A treasure trove of information for ecologically and spiritually minded readers.



A testament to the sacredness of nature and how it offers hope for humanity.

Barrow (co-author: Linking Conservation to Poverty Reduction, 2008) notes that he has been enamored with nature, and specifically trees, since his 1950s boyhood on a farm in Ireland. He recalls that when he was just 6, he’d planted more than 300 chestnut trees, each of which is now more than 60 years old. His zest for reconnecting with nature is one that he shares with many other authors, but in this book, he explores refreshing new territory with his arboreal focus. Barrow says that embracing the sacredness of nature, and specifically trees and groves, is crucial to avoiding an impending ecological apocalypse. He puts forth two simple tenets—that nature is sacred, and that humans are part of nature—and says that it logically follows that “What we do to nature, we do to ourselves.” Concomitant with the climate crisis, he notes, have come other, escalating global conflicts. However, he presents the idea that reverence for trees fosters a sense of harmony, and with that comes cultural diversity, interpersonal connection, mental and physical health, inclusiveness, and nonviolence. He also points out that sacred trees and groves have long been part of religious and spiritual practices, and the book goes on to take readers on a global tour of trees and groves in the Far East, Europe, and Africa. Beyond ecology, this book addresses a range of topics that will interest many readers, among them faith, history, mythology, science, philosophy, spiritualism, and materialism. It’s also meticulously researched and documented with 782 annotations and a 48-page bibliography. Indeed, this scholarly work is so informative and comprehensive that it could easily serve as a textbook in an environmental studies program. Yet the reading never gets tedious, as Barrow continually sprinkles in intriguing asides, such as the fact that the Bible contains more than 525 references to trees. Despite his detailed scholarship, however, there’s nothing dispassionate about his message—that a reverence for nature will provide a way forward for humankind.

A treasure trove of information for ecologically and spiritually minded readers.

Pub Date: May 21, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-982226-64-0

Page Count: 362

Publisher: BalboaPress

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Unsentimental nature writing that sheds as much light on humans as on eels.



An account of the mysterious life of eels that also serves as a meditation on consciousness, faith, time, light and darkness, and life and death.

In addition to an intriguing natural history, Swedish journalist Svensson includes a highly personal account of his relationship with his father. The author alternates eel-focused chapters with those about his father, a man obsessed with fishing for this elusive creature. “I can’t recall us ever talking about anything other than eels and how to best catch them, down there by the stream,” he writes. “I can’t remember us speaking at all….Because we were in…a place whose nature was best enjoyed in silence.” Throughout, Svensson, whose beat is not biology but art and culture, fills his account with people: Aristotle, who thought eels emerged live from mud, “like a slithering, enigmatic miracle”; Freud, who as a teenage biologist spent months in Trieste, Italy, peering through a microscope searching vainly for eel testes; Johannes Schmidt, who for two decades tracked thousands of eels, looking for their breeding grounds. After recounting the details of the eel life cycle, the author turns to the eel in literature—e.g., in the Bible, Rachel Carson’s Under the Sea Wind, and Günter Grass’ The Tin Drum—and history. He notes that the Puritans would likely not have survived without eels, and he explores Sweden’s “eel coast” (what it once was and how it has changed), how eel fishing became embroiled in the Northern Irish conflict, and the importance of eel fishing to the Basque separatist movement. The apparent return to life of a dead eel leads Svensson to a consideration of faith and the inherent message of miracles. He warns that if we are to save this fascinating creature from extinction, we must continue to study it. His book is a highly readable place to begin learning.

Unsentimental nature writing that sheds as much light on humans as on eels.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-296881-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The book is not entirely negative; final chapters indicate roads of reversal, before it is too late!


It should come as no surprise that the gifted author of The Sea Around Us and its successors can take another branch of science—that phase of biology indicated by the term ecology—and bring it so sharply into focus that any intelligent layman can understand what she is talking about.

Understand, yes, and shudder, for she has drawn a living portrait of what is happening to this balance nature has decreed in the science of life—and what man is doing (and has done) to destroy it and create a science of death. Death to our birds, to fish, to wild creatures of the woods—and, to a degree as yet undetermined, to man himself. World War II hastened the program by releasing lethal chemicals for destruction of insects that threatened man’s health and comfort, vegetation that needed quick disposal. The war against insects had been under way before, but the methods were relatively harmless to other than the insects under attack; the products non-chemical, sometimes even introduction of other insects, enemies of the ones under attack. But with chemicals—increasingly stronger, more potent, more varied, more dangerous—new chain reactions have set in. And ironically, the insects are winning the war, setting up immunities, and re-emerging, their natural enemies destroyed. The peril does not stop here. Waters, even to the underground water tables, are contaminated; soils are poisoned. The birds consume the poisons in their insect and earthworm diet; the cattle, in their fodder; the fish, in the waters and the food those waters provide. And humans? They drink the milk, eat the vegetables, the fish, the poultry. There is enough evidence to point to the far-reaching effects; but this is only the beginning,—in cancer, in liver disorders, in radiation perils…This is the horrifying story. It needed to be told—and by a scientist with a rare gift of communication and an overwhelming sense of responsibility. Already the articles taken from the book for publication in The New Yorker are being widely discussed. Book-of-the-Month distribution in October will spread the message yet more widely.

The book is not entirely negative; final chapters indicate roads of reversal, before it is too late!  

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 1962

ISBN: 061825305X

Page Count: 378

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1962

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet