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Book Review: What a Fish Knows by Jonathan Balcombe

In Animal Behavior, Animal Rights, Book Publishers, Nonfiction, Oceans by Midge Raymond0 Comments

It’s difficult to think of another title that is more important to the oceans—and therefore to the earth’s entire ecosystem—than What a Fish Knows: The Inner Lives of Our Underwater Cousins by Jonathan Balcombe. Not only does Balcombe introduce us to the fascinating, complex lives of these sentient creatures, he shows us how devastatingly we are treating them, to the point of endangerment and extinction. While fishes aren’t usually at the top of the list of animals that elicit human sympathy (“We hear no screams and see no tears when their mouths are impaled and their bodies pulled from the …

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Ice Bear: The Cultural History of an Arctic Icon

In Book Reviews, Climate Change, Conservation, Endangered Species, Nonfiction, Oceans by John Yunker0 Comments

In Ice Bear: The Cultural History of an Arctic Icon author Michael Engelhard has crafted a richly illustrated, authoritative and eye-opening testament to our evolving and often tragic relationship with the polar bear. Chapters take us chronologically through history, documenting how natives related to animal and honored it, even after its death. When European explorers discovered the bear, it met with a significantly less-honored fate. Bears were seen a prized gifts for royalty; Henry III kept a polar bear in the Tower of London. Today, no self-respecting zoo would consider its collection complete without a polar bear or two. Knut, the famous resident …

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Book Review: Even In My Dreams: A collection of vegan poems

In Animal Rights, Book Reviews, Poetry, Veganism by Midge Raymond0 Comments

“Why a book of vegan poetry?” asks editor Emma Letessier in the introduction to Even In My Dreams: A Collection of Vegan Poems. As a poet herself, Letessier has found writing poetry to be cathartic; like many vegans who live with the daily awareness of the suffering that inspired them to choose this way of life, she writes that “poetry allows us to take emotions that are raw and painful and transform them into something beautiful, powerful.” And the poems in this collection do just that. There are poems for every reader in this book, from the fun and the playful …

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Upcoming writer and artist opportunities at PLAYA

In Education, Events, For Writers, Writing Opportunities by John Yunker0 Comments

PLAYA, a creative residency program in Summer Lake, Oregon, is organizing two exciting artist+scientist opportunities for next year: Confluence of Creative Inquiry: Climate Change Communication Residency July 3-4, 2017 Art + Science and the Cultural Terrain July 17-August 11, 2017 For more information on how to participate, click here. And, of course, PLAYA is also accepting general artist residency applications for 2017. PS: PLAYA is a generous sponsor of the Siskiyou Prize for New Environmental Literature.

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The best environmental books we’ve read in 2016

In Animal Behavior, Animal Rights, Birds, Book Publishers, Book Reviews, Climate Change, Conservation, Endangered Species, Fiction, Nonfiction by John Yunker0 Comments

I polled our contributors to see what books they’ll remember best from 2016. And here we have it — some of which we’ve reviewed and some of which we hope to still…   Anna Monders Last of the Giants: The Rise and Fall of Earth’s Most Dominant Species by Jeff Campbell   Midge Raymond The Invention of Nature by Andrea Wulf This book examines the life of the oft-forgotten founder of the modern environmentalist movement, Alexander von Humboldt, and his story is a timely one, especially in an era in which climate change is still not receiving the attention it …

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Book Review: Marrow Island by Alexis M. Smith

In Book Reviews, Fiction, Oil, Pollution by Midge Raymond0 Comments

Alexis M. Smith’s lovely novel Marrow Island envisions environmental catastrophe on several levels, beginning with a devastating earthquake and the subsequent oil refinery accident whose effects, even though these events are backstory, linger on every page. The novel begins with a mysterious opening chapter, in which Lucie Bowen, twenty years after the earthquake, is again fleeing the island of her youth, this time under very different circumstances. Unlike during the earthquake, which Lucie and her best friend, Katie, survived together, Katie now is a suspicious presence (“I’m not leaving you alone with her,” says Lucie’s boyfriend, Carey); by the end of this …

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Book Review: The Invention of Nature by Andrea Wulf

In Book Reviews, Climate Change, Conservation, Nonfiction by Midge Raymond0 Comments

The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World by Andrea Wulf examines the life of the oft-forgotten founder of the modern environmentalist movement. Alexander von Humboldt was a German naturalist and explorer who, despite having his name attached to natural wonders across the globe, is far less well known than those who drew their inspiration from him, including Charles Darwin, Henry David Thoreau, John Muir, Rachel Carson, and James Lovelock. Wulf’s fascinating book is thoroughly researched and annotated and includes drawings and portraits of Humboldt and his travels. Like so many naturalists, Humboldt was not a “people person” but …

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Book Review: Hot Season by Susan DeFreitas

In Book Reviews, Conservation, Fiction by Mindy Mejia0 Comments

Undergrads navigating a desert year during the Bush Administration frame this debut novel from Susan DeFreitas. Deep Canyon College is an environmentally-focused mecca in the historic Wild West town of Crest Top, Arizona where three roommates try to find their path. Jenna, the freshman soil science major, doesn’t know how to leave a stagnant high school relationship. Katie, eager to escape the shadow of her pseudo-liberal politician mother, finds herself drawn to activism. The graduating senior of the house, Rell, tries to decide where her life will lead as she finishes her senior thesis on pyrophitic plants. Pyrophytes are native …

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Introducing the Center for Humans and Nature

In Climate Change, Endangered Species, Journals and Magazines, Oceans, Q&A by John Yunker0 Comments

I’m pleased to welcome a new contributor to EcoLit Books: The Center for Humans and Nature. This is an amazing organization and I thought a Q&A would be a great way for you to get to know them. What is the Center for Humans and Nature? We are an organization based in Chicago that explores and promotes ethical thinking and dialogue—particularly as it pertains to ideas of environmental responsibility, ecological stewardship, and bettering the relationship between humans and nature. What are your goals? We believe that solutions to today’s challenges begin with big ideas. In order to inspire the great actions needed …

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Patterns in Nature: Why the Natural World Looks the Way It Does

In Book Reviews, Nonfiction by John Yunker0 Comments

Patterns in Nature by Philip Ball is a gorgeous book, dense with full-color photos, including: The book is divided into thematic chapters, such as Symmetry, Spirals, Waves and Dunes, Bubbles and Foam. What’s fascinating is the breadth of photographs and how they visually unite geologic phenomena, flora and fauna, such as the similarities between an owl and a butterfly’s wings: The “why” behind these various patterns are explained by the author through brief lessons on physics and chemical properties. But these are only high-level explanations and the author freely admits that we don’t really know why so many animals look the way they do. What I most …