An authoritative, quietly impassioned argument for the ecological stakes in the vitality of our lakes.
Stager (Natural Sciences/Paul Smith’s Coll.; Your Atomic Self: The Invisible Elements that Connect You to Everything Else in the Universe, 2014, etc.) is a specialist in lake ecology and paleoecology. In his latest book, he offers a composite biography of lakes (and ponds) deep, shallow, grand, and humble, though each with its own individual life story and projected futures. With rueful precision, the author chronicles numerous depredations visited on lakes, often in the name of creating and sustaining fisheries, while also studying the effects of nutrient pollution, soil erosion, species invasions, and extinctions. He reminds us that the interaction of humans with lakes is ancient and that many of the changes exhibited in lakes are naturally occurring evolutionary processes only marginally affected by us. Stager conducts his investigations of lake communities from the “still” waters of the Adirondacks to Walden Pond, from Siberia to the Middle East and Africa, bringing the science to life through historical anecdotes and environmental observations that are measured and fair. However, the author is less successful in some of the descriptive passages that attempt to lend atmosphere, though he achieves a hint of eloquence here and there. For a primer on the “secret world” of lakes and for surprising facts and speculations on the microscopic and macroscopic realms—all carefully assembled and presented—the book is an important contribution to understanding how lakes, beyond their singular beauty, are windows to our primal connections to all life. “There is nothing like a lake to reflect and reveal the world,” he writes. Evoking Thoreau and Emerson, Stager also demonstrates that the romantic ideology of wilderness can be counterproductive.
Stager corrects many myths and misconceptions regarding what constitutes “healthy” lakes while analyzing troubling issues and threats. Yet he also swims in a pool of abiding human fascination.