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California

A Fire Survey

Stephen J. Pyne

The coastal sage and shrublands of California burn. The mountain-encrusting chaparral burns. The conifer forests of the Sierra Nevada, Cascades, and Trinity Alps burn.  The rain-shadowed deserts after watering by El Niño cloudbursts and the thick forests of the rumpled Coast Range—all burn according to local rhythms of wetting and drying. Fire season, so the saying goes, lasts 13 months.

In this collection of essays on the region, Stephen J. Pyne colorfully explores the ways the region has approached fire management and what sets it apart from other parts of the country. Pyne writes that what makes California’s fire scene unique is how its dramatically distinctive biomes have been yoked to a common system, ultimately committed to suppression, and how its fires burn with a character and on a scale commensurate with the state’s size and political power. California has not only a ferocity of flame but a cultural intensity that few places can match. California’s fires are instantly and hugely broadcast. They shape national institutions, and they have repeatedly defined the discourse of fire’s history. No other place has so sculpted the American way of fire.

California is part of the multivolume series describing the nation’s fire scene region by region. The volumes in To the Last Smoke also cover Florida, the Northern Rockies, the Great Plains, the Southwest, and several other critical fire regions. The series serves as an important punctuation point to Pyne’s fifty-year career with wildland fire—both as a firefighter and a fire scholar. These unique surveys of regional pyrogeography are Pyne’s way of “keeping with it to the end,” encompassing the directive from his rookie season to stay with every fire “to the last smoke.”

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Cape Cod

An Environmental History of a Fragile Ecosystem

John T. Cumbler

To many, Cape Cod represents the classic setting for an American summer vacation. Attracting seasonal tourists with picturesque beaches and abundant seafood, the Cape has held a place in our national imagination for almost two hundred years. People have been drawn to its beauty and resources since Native Americans wandered up its long sandy peninsula some 12,000 years ago, while writers such as Henry David Thoreau and Norman Mailer have celebrated its mystery and allure. But, despite its idealized image, Cape Cod has a long history of scarcity and an increasingly evident fragility. John T. Cumbler’s book offers an environmental, social, and economic history of Cape Cod told through the experiences of residents as well as visitors. He notes that over the past four hundred years the Cape has experienced three regimes of resource utilization. The first regime of Native Americans who lived relatively lightly on the land was supplanted by European settlers who focused on production and extraction. This second regime began in the age of sail but declined through the age of steam as the soil and seas failed to yield the resources necessary to sustain continuing growth. Environmental and then economic crises during the second half of the nineteenth century eventually gave way to the third regime of tourism and recreation. But this regime has its own environmental costs, as residents have learned over the last half century. Although the Cape remains a special place, its history of resource scarcity and its attempts to deal with that scarcity offer useful lessons for anyone addressing similar issues around the globe.

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A Case for Climate Engineering

David Keith

Climate engineering -- which could slow the pace of global warming by injecting reflective particles into the upper atmosphere -- has emerged in recent years as an extremely controversial technology. And for good reason: it carries unknown risks and it may undermine commitments to conserving energy. Some critics also view it as an immoral human breach of the natural world. The latter objection, David Keith argues in <I>A Scientist's Case for Climate Engineering</I>, is groundless; we have been using technology to alter our environment for years. But he agrees that there are large issues at stake. A leading scientist long concerned about climate change, Keith offers no naïve proposal for an easy fix to what is perhaps the most challenging question of our time; climate engineering is no silver bullet. But he argues that after decades during which very little progress has been made in reducing carbon emissions we must put this technology on the table and consider it responsibly. That doesn't mean we will deploy it, and it doesn't mean that we can abandon efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But we must understand fully what research needs to be done and how the technology might be designed and used. This book provides a clear and accessible overview of what the costs and risks might be, and how climate engineering might fit into a larger program for managing climate change.

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The Case of the Green Turtle

An Uncensored History of a Conservation Icon

Alison Rieser

The journals of early maritime explorers traversing the Atlantic Ocean often describe swarms of sea turtles, once a plentiful source of food. Many populations had been decimated by the 1950s, when Archie Carr and others raised public awareness of their plight. One species, the green turtle, has been the most heavily exploited due to international demand for turtle products, especially green turtle soup. The species has achieved some measure of recovery due to thirty years of conservation efforts, but remains endangered. In The Case of the Green Turtle, Alison Rieser provides an unparalleled look into the way science and conservation interact by focusing on the most controversial aspect of green turtle conservation—farming. While proponents argued that farming green sea turtles would help save them, opponents countered that it encouraged a taste for turtle flesh that would lead to the slaughter of wild stocks. The clash of these viewpoints once riveted the world. Rieser relies on her expertise in ocean ecology, policy, and law to reveal how the efforts to preserve sea turtles changed marine conservation and the way we view our role in the environment. Her study of this early conservation controversy will fascinate anyone who cares about sea turtles or the oceans in which they live.

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Cash For Your Trash

Scrap Recycling in America

Carl A. Zimring

In Cash for Your Trash, Carl A. Zimring provides a fascinating history of scrap recycling, from colonial times to the present. Integrating findings from archival, industrial, and demographic records, and moving beyond the environmental developments that have shaped modern recycling enterprises, Zimring offers a unique cultural and economic portrait of the private businesses that made large-scale recycling possible.

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Catching the Ebb

Drift-fishing for a Life in Cook Inlet

Bert Bender

Bert Bender started fishing Alaska’s Cook Inlet in 1963 with a thirty-foot sailboat converted to gas power and with no equipment for pulling in a net. Catching the Ebb recounts his thirty summers of gill-netting for salmon and describes his parallel career as a professor of American literature. Drawing on his academic specialties—American sea literature and the influence of evolutionary biology and ecology in American writing—Bender celebrates the fishing life and traces the fishery’s path of change, from shifts in the market and the demise of canneries to the effects of the Exxon Valdez disaster of 1989 to the rise of the farmed salmon industry.

Catching the Ebb will appeal to readers interested in Alaska, the sea, and the fishing life. In addition to its stories of people, boats, and fish, Bender’s compelling memoir addresses the critical question: Can we restrain our heedless pollution of the sea and avoid depleting ocean resources?

“That Catching the Ebb is written by a lifelong literary critic and writer who is also a professional commercial fisherman is what gives its unusual quality to this well-written and always absorbing book.”

—Peter Matthiessen, author of The Snow Leopard and Men’s Lives

“Bert Bender has dragged his nets up and down the coast of Alaska and the inlets of his studies, and brought up a world of work and earned contemplation. I loved this book.”

—Ron Carlson, author of Five Skies

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Cattle Bring Us to Our Enemies

Turkana Ecology, Politics, and Raiding in a Disequilibrium System

J. Terrence McCabe

An in-depth look at the ecology, history, and politics of land use among the Turkana pastoral people in Northern Kenya Based on sixteen years of fieldwork among the pastoral Turkana people, McCabe examines how individuals use the land and make decisions about mobility, livestock, and the use of natural resources in an environment characterized by aridity, unpredictability, insecurity, and violence. The Turkana are one of the world's most mobile peoples, but understanding why and how they move is a complex task influenced by politics, violence, historical relations among ethnic groups, and the government, as well as by the arid land they call home. As one of the original members of the South Turkana Ecosystem Project, McCabe draws on a wealth of ecological data in his analysis. His long-standing relationship with four Turkana families personalize his insights and conclusions, inviting readers into the lives of these individuals, their families, and the way they cope with their environment and political events in daily life. J. Terrence McCabe is Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of Colorado at Boulder.

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Cattle Colonialism

An Environmental History of the Conquest of California and Hawai'i

John Ryan Fischer

In the nineteenth century, the colonial territories of California and Hawai'i underwent important cultural, economic, and ecological transformations influenced by an unlikely factor: cows. The creation of native cattle cultures, represented by the Indian vaquero and the Hawaiian paniolo, demonstrates that California Indians and native Hawaiians adapted in ways that allowed them to harvest the opportunities for wealth that these unfamiliar biological resources presented. But the imposition of new property laws limited these indigenous responses, and Pacific cattle frontiers ultimately became the driving force behind Euro-American political and commercial domination, under which native residents lost land and sovereignty and faced demographic collapse.

Environmental historians have too often overlooked California and Hawai'i, despite the roles the regions played in the colonial ranching frontiers of the Pacific World. In Cattle Colonialism, John Ryan Fischer significantly enlarges the scope of the American West by examining the trans-Pacific transformations these animals wrought on local landscapes and native economies.

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Ceremonial Time

Fifteen Thousand Years on One Square Mile

John Hanson Mitchell

"Ceremonial time" occurs when past, present, and future can be perceived simultaneously. Experienced only rarely, usually during ritual dance, this escape from linear time is the vehicle for John Mitchell's extraordinary writing. In this, his most magical book, he traces the life of a single square mile in New England, from the last ice age through years of human history, including bear shamans, colonists, witches, local farmers, and encroaching industrial "parks."

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