Happy Earth Day! These books celebrate nature and the wonders of the world around us, underlining why it matters so much that we take care of what we've got.
Birds, by Robert Bateman and Kathryn Dean
About the book: At a time when bird species are disappearing rapidly, the poignant beauty of Robert Bateman's paintings is more urgent than ever. It reminds us why Bateman was compelled to study and paint his subjects and why we must work to secure their futures.
Bateman has sketched and painted bird life in every corner of the globe. His special relationship with some of the planet's most beautiful and fascinating creatures is captured here in an elegant volume that will appeal to bird lovers and art lovers alike.
About the book: In Cleaner, Greener, Healthier, David R. Boyd sets out to remedy Canada’s environmental health problems. He begins by assessing the environmental burden of disease, identifies its unequal distribution, and estimates the associated economic costs. He then compares Canada’s environmental laws and policies with those in the US, Australia, and the EU, delivering a provocative diagnosis of the causes of Canada’s second-rate standards. Finally, he prescribes legal remedies that will enable Canada to catch up with the world’s environmental leaders while delivering substantial health and economic benefits.
Magnetic North, by Jenna Butler
About the book: “Windburned, eyes closed, this: beneath the keening of bergs, a deeper thresh of glaciers calving, creaking with sun. Sound of earth, her bones, wide russet bowl of hips splaying open. From these sere flanks, her desiccating body, what a sea change is born.” From the endangered Canadian boreal forest to the environmentally threatened Svalbard archipelago off the coast of Norway, Jenna Butler takes us on a sea voyage that connects continents and traces the impacts of climate change on northern lands. With a conservationist, female gaze, she questions explorer narratives and the mythic draw of the polar North. As a woman who cannot have children, she writes out the internal friction of travelling in Svalbard during the fertile height of the Arctic summer. Blending travelogue and poetic meditation on place, Jenna Butler draws readers to the beauty and power of threatened landscapes, asking why some stories in recorded history are privileged while others speak only from beneath the surface.
Stouts, Millers & Forky-Tails: Insects of Newfoundland and Labrador, by Tom Chapman; Carolyn Parson; Hugh Whitney & Peggy Dixon
About the book: Stouts, millers, and forky-tails (a.k.a. deerfly, moths, and earwigs) are just three of more than 200 fascinating insects, spiders, and other arthropods profiled in this book. You’ll also meet weevils, flesh flies, aphids, dragonflies, ticks, bees, giant water bugs, and many mosquitos.
These are the creepy-crawlies in your garden and in your basement, the annoyances and the biters, the disease-carriers and the pests. But they are also the pollinators and the insect friends that are crucial to healthy ecosystems.
Organized by habitat and order, each description gives key identifying features, life cycle details, as well as the specific habits and quirks that make each one worthy of study. The pages are filled with stunning full-colour photographs of each creature, from gross to gorgeous. Includes up-to-date information about each species’ distribution in this province, as well as quick hits about the latest local research, folk tales, and insect lore.
Insects are the most dominant animal group on the planet. Getting to know some of this species richness is a journey every nature-lover or curious mind will enjoy.
The Nature of Canada, edited by Colin M. Coates & Graeme Wynn
About the book: Intended to delight and provoke, these short, beautifully crafted essays, enlivened with photos and illustrations, explore how humans have engaged with the Canadian environment and what those interactions say about the nature of Canada. Tracing a path from the Ice Age to the Anthropocene, some of the foremost stars in the field of environmental history reflect on how we, as a nation, have idolized and found inspiration in nature even as fishers, fur traders, farmers, foresters, miners, and city planners have commodified it or tried to tame it. Their insights are just what we need as Canada attempts to reconcile the opposing goals of prosperity and preservation.
About the book: Breaching the Peace tells the story of the ordinary citizens who are standing up to the most expensive megaproject in BC history and the government-sanctioned bullying that has propelled it forward. Starting in 2013, journalist Sarah Cox travelled to the Peace River Valley to talk to locals about the Site C dam and BC Hydro’s claim that the clean energy project was urgently needed. She found farmers, First Nations, and scientists caught up in a modern-day David-and-Goliath battle to save the valley, their farms, and traditional lands from wholesale destruction. Told in frank and moving prose, their stories stand as a much-needed cautionary tale at a time when concerns about global warming have helped justify a renaissance of environmentally irresponsible hydro megaprojects around the world.
18 Miles: The Epic Drama of Our Atmosphere and Its Weather, by Christopher Dewdney
About the book: We live at the bottom of an ocean of air—5,200 million million tons, to be exact. It sounds like a lot, but Earth’s atmosphere is smeared onto its surface in an alarmingly thin layer — 99 percent contained within 18 miles. Yet, within this fragile margin lies a magnificent realm—at once gorgeous, terrifying, capricious, and elusive. With his keen eye for identifying and uniting seemingly unrelated events, Chris Dewdney reveals to us the invisible rivers in the sky that affect how our weather works and the structure of clouds and storms and seasons, the rollercoaster of climate. Dewdney details the history of weather forecasting and introduces us to the eccentric and determined pioneers of science and observation whose efforts gave us the understanding of weather we have today.
18 Miles is a kaleidoscopic and fact-filled journey that uncovers our obsession with the atmosphere and weather—as both evocative metaphor and physical reality. From the roaring winds of Katrina to the frozen oceans of Snowball Earth, Dewdney entertains as he gives readers a long overdue look at the very air we breathe.
Intertwined Histories: Plants in Their Social Contexts, edited by Jim Ellis
About the book: How do we understand the boundaries of individual creatures?
What are the systems of interdependency that bind all living creatures together?
Plants were amoung the the first to colonize the planet. They created the soil and the atmosphere that made life possible for animals. They are some of the largest and oldest life forms on Earth. In spite of their primacy, Western cultures have traditionally regarded plants as the lowest life forms, lacking mobility, sensation, and communication. But recent research argues that plants move and respond to their environment, communicate with each other, and form partnerships with other species.
Art, poetry, and essays by cultural anthropologists, experimental plant biologists, philosophers, botanists and foresters expose the complex interactions of the vibrant living world around us and give us a lens through which we can explore our intertwined histories.
Treed, by Ariel Gordan
About the book: With intimacy and humour award-winning poet Ariel Gordon walks us through the streets of Winnipeg and into the urban forest that is, to her, the city's heart. Along the way she shares with us the lives of these urban trees, from the grackles and cankerworms of the spring, to the flush of mushrooms on stumps in the summer and through to the red-stemmed dogwood of the winter. After grounding us in native elms and ashes, Gordon travels to BC's northern Rockies, to Banff National Park and a cattle farm in rural Manitoba, and helps us to consider what we expect of nature. Whether it is the effects of climate change on the urban forest or foraging in the city, Dutch elm disease in the trees or squirrels in the living room, Gordon delves into our relationships with the natural world with heart and style. In the end, the essays circle back to the forest, where the weather is always better and where the reader can see how to remake even the trees that are lost.
Ice Diaries, by Jean McNeil
About the book: British Canadian novelist Jean McNeil spent a year as writer-in-residence with the British Antarctic Survey, and four months on the world’s most enigmatic continent—Antarctica. Access to the Antarctic remains largely reserved for scientists, and it is the only piece of earth that is nobody’s country. Ice Diaries is the story of McNeil’s years spent in ice, not only in the Antarctic but her subsequent travels to Greenland, Iceland, and Svalbard.
In the spirit of the diaries of earlier Antarctic explorers, McNeil mixes travelogue, popular science, and memoir to examine the history of our fascination with ice. In entering this world, McNeil unexpectedly finds herself confronting her own upbringing in the Maritimes, the lifelong effects of growing up in a cold place, and how the climates of childhood frame our emotional thermodynamics for life. Ice Diaries is a haunting story of the relationship between beauty and terror, loss and abandonment, transformation and triumph.
Nitinikiau Innusi: I Keep the Land Alive, by Tshaukuesh Elizabeth Penashue, edited by Elizabeth Yeoman
About the book: Labrador Innu cultural and environmental activist Tshaukuesh Elizabeth Penashue is well-known both within and far beyond the Innu Nation. The recipient of a National Aboriginal Achievement Award and an honorary doctorate from Memorial University, she has been a subject of documentary films, books, and numerous articles. She led the Innu campaign against NATO’s low-level flying and bomb testing on Innu land during the 1980s and ’90s, and was a key respondent in a landmark legal case in which the judge held that the Innu had the “colour of right” to occupy the Canadian Forces base in Goose Bay, Labrador. Over the past twenty years she has led walks and canoe trips in nutshimit, “on the land,” to teach people about Innu culture and knowledge.
Nitinikiau Innusi: I Keep the Land Alive began as a diary written in Innu-aimun, in which Tshaukuesh recorded day-to-day experiences, court appearances, and interviews with reporters. Tshaukuesh has always had a strong sense of the importance of documenting what was happening to the Innu and their land. She also found keeping a diary therapeutic, and her writing evolved from brief notes into a detailed account of her own life and reflections on Innu land, culture, politics, and history.
Beautifully illustrated, this work contains numerous images by professional photographers and journalists as well as archival photographs and others from Tshaukuesh’s own collection.
Pipe Dreams: The Fight for Canada's Energy Future, by Jacques Poitras
About the book: Pipe Dreams is the dramatic story of the rise and fall of the Energy East pipeline and the broader battle over climate and energy in Canada. The project was to be a monumental undertaking, beginning near Edmonton, AB, and stretching over four thousand kilometres, through Montreal to the Irving Oil refinery in Saint John, NB. Conceived as a back-up plan for the stalled Keystone XL pipeline, it became the crucible for a national debate over the future of oil.
In a cross-country journey, Poitras talked to industry executives, prairie ranchers, First Nations chiefs, mayors, premiers, cabinet ministers, and refinery workers. He also explored Canada's perplexing oil relationship with the United States: our industry is literally tied to its American counterpart with sinews of steel. The Energy East pipeline represented a new direction, designed to get Alberta oil sands crude to lucrative world markets. Yet it was promoted in explicitly nationalist terms: the country was said to be reorienting itself along its east-west axis, tying itself together, again, with a great feat of engineering.
By the time the journey ended, the story had become a kind of whodunit: Poitras witnessed the slow-motion killing of the fifteen billion dollar project. Unfolding in tandem with clashes over the Trans Mountain pipeline, Energy East's demise heralded a potential turning point not just for a single proposal, but for Canada's carbon economy.
Entertaining, informative, and insightful, Pipe Dreams offers a clear picture of the complicated political, environmental, and economic issues that Canadians face.
Big Lonely Doug: The Story of One of Canada's Last Great Trees, by Harley Rustad
About the book: On a cool morning in the winter of 2011, a logger named Dennis Cronin was walking through a stand of old-growth forest near Port Renfrew on Vancouver Island. His job was to survey the land and flag the boundaries for clear-cutting. As he made his way through the forest, Cronin came across a massive Douglas fir the height of a twenty-storey building. It was one of the largest trees in Canada that if felled and milled could easily fetch more than fifty thousand dollars. Instead of moving on, he reached into his vest pocket for a flagging he rarely used, tore off a strip, and wrapped it around the base of the trunk. Along the length of the ribbon were the words “Leave Tree.”
When the fallers arrived, every wiry cedar, every droopy-topped hemlock, every great fir was cut down and hauled away—all except one. The solitary tree stood quietly in the clear cut until activist and photographer T. J. Watt stumbled upon the Douglas fir while searching for big trees for the Ancient Forest Alliance, an environmental organization fighting to protect British Columbia's dwindling old-growth forests. The single Douglas fir exemplified their cause: the grandeur of these trees juxtaposed with their plight. They gave it a name: Big Lonely Doug. The tree would also eventually, and controversially, be turned into the poster child of the Tall Tree Capital of Canada, attracting thousands of tourists every year and garnering the attention of artists, businesses, and organizations who saw new values encased within its bark.
The Tides of Time, by Suzanne Stewart
About the book: Set in northeastern Nova Scotia and Cape Breton, The Tides of Time: A Nova Scotia Book of Seasons paints vivid portraits of contemporary labourers whose harvests mark the rhythms of the seasonal year. Each of the twelve monthly chapters tells the story of a labour unique to that month, including jobs like tuna fishing, cranberry farming, maple syrup production, sheep farming, beekeeping, lobster fishing, and foraging for wild mushrooms. Stewart revitalizes an older, contemplative view of the sacredness of time. In keeping with the genre of nature writing, her book offers a meticulous way of looking at the world as she blends first-hand observations of seasonal change with stories of the labourers. The Tides of Time offers a refuge from the rush of urban life. It turns to the seasons, rural life and literature for an alternative mode of time, which is fluid, rhythmic, and gentle. The symplicity is there—close at hand.
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