Mother Earth

1. Still waters: the secret world of lakes
Stager, Curt. W. W. Norton, 2018

Stager (natural sciences, Paul Smith’s College) reveals the “secret world of lakes” with engaging prose that is part memoir and part field notes from six decades of experience exploring lakes around the world. From Walden Pond to the lochs of Scotland, by way of the Adirondacks, Great Lakes, Galilee, Cameroon, Siberia, the Great Rift Valley, and other far-flung excursions, the silent depths of more than a dozen very different lakes are plumbed and revealed. Understanding freshwater ecosystems requires, at the least, knowledge of geology, chemistry, physics, biology, climatology, evolution, atmospheric science, and human history. Stager brings these diverse fields together in a personable, companionable tone reminiscent of an enthusiastic field trip guide imparting new information at every turn. It’s difficult to imagine another work where desiccation, eutrophication, genetic diversity, competition, climate change, sexual selection, sedimentary layers, mass death, and domestic breeding are all considered in the same chapter, with such deft storytelling.
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2. Eat like a fish: my adventures as a fisherman turned restorative ocean farmer
Smith, Bren. Knopf, 2019

As human populations continue to increase, the ability of terrestrial farmers to meet the increased demand for food is slowly decreasing. As an alternative, humans are relying more and more on the oceans for food. However, most fish stocks are showing signs of being overfished, with many expected to be depleted by 2050. In Eat Like a Fish, Smith (a commercial fisher turned award-winning ocean farmer, inventor, and ecologist) provides a first-person account of his change from commercial fisher to ocean farmer, arguing along the way that humans need to view oceans as more than just producers of fish. The book comprises 20 chapters divided into six parts that describe how the author pioneered restorative 3-D ocean farming and detail his quest to move humans from fishers to farmers of the ocean. Smith makes a compelling argument for farming the oceans and for using ocean organisms other than fish as primary sources of human nutrition.
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3. Rainforest: dispatches from Earth’s most vital frontlines
Juniper, Tony. Island Press, 2019

Destruction of rain forests remains central to the environmental problems of today, as one of the major causes of the extinction crisis and global climate change. This book by the current chair of Natural England, a non-departmental public body of the UK, provides a wide-ranging update to the scope of the problem. The first few chapters provide scientific background on rain forest ecosystems and their importance for biodiversity and climate. The majority of chapters, forming the middle part of the book, together comprise a global tour of rain forests, focusing on the people living in them and the reasons for deforestation. Juniper gives firsthand accounts of his work as an environmental advocate for the rain forests. The book’s final chapters describe existing international agreements and campaigns to slow deforestation. Endnotes provide the sources for the information covered in the book.
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4. Polar environments and global change
Barry, Roger G. by Roger G. Barry and Eileen A. Hall-McKim Cambridge, 2018

The polar regions regulate Earth’s climate and show the influences of anthropogenic climate change (caused by accumulating atmospheric greenhouse gases) more clearly than temperate or tropical regions because of the phenomenon of polar amplification. Barry and Hall-McKim (both, Univ. of Colorado Boulder) provide an exhaustive but highly readable description of polar land, sea, air, and ice, delving into past, current, and projected future conditions. The nine chapters cover the subject comprehensively, discussing such topics as the climatic role of the cryosphere, paleoclimatic history, impacts of climate shifts on terrestrial and marine environments and on ice sheets and shelves, and future environments as they are expected to be modified by climate change. Each chapter comes with a summary, an extensive list of references cited in the text, and probing questions about the material covered. The many figures and sidebars on various topics add to the narrative.

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5. The Palgrave handbook of climate history
ed. by Sam White, Christian Pfister, and Franz Mauelshagen Palgrave Macmillan, 2018

Some of the world’s leading physical science and humanities scholars contributed to The Palgrave Handbook of Climate History, documenting, in comprehensive detail, the historical importance of climate for human civilization. Following introductory chapters focused on global climate as well as the nature of historical archives related to both society and climate, much of the first half of the text deals with the analysis and interpretation of information from these archives. The second half addresses historical climate change across diverse regions and time periods, ranging from 2,000 years of climate history in China to the extreme events of the past few decades and a number of case studies. The book finishes with a series of chapters that explore the history of climate science and its emergence as a major area of inquiry in the last half century. The individual chapters are generally short (less than 20 pages), are well researched and cited, and offer detailed insights on individual topics.
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