heroes and Tibetan nomads, cave paintings and popular movies, investigating how we live with the great shaping forces of nature—from fire to changing climates and the intricacies of adaptation. The book illuminates subjects as diverse as the literary life of hollow Earth theories, the links between the Little Ice Age and Frankenstein’s monster, and the spiritual allure of deserts and their scarce waters. Including vivid, on-the-spot accounts by scientists and writers in Saudi Arabia, Australia, Alaska, England, the Rocky Mountains, Antarctica, and elsewhere, The Face of the Earth charts the depth and complexity of our interdependence with the natural world.
Author: Edward O. Wilson
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Release Date: 2016-03-07
Half-Earth proposes an achievable plan to save our imperiled biosphere: devote half the surface of the Earth to nature. In order to stave off the mass extinction of species, including our own, we must move swiftly to preserve the biodiversity of our planet, says Edward O. Wilson in his most impassioned book to date. Half-Earth argues that the situation facing us is too large to be solved piecemeal and proposes a solution commensurate with the magnitude of the problem: dedicate fully half the surface of the Earth to nature. If we are to undertake such an ambitious endeavor, we first must understand just what the biosphere is, why it's essential to our survival, and the manifold threats now facing it. In doing so, Wilson describes how our species, in only a mere blink of geological time, became the architects and rulers of this epoch and outlines the consequences of this that will affect all of life, both ours and the natural world, far into the future. Half-Earth provides an enormously moving and naturalistic portrait of just what is being lost when we clip "twigs and eventually whole braches of life's family tree." In elegiac prose, Wilson documents the many ongoing extinctions that are imminent, paying tribute to creatures great and small, not the least of them the two Sumatran rhinos whom he encounters in captivity. Uniquely, Half-Earth considers not only the large animals and star species of plants but also the millions of invertebrate animals and microorganisms that, despite being overlooked, form the foundations of Earth's ecosystems. In stinging language, he avers that the biosphere does not belong to us and addresses many fallacious notions such as the idea that ongoing extinctions can be balanced out by the introduction of alien species into new ecosystems or that extinct species might be brought back through cloning. This includes a critique of the "anthropocenists," a fashionable collection of revisionist environmentalists who believe that the human species alone can be saved through engineering and technology. Despite the Earth's parlous condition, Wilson is no doomsayer, resigned to fatalism. Defying prevailing conventional wisdom, he suggests that we still have time to put aside half the Earth and identifies actual spots where Earth's biodiversity can still be reclaimed. Suffused with a profound Darwinian understanding of our planet's fragility, Half-Earth reverberates with an urgency like few other books, but it offers an attainable goal that we can strive for on behalf of all life.
From endless sand dunes and prickly cacti to shimmering mirages and green oases, deserts evoke contradictory images in us. They are lands of desolation, but also of romance, of blistering Mojave heat and biting Gobi cold. Covering a quarter of the earth’s land mass and providing a home to half a billion people, they are both a physical reality and landscapes of the mind. The idea of the desert has long captured Western imagination, put on display in films and literature, but these portrayals often fail to capture the true scope and diversity of the people living there. Bridging the scientific and cultural gaps between perception and reality, The Desert celebrates our fascination with these arid lands and their inhabitants, as well as their importance both throughout history and in the world today. Covering an immense geographical range, Michael Welland wanders from the Sahara to the Atacama, depicting the often bizarre adaptations of plants and animals to these hostile environments. He also looks at these seemingly infertile landscapes in the context of their place in history—as the birthplaces not only of critical evolutionary adaptations, civilizations, and social progress, but also of ideologies. Telling the stories of the diverse peoples who call the desert home, he describes how people have survived there, their contributions to agricultural development, and their emphasis on water and its scarcity. He also delves into the allure of deserts and how they have been used in literature and film and their influence on fashion, art, and architecture. As Welland reveals, deserts may be difficult to define, but they play an active role in the evolution of our global climate and society at large, and their future is of the utmost importance. Entertaining, informative, and surprising, The Desert is an intriguing new look at these seemingly harsh and inhospitable landscapes.
Clouds have been objects of delight and fascination throughout human history, their fleeting magnificence and endless variety having inspired scientists and daydreamers alike. Described by Aristophanes as “the patron goddesses of idle men,” clouds and the ever-changing patterns they create have long symbolized the restlessness and unpredictability of nature, and yet they are also the source of life-giving rains. In this book, Richard Hamblyn examines clouds in their cultural, historic, and scientific contexts, exploring their prevalence in our skies as well as in our literature, art, and music. As Hamblyn shows, clouds function not only as a crucial means of circulating water around the globe but also as a finely tuned thermostat regulating the planet’s temperature. He discusses the many different kinds of clouds, from high, scattered cirrus clouds to the plump thought-bubbles of cumulus clouds, even exploring man-made clouds and clouds on other planets. He also shows how clouds have featured as meaningful symbols in human culture, whether as ominous portents of coming calamities or as ethereal figures giving shape to the heavens, whether in Wordsworth’s poetry or today’s tech speak. Comprehensive yet compact, cogent and beautifully illustrated, this is the ultimate guidebook to those shapeshifters of the sky.
Author: Ian McLean
Publisher: Reaktion Books
Release Date: 2016-06-15
Large, bold, and colorful, Indigenous Australian art—sometimes known as Aboriginal art—has impressed itself on the contemporary art scene, becoming one of the most popular arts in the world. In this book, Ian McLean tells the improbable story of how a culture once viewed as one of the most primitive in the world invented its own distinct forms of modernism and conquered the contemporary art world. Beginning with its collision with modernity in the late eighteenth century, McLean looks at Indigenous Australian art as a complex practice that brought the world’s oldest aesthetic traditions into the modern era. Taking readers beyond hype, cliché, and political correctness, he explores the different regional variations, styles, materials, and approaches, examining artists as wide-ranging as the Wanjina ancestors and anonymous rock artists of the early colonial period to the stars of the contemporary art scene such as Emily Kngwarreye and Gordon Bennett. Beautifully illustrated, this book offers not just a stunning introduction to this rich artistic tradition but a way of rethinking modern and contemporary art writ large.
This revised edition of Carolyn Merchant’s classic Reinventing Eden has been updated with a new foreword and afterword. Visionary quests to return to the Garden of Eden have shaped Western Culture. This book traces the idea of rebuilding the primeval garden from its origins to its latest incarnations and offers a bold new way to think about the earth.
In Ice, Klaus Dodds provides a wide-ranging exploration of the cultural, natural, and geopolitical history of this most slippery of subjects. Beyond Earth, ice has been found on other planets, moons, and meteors—and scientists even think that ice-rich asteroids played a pivotal role in bringing water to our blue home. But our outlook need not be cosmic to see ice’s importance. Here today and gone tomorrow in many parts of the temperate world, ice is a perennial feature of polar and mountainous regions, where it has long shaped human culture. But as climates change, ice caps and glaciers melt, and waters rise, more than ever this frozen force touches at the core of who we are. As Dodds reveals, ice has played a prominent role in shaping both the earth’s living communities and its geology. Throughout history, humans have had fun with it, battled over it, struggled with it, and made money from it—and every time we open our refrigerator doors, we’re reminded how ice has transformed our relationship with food. Our connection to ice has been captured in art, literature, movies, and television, as well as made manifest in sport and leisure. In our landscapes and seascapes, too, we find myriad reminders of ice’s chilly power, clues as to how our lakes, mountains, and coastlines have been indelibly shaped by the advance and retreat of ice and snow. Beautifully illustrated throughout, Ice is an informative, thought-provoking guide to a substance both cold and compelling.
Author: Gary Paul Nabhan
Publisher: University of Arizona Press
Release Date: 2016-10-01
To the untrained eye, a desert is a wasteland that defies civilization; yet the desert has been home to native cultures for centuries and offers sustenance in its surprisingly wide range of plant life. Gary Paul Nabhan has combed the desert in search of plants forgotten by all but a handful of American Indians and Mexican Americans. In Gathering the Desert readers will discover that the bounty of the desert is much more than meets the eye—whether found in the luscious fruit of the stately organpipe cactus or in the lowly tepary bean. Nabhan has chosen a dozen of the more than 425 edible wild species found in the Sonoran Desert to demonstrate just how bountiful the land can be. From the red-hot chiltepines of Mexico to the palms of Palm Springs, each plant exemplifies a symbolic or ecological relationship which people of this region have had with plants through history. Each chapter focuses on a particular plant and is accompanied by an original drawing by artist Paul Mirocha. Word and picture together create a total impression of plants and people as the book traces the turn of seasons in the desert.
David Suzuki's lifelong work as an environmentalist, naturalist, and scientist have influenced countless others in their fight to save the planet, 20 such devotees of them have contributed to this inspiring collection. These journalists, scientists, writers and environmentalists have taken their enthusiasm for Suzuki's philosophy and funneled it into their own personal recollections, manifestos, and essays: Rick Bass describes his love for the Yaak Valley in Montana; Richard Mabey takes readers to a moonlit May evening in Suffolk; David Helvarg tells us of a stirring seaside memory from his childhood. No matter what journey these writers take us on, the unifying theme of their work is always the same: a deep and abiding love of nature — inspired and shared by David Suzuki.
Author: Chris D. Thomas
Release Date: 2017-09-05
Human activity has irreversibly changed the natural environment. But the news isn't all bad. It's accepted wisdom today that human beings have permanently damaged the natural world, causing extinction, deforestation, pollution, and of course climate change. But in Inheritors of the Earth, biologist Chris Thomas shows that this obscures a more hopeful truth--we're also helping nature grow and change. Human cities and mass agriculture have created new places for enterprising animals and plants to live, and our activities have stimulated evolutionary change in virtually every population of living species. Most remarkably, Thomas shows, humans may well have raised the rate at which new species are formed to the highest level in the history of our planet. Drawing on the success stories of diverse species, from the ochre-colored comma butterfly to the New Zealand pukeko, Thomas overturns the accepted story of declining biodiversity on Earth. In so doing, he questions why we resist new forms of life, and why we see ourselves as unnatural. Ultimately, he suggests that if life on Earth can recover from the asteroid that killed off the dinosaurs, it can survive the onslaughts of the technological age. This eye-opening book is a profound reexamination of the relationship between humanity and the natural world.
Author: Paul Shepard
Publisher: University of Georgia Press
Release Date: 2011-07-01
Through much of history our relationship with the earth has been plagued by ambivalence--we not only enjoy and appreciate the forces and manifestations of nature, we seek to plunder, alter, and control them. Here Paul Shepard uncovers the cultural roots of our ecological crisis and proposes ways to repair broken bonds with the earth, our past, and nature. Ultimately encouraging, he notes, "There is a secret person undamaged in every individual. We have not lost, and cannot lose, the genuine impulse."
Author: Steven John Phillips
Publisher: Univ of California Press
Release Date: 2015-11-17
"This book takes readers deep into the Sonoran Desert, looking closely at the relationships of plants and animals with the land and people, through time and across landscapes. Beginning with its deep biotic and geologic history, the text unveils fascinating ecological adaptations to this desert. The book focuses on the Arizona Upland Subdivision but also touches upon other subdivisions of the Sonoran Desert and associated biotic communities. In clearly accessible language, dozens of naturalists and/or scientists have spelled out the basic concepts of this desert's biodiversity, geology, weather, plants, and animals (from invertebrates to fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals). It explains phenomena of desert light, Sky Islands, and rainfall patterns, flowering and pollination, human impacts and much more. Details on the form, habits, and habitat for hundreds of Sonoran Desert species are presented in accounts covering nearly two-thirds of the volume's 600-plus pages. As in the original publication, the new edition includes color plates highlighting Sonoran Desert landscapes, as well as maps, figures, and more than 400 black and white illustrations. Chapters on when and where to watch the spectacular nature of the region have been updated in this edition for readers inspired to journey over its lands and waters to peruse it in three dimensions"--Provided by publisher.
Warm deserts make up an estimated 1/5 of the Earth's surface and present unique challenges to the creatures, plants, and people that survive the temperature extremes. Desert is a detailed guide to some of the most inhospitable places on Earth, and offers spectacular full-color photographs to give readers an "eyewitness" view of life in the desert. See thestunning sand dunes of the Namib Desert, a Bedouin in full wedding dress, the desert in bloom, a jewel wasp, and a camel's regalia. Learn how sand dunes form, how a few honeypot ants store food for a whole nest in their own bodies, and howa mummy is preserved in sand. Discover why a Tuareg woman never uncovers her face, what makes a dromedary different from a Bactrian camel, the mystery of Timbuktu, and why some desert animals have big ears, and much, much more! Discover the harsh world of hot and cold deserts and the people, plants, and animals that live in them.