News and Notes

Saving Species One Chapter at a Time: Great Readings in Biodiversity

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Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life (2017). Edward O. Wilson
Read it: to engage your students with why science matters and how it can help save the planet.
Letters to a Young Scientist (2013). Edward O. Wilson
Read it: to help your students think about how to follow their interests.
Naturalist (1994). Edward O. Wilson
Read it: to be charmed and inspired, and to gain insight into how a kid can follow his natural obsessions and inclinations to influence the world. Graphic “Naturalist” sample pages and questions.
Sand County Almanac (1949). Aldo Leopold.
Read it: to be in the presence of a poetic observer and feel what it’s like to really love the land and the life that occupies it. The Almanac section is only 92 pages and full of gems. Read the “Thinking Like a Mountain” essay from Sand County Almanac.
Nature’s Best Hope (2020). Doug Tallamy
Read it: to understand why re-establishing native plants on your own property, at schools, parks, churchyards and other urban and suburban landscapes is a powerful thing anyone can do to support biodiversity.
Bringing Nature Home (2009). Doug Tallamy
Read it: for the story of how Doug Tallamy rejuvenated a depleted farm in Delaware and used native plants to restore to a place rich in plants, insects, and birds and other wildlife.
Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness (1971). Edward Abbey
Read it: for the spiritual dimension of being in nature, embrace solitude and don’t be afraid to be on your own. Slow down, the faster you travel, the smaller your space and the less you see what the landscape has to offer.
The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature (2017). J. Drew Lanham
Read it: to feel a man’s connection and yearning for the farmland he grew up on. A man who becomes a leading conservationist and bird-watcher and as a boy tried to fly on cardboard wings and make friends with vultures by pretending to be dead. (Author reads the audiobook)
Cerulean Blues (2011). Katie Fallon
Read it: to get insight into how one question leads to another and how an obsession with one threatened, beautiful little bird can lead you to see how West Virginia and Columbia are connected, and want to think about where your coffee comes from.
Vulture: The Private life of an Unloved Bird (2017). Katie Fallon
Read it: to learn to admire an “ugly” creature with mysterious origins, surprising traits, and an outsize role in keeping our environment healthy.
Eager: The Surprising Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter (2019) Ben Goldfarb
Winner of the PEN E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award
Read it to: appreciate one of our planet’s most important ecosystem engineers, and the crazy people obsessed with saving beavers to unleash their power to rejuvenate landscapes.
Silent Spring (1962). Rachel Carson
Read it: for an example of clear, beautiful, purpose-driven writing by a brave woman presenting evidence and explanations for why our pervasive and careless use of agricultural chemicals damages the health of all biodiversity including ourselves. Read Ch.8 – “And No Birds Sing.”
The Sea Around Us (1951). Rachel Carson
Read it: for a poetic account of oceans and shorelines as an intricate and beautiful environment that dominates our planet and yet we take for granted, and to understand why Silent Spring influenced so many when it came out 10 years later.
Ecology of a Cracker Childhood: The World as Home (1999). Janisse Ray
Read it: for beautiful writing and to appreciate the amazing habitat of the longleaf pine and wiregrass savanna, as seen from the perspective of a girl growing up short on money but rich in family and culture in rural southern Georgia. Excerpt: “Iron Man.”
The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate (2015). Peter Wohlleben
Read it: to question everything you thought you knew about plants and especially forests. The author’s transformation from a forester to a forest nurturer is compelling.

Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry (2009). Camille T. Dungy, ed.
Read it: to gain inspiration and insight from diverse poetic voices on nature from urban, to rural, to wild. The poems of Lucille Clifton are a revelation of rhythm and observation, while Major Jackson and Tim Siebles bring the urban dimension, find your own favorites from over 200 pieces. 11 essays provide context and history for the poems. Samples from the collection.

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