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Now back in print, Joseph Wood Krutch’s Burroughs Award–winning The Desert Year is as beautiful as it is philosophically profound. Although Krutch—often called the Cactus Walden—came to the desert relatively late in his life, his curiosity and delight in his surroundings abound throughout The Desert Year, whether he is marveling at the majesty of the endless dry sea, at flowers carpeting the desert floor, or at the unexpected appearance of an army of frogs after a heavy rain.
Krutch’s trenchant observations about life prospering in the hostile environment of Arizona’s Sonoran Desert turn to weighty questions about humanity and the precariousness of our existence, putting lie to Western denials of mind in the “lower” forms of life: “Let us not say that this animal or even this plant has ‘become adapted’ to desert conditions. Let us say rather that they have all shown courage and ingenuity in making the best of the world as they found it. And let us remember that if to use such terms in connection with them is a fallacy then it can only be somewhat less a fallacy to use the same terms in connection with ourselves.”
This edition contains 33 exacting drawings by noted illustrator Rudolf Freund. Closely tied to Krutch’s uncluttered text, the drawings tell a story of ineffable beauty.
The Control of Water in the Atchafalaya Basin, 1800-1995
Louisiana’s Atchafalaya River Basin is one of the most dynamic and critical environments in the country. It sustains the nation’s last cypress-tupelo wetland and provides a habitat for many species of animals. Endowed with natural gas and oil fields, the basin also supports a large commercial fisheries industry. Perhaps most crucial, it remains a primary component of the plan to control the Mississippi River and relieve flooding in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and other communities in the lower river valley. The continuing health of the basin is a reflection not of nature, but of the work of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. With levee building and clearing in the nineteenth century and damming, dredging, and floodway construction in the twentieth, the basin was converted from a vast forested swamp into a designer wetland, where human aspirations and nature maintained a precarious equilibrium. Originally published by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers primarily for internal distribution, this environmental and political history of the Atchafalaya Basin is an unflinching account of the transformation of an area that has endured perhaps more human manipulation than any other natural environment in the nation. Martin Reuss provides a new preface to bring us up-to-date on the state of the basin, which remains both an engineering contrivance and natural wonder.
A Natural History
Behold the cormorant: silent, still, cruciform, and brooding; flashing, soaring, quick as a snake. Evolution has crafted the only creature on Earth that can migrate the length of a continent, dive and hunt deep underwater, perch comfortably on a branch or a wire, walk on land, climb up cliff faces, feed on thousands of different species, and live beside both fresh and salt water in a vast global range of temperatures and altitudes, often in close proximity to man. Long a symbol of gluttony, greed, bad luck, and evil, the cormorant has led a troubled existence in human history, myth, and literature. The birds have been prized as a source of mineral wealth in Peru, hunted to extinction in the Arctic, trained by the Japanese to catch fish, demonized by Milton in Paradise Lost, and reviled, despised, and exterminated by sport and commercial fishermen from Israel to Indianapolis, Toronto to Tierra del Fuego. In The Devil's Cormorant, Richard King takes us back in time and around the world to show us the history, nature, ecology, and economy of the world's most misunderstood waterfowl.
The History of an Ecosystem
With its rich evolutionary record of natural systems and long history of human activity, the Chesapeake Bay provides an excellent example of how a great estuary has responded to the powerful forces of human settlement and environmental change. Discovering the Chesapeake explores all of the long-term changes the Chesapeake has undergone and uncovers the inextricable connections among land, water, and humans in this unusually delicate ecosystem. Edited by a historian, a paleobiologist, and a geologist at the Johns Hopkins University and written for general readers, the book brings together experts in various disciplines to consider the truly complex and interesting environmental history of the Chesapeake and its watershed. Chapters explore a variety of topics, including the natural systems of the watershed and their origins; the effects of human interventions ranging from Indian slash-and-burn practices to changing farming techniques; the introduction of pathogens, both human and botanical; the consequences of the oyster's depletion; the response of bird and animal life to environmental factors introduced by humans; and the influence of the land and water on the people who settled along the Bay. Discovering the Chesapeake, originating in two conferences sponsored by the National Science Foundation, achieves a broad historical and scientific appreciation of the various processes that shaped the Chesapeake region. "Today's Chesapeake Bay is only some ten thousand years old. What a different world it was . . . when the region was the home of the ground sloth, giant beaver, dire wolf, mastodon, and other megafauna. In the next few thousand years, the ice may form again and the Bay will once more be the valley of the Susquehanna, unless, of course, human-induced changes in climate create some other currently unpredictable condition."—from the Introduction [p. xviii]
A Natural History
The Dodo and the Solitaire is the most comprehensive book to date about these two famously extinct birds. It contains all the known contemporary accounts and illustrations of the dodo and solitaire, covering their history after extinction and discussing their ecology, classification, phylogenetic placement, and evolution. Both birds were large and flightless and lived on inhabited islands some 500 miles east of Madagascar. The first recorded descriptions of the dodo were provided by Dutch sailors who first encountered them in 1598—within 100 years, the dodo was extinct. So quickly did the bird disappear that there is insufficient evidence to form an entirely accurate picture of its appearance and ecology, and the absence has led to much speculation. The story of the dodo, like that of the solitaire, has been pieced together from fragments, both literary and physical, that have been carefully compiled and examined in this extraordinary volume.
Symbol of Ecological Conflict
This is the story of the survival, recovery, astonishing success, and controversial status of the double-crested cormorant. After surviving near extinction driven by DDT and other contaminants from the 1940s through the early 1970s, the cormorant has made an unprecedented comeback from mere dozens to a population in the millions, bringing the bird again into direct conflict with humans. Hated for its colonial nesting behavior; the changes it brings to landscapes; and especially its competition with commercial and sports fishers, fisheries, and fish farmers throughout the Great Lakes and Mississippi Delta regions, the cormorant continues to be persecuted by various means, including the shotgun. In The Double-Crested Cormorant, Dennis Wild brings together the biological, social, legal, and international aspects of the cormorant's world to give a complete and balanced view of one of the Great Lakes' and perhaps North America's most misunderstood species. In addition to taking a detailed look at the complex natural history of the cormorant, the book explores the implications of congressional acts and international treaties, the workings and philosophies of state and federal wildlife agencies, the unrelenting efforts of aquaculture and fishing interests to "cull" cormorant numbers to "acceptable" levels, and the reactions and visions of conservation groups. Wild examines both popular preconceptions about cormorants (what kinds of fish they eat and how much) and the effectiveness of ongoing efforts to control the cormorant population. Finally, the book delves into the question of climate and terrain changes, their consequences for cormorants, the new territories to which the birds must adapt, and the conflicts this species is likely to face going forward.
A River Journey through the Heart of North Carolina
In Down the Wild Cape Fear, novelist and nonfiction writer Philip Gerard invites readers onto the fabled waters of the Cape Fear River and guides them on the 200-mile voyage from the confluence of the Deep and Haw Rivers at Mermaid Point all the way to the Cape of Fear on Bald Head Island. Accompanying the author by canoe and powerboat are a cadre of people passionate about the river: among them a river guide, a photographer, a biologist, a river keeper, and a boat captain. Historical voices also lend their wisdom to our understanding of this river, which has been a main artery of commerce, culture, settlement, and war for the entire region since it was first discovered by Verrazzano in 1524.
Gerard explores the myriad environmental and political issues being played out along the waters of the Cape Fear. Issues include commerce and environmental stewardship, wilderness and development, suburban sprawl and the decline and renaissance of inner cities, and private rights versus the public good.
A Personal and Natural History of the Altamaha River
Janisse Ray was a babe in arms when a boat of her father’s construction cracked open and went down in the mighty Altamaha River. Tucked in a life preserver, she washed onto a sandbar as the craft sank from view. That first baptism began a lifelong relationship with a stunning and powerful river that almost nobody knows.
The Altamaha rises dark and mysterious in southeast Georgia. It is deep and wide, bordered by swamps. Its corridor contains an extraordinary biodiversity, including many rare and endangered species, which led the Nature Conservancy to designate it as one of the world’s last great places.
The Altamaha is Ray’s river, and from childhood she dreamed of paddling its entire length to where it empties into the sea. Drifting into Darien begins with an account of finally making that journey, turning to meditations on the many ways we accept a world that contains both good and evil. With praise, biting satire, and hope, Ray contemplates transformation and attempts with every page to settle peacefully into the now.
Though commemorating a history that includes logging, Ray celebrates “a culture that sprang from the flatwoods, which required a judicious use of nature.” She looks in vain for an ivorybill woodpecker but is equally eager to see any of the imperiled species found in the river basin: spiny mussel, American oystercatcher, Radford’s mint, Alabama milkvine. The book explores both the need and the possibilities for conservation of the river and the surrounding forests and wetlands. As in her groundbreaking Ecology of a Cracker Childhood, Ray writes an account of her beloved river that is both social history and natural history, understanding the two as inseparable, particularly in the rural corner of Georgia that she knows best. Ray goes looking for wisdom and finds a river.
Ecology, Economy, and Sustainability
Earth in Our Care is a compelling study of three interactive spheres of the ecosystem: atmosphere (air), litho-hydrosphere (rock that comprises the restless continents and the water that surrounds them), and biosphere (all life sandwiched in between). Writing in rich detail and using insightful analogies, Chris Maser addresses key issues including land-use policies, ecological restoration, forest management, local living, and sustainability thinking. Exploring our interconnectedness with the Earth, Maser examines today's problems and, more importantly, provides solutions for the future.
Their Geology, Ecology, and Human History
A companion to The Western San Juan Mountains (originally published in 1996), The Eastern San Juan Mountains details the physical environment, biological communities, human history, and points of interest in this rich and diverse mountain system. A natural division between the eastern and western slopes of the San Juans is the north-south line that runs approximately through Lake City, south of the crossing of the Piedra River by US Highway 160. In this super guidebook, twenty-seven contributors--all experts in their fields--artfully bring the geology, hydrology, animal and plant life, human histories, and travel routes of these eastern slopes to life. Designed to inform researchers, educators, and students about the region's complex systems, The Eastern San Juan Mountains also serves as an informative guidebook to accompany visitors along their travels on the Silver Thread National Scenic Byway, which stretches between South Fork and Lake City. The Eastern San Juan Mountains deserves a place next to The Western San Juan Mountains on the bookshelf of every naturalist, researcher, resident, educator, student, and tourist seeking a greater understanding of this marvelous place and its history.