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The Arid Lands

History, Power, Knowledge

Diana K. Davis

Deserts are commonly imagined as barren, defiled, worthless places, wastelands in need of development. This understanding has fueled extensive anti-desertification efforts -- a multimillion-dollar global campaign driven by perceptions of a looming crisis. In this book, Diana Davis argues that estimates of desertification have been significantly exaggerated and that deserts and drylands -- which constitute about 41% of the earth's landmass -- are actually resilient and biodiverse environments in which a great many indigenous people have long lived sustainably. Meanwhile, contemporary arid lands development programs and anti-desertification efforts have met with little success. As Davis explains, these environments are not governed by the equilibrium ecological dynamics that apply in most other regions. Davis shows that our notion of the arid lands as wastelands derives largely from politically motivated Anglo-European colonial assumptions that these regions had been laid waste by "traditional" uses of the land. Unfortunately, such assumptions still frequently inform policy. Drawing on political ecology and environmental history, Davis traces changes in our understanding of deserts, from the benign views of the classical era to Christian associations of the desert with sinful activities to later (neo)colonial assumptions of destruction. She further explains how our thinking about deserts is problematically related to our conceptions of forests and desiccation. Davis concludes that a new understanding of the arid lands as healthy, natural, but variable ecosystems that do not necessarily need improvement or development will facilitate a more sustainable future for the world's magnificent drylands.

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Arthur Carhart

Wilderness Prophet

By Tom Wolf

Arthur Carhart (1892 -1978), America's first champion of wilderness, the first Forest Service landscape architect, and the most popular conservation writer of mid-century America, won none of the titan status of his contemporary Aldo Leopold. A political maverick, he refused to side with any major advocacy group and none has made him its saint. Carhart was a grassroots thinker in a top-down era. Arthur Carhart, the first biography of this Republican environmentalist and major American thinker, writer, and activist, reveals the currency of his ideas. Tom Wolf elucidates Carhart 's vision of conservation as "a job for all of us," with citizens, municipal authorities, and national leaders all responsible for the environmental effects of their decisions. Carhart loved the local and decried interest groups - from stockmens' associations to wilderness lobbies - as cliques attempting blanket control. He pressured land management agencies to base decisions on local ecology and local partnerships. A lifelong wilderness advocate who proposed the first wilderness preserve at Trappers Lake, Colorado, in 1919, Carhart chose to oppose the Wilderness Act, heartsick at its compromises with lobbies. Because he shifted his stance and changed his views in response to new information, Carhart is not an easy subject for a biography. Wolf traces Carhart's twists and turns to show a man whose voice was distinctive and contrary, who spoke from a passionate concern for the land and couldn't be counted on for anything else. Readers of American history and outdoor writing will enjoy this portrait of a historic era in conservation politics and the man who so often eschewed politics in favor of the land and people he loved.

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Asserting Native Resilience

Pacific Rim Indigenous Nations Face the Climate Change

Indigenous nations are on the frontline of the climate crisis of the twenty-first century. With cultures and economies among the most vulnerable to climate-related catastrophes, Native peoples are developing responses to climate change that serve as a model for Native and non-Native communities alike.  

Native American tribes in the Pacific Northwest and Indigenous peoples around the Pacific Rim have already been deeply affected by droughts, flooding, reduced glaciers and snowmelts, seasonal shifts in winds and storms, and the northward shifting of species on the land and in the ocean. Having survived the historical and ecological wounds inflicted by colonization, industrialization, and urbanization, Indigenous peoples are using tools of resilience that have enabled them to respond to sudden environmental changes. They are creating defenses to harden their communities, mitigate losses, and adapt where possible.

Asserting Native Resilience presents a rich variety of perspectives on Indigenous responses to the climate crisis, reflecting the voices of more than twenty contributors, including tribal leaders, Native and non-Native scientists, scholars, and activists from the Pacific Northwest, British Columbia, Alaska, and Aotearoa / New Zealand. Also included is a resource directory of Indigenous governments, NGOs, and communities that are researching and responding to climate change and a community organizing booklet for use by Northwest tribes.

An invaluable addition to the literature on climate change, Asserting Native Resilience will be useful for students of environmental studies, Native studies, geography, and rural sociology, and will serve as an important reference for Indigenous leaders, tribal members, and environmental agency staff.

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At Home and Astray

The Domestic Dog in Victorian Britain

Philip Howell

Although the British consider themselves a nation of dog lovers, what we have come to know as the modern dog came into existence only after a profound, and relatively recent, transformation in that country’s social attitudes and practices. In At Home and Astray, Philip Howell focuses on Victorian Britain, and especially London, to show how the dog’s changing place in society was the subject of intense debate and depended on a fascinating combination of forces even to come about.

Despite a relationship with humans going back thousands of years, it was during the nineteenth century—alongside the development of dog breeds and dog shows, and with a considerable increase in dog ownership--that the dog became fully domesticated and installed in the heart of the middle-class home. At the same time, the dog was increasingly policed out of public space, the “stray” becoming the unloved counterpart of the household “pet.” Howell shows how this redefinition of the dog’s place illuminates our understanding of modernity and the city. He also explores the fascinating process whereby the dog’s changing role was proposed, challenged, and confronted—and in the end conditionally accepted. With a supporting cast that includes Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Thomas Carlyle, and Charles Darwin, and subjects of inquiry ranging from vivisection and the policing of rabies to pet cemeteries, dog shelters, and the practice of walking the dog, At Home and Astray is a contribution not only to the history of animals but also to our understanding of the Victorian era and its legacies.

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The Atchafalaya River Basin

History and Ecology of an American Wetland

Bryan P. Piazza

In this comprehensive, one-volume reference, Nature Conservancy scientist Bryan P. Piazza poses five key questions:
—What is the Atchafalaya River Basin?
—Why is it important?
—How have its hydrology and natural habitats been managed?
—What is its current state?
—How do we ensure its survival?
For more than five centuries, the Atchafalaya River Basin has captured the flow of the Mississippi River, becoming its main distributary as it reaches the Gulf of Mexico in south Louisiana. This dynamic environment, comprising almost a million acres of the lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley and Mississippi River Deltaic Plain, is perhaps best known for its expansive swamp environments dominated by baldcypress, water tupelo, and alligators. But the Atchafalaya River Basin contains a wide range of habitats and one of the highest levels of biodiversity on the North American continent.     
Piazza has compiled and synthesized the body of scientific knowledge for the Atchafalaya River Basin, documenting the ecological state of the basin and providing a baseline of understanding. His research provides a crucial resource for future planning. He evaluates some common themes that have emerged from the research and identifies important scientific questions that remain unexplored.

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Atlas of Crustacean Larvae

edited by Joel W. Martin, Jørgen Olesen, and Jens T. Høeg

Crustaceans—familiar to the average person as shrimp, lobsters, crabs, krill, barnacles, and their many relatives—are easily one of the most important and diverse groups of marine life forms. Poorly understood, they are among the most numerous invertebrates on earth. Most crustaceans start life as eggs and move through a variety of morphological phases prior to maturity. In Atlas of Crustacean Larvae, more than 45 of the world's leading crustacean researchers explain and illustrate the beauty and complexity of the many larval life stages. Revealing shapes that are reminiscent of aliens from other worlds—often with bizarre modifications for a planktonic life or for parasitization, including (in some cases) bulging eyes, enormous spines, and aids for flotation and swimming—the abundant illustrations and photographs show the detail of each morphological stage and allow for quick comparisons. The diversity is immediately apparent in the illustrations: spikes that deter predators occur on some larvae, while others bear unique specializations not seen elsewhere, and still others appear as miniature versions of the adults. Small differences in anatomy are shown to be suited to the behaviors and survival mechanisms of each species. Destined to become a key reference for specialists and students and a treasured book for anyone who wishes to understand "the invertebrate backbone of marine ecosystems," Atlas of Crustacean Larvae belongs on the shelf of every serious marine biologist.

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Atomic Testing in Mississippi

Project Dribble and the Quest for Nuclear Weapons Treaty Verification in the Cold War Era

In Atomic Testing in Mississippi, David Allen Burke illuminates the nearly forgotten history of America’s only nuclear detonations east of the Mississippi River. The atomic tests, conducted in the mid-1960s nearly 3,000 feet below ground in Mississippi’s Tatum Salt Dome, posed a potential risk for those living within 150 miles of the site, which included residents of Hattiesburg, Jackson, Gulfport, Biloxi, Mobile, and New Orleans. While the detonations provided the United States with verification methods that helped limit the world’s nuclear arsenals, they sparked widespread public concern. In 1964 and 1966 the Atomic Energy Commission conducted experiments at the salt dome—code-named Dribble—surrounded by a greater population density than any other test site in the United States. Although the detonations were not weapons tests, they fostered a conflict between regional politicians interested in government-funded science projects and a population leery of nuclear testing near their homes. Even today, residents near the salt dome are still fearful of long-term negative health consequences. Despite its controversy, Project Dribble provided the technology needed to detect and assess the performance of distant underground atomic explosions and thus verify international weapons treaty compliance. This technology led to advanced seismological systems that now provide tsunami warnings and detect atomic activity in other nuclear nations, such as Pakistan and North Korea.

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Audubon

The Kentucky Years

L. Clark Keating

Kentucky attracted an amazing variety of would-be settlers in pioneer days, but none with brighter talent than John James Audubon. Although his years in the state came long before publication of the monumental Birds of America, he was already painting the scenes from nature that were to make him famous.

Audubon: The Kentucky Years is the captivating account of Audubon's sojourn in Kentucky from his arrival in in 1807 as a gregarious twenty-two-year-old storekeeper to his departure in 1819, when his failure in business was about to force him to seek a livelihood from his skill as an artist.

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The Balance of Nature

Ecology's Enduring Myth

John Kricher

The idea of a balance of nature has been a dominant part of Western philosophy since before Aristotle, and it persists in the public imagination and even among some ecologists today. In this lively and thought-provoking book, John Kricher demonstrates that nature in fact is not in balance, nor has it ever been at any stage in Earth's history. He explains how and why this notion of a natural world in balance has endured for so long, and he shows why, in these times of extraordinary human influence on the planet's ecosystems, it is critical that we accept and understand that evolution is a fact of life, and that ecology is far more dynamic than we ever imagined.

The Balance of Nature traces the fascinating history of the science of ecology and evolutionary biology, from the discipline's early innovators to the advent of Darwin and evolution, to the brilliant and inquisitive scientific minds of today. Blending insights and entertaining stories from his own remarkable life in science, Kricher reveals how evolution is a powerful engine that drives ecological change, how nature is constantly in flux and, in effect, quite naturally out of balance--and how notions to the contrary are misguided and ultimately hazardous to us all.

The Balance of Nature forcefully argues that an understanding of the dynamic nature of ecology and evolution is essential to formulating policies of environmental ethics to guide humanity toward a more responsible stewardship of our planet's ecosystems.

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Bataille’s Peak

Energy, Religion, and Postsustainability

Allan Stoekl

As the price of oil climbs toward $100 a barrel, our impending post-fossil fuel future appears to offer two alternatives: a bleak existence defined by scarcity and sacrifice or one in which humanity places its faith in technological solutions with unforeseen consequences. Are there other ways to imagine life in an era that will be characterized by resource depletion?

 

The French intellectual Georges Bataille saw energy as the basis of all human activity—the essence of the human—and he envisioned a society that, instead of renouncing profligate spending, would embrace a more radical type of energy expenditure: la dépense, or “spending without return.” In Bataille’s Peak, Allan Stoekl demonstrates how a close reading of Bataille—in the wake of Giordano Bruno and the Marquis de Sade— can help us rethink not only energy and consumption, but also such related topics as the city, the body, eroticism, and religion. Through these cases, Stoekl identifies the differences between waste, which Bataille condemned, and expenditure, which he celebrated.

 

The challenge of living in the twenty-first century, Stoekl argues, will be to comprehend—without recourse to austerity and self-denial—the inevitable and necessary shift from a civilization founded on waste to one based on Bataillean expenditure.

 

Allan Stoekl is professor of French and comparative literature at Penn State University. He is the author of Agonies of the Intellectual: Commitment, Subjectivity, and the Performative in the Twentieth-Century French Tradition and translator of Bataille’s Visions of Excess: Selected Writings, 1927–1939 (Minnesota, 1985).

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