A notable look at a less-publicized chapter of environmentalism.

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Successful Reforestation in South Korea

STRONG LEADERSHIP OF EX-PRESIDENT PARK CHUNG-HEE

A Seoul National University professor recounts the transformation of South Korea from barren moonscape to tree-filled landscape and the pivotal role in that process played by former President Park Chung-Hee.

In 1960, South Korea’s mountainous countryside looked like a lunar plane. Plagued by years of unwise government policies and exacerbated by war and the presence of occupying powers, the country’s landscape had been virtually denuded of trees. Even the stumps had been dug up by occupying Japanese during World War II to get resin for use as an oil substitute. The result was lost animal habitat, frequent landslides caused by even small amounts of rain and the widespread breakdown of multiple ecosystems. However, in 1961, things started to change when Park Chung-Hee came to power. Listing the illegal deforestation as one of the country’s major problems, he began instituting policies aimed at reforesting South Korea. The turnaround was remarkable. In 1982, the United Nations cited South Korea as the only developing country to successfully accomplish reforestation after World War II. The author, a professor emeritus at Seoul National University, has written a straightforward and often fascinating account of South Korea’s reforestation success under Park, who was assassinated in 1979. A valentine of sorts to Park, the book credits him with single-handedly starting and pushing the drive to make South Korea more green. It contains numerous anecdotes about Park and his love of trees, such as his knowing exactly how many trees were planted at a village and noting upon his later visit that one was gone. The book could have been inundated with statistics, but to his credit, the author keeps the numbers to a minimum, preferring instead to focus on the people and policies that turned the country from brown to green, including the creation of the Forest Service. One noticeable flaw among the plaudits for Park: The book conspicuously circumvents discussing his controversial legacy, though it’s hard to deny his vital role in seeing the forest for the trees and harnessing the power of government for sound environmental policies.

A notable look at a less-publicized chapter of environmentalism.  

Pub Date: March 25, 2013

ISBN: 978-1482644104

Page Count: 264

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2013

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Jahren transcends both memoir and science writing in this literary fusion of both genres.

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LAB GIRL

Award-winning scientist Jahren (Geology and Geophysics/Univ. of Hawaii) delivers a personal memoir and a paean to the natural world.

The author’s father was a physics and earth science teacher who encouraged her play in the laboratory, and her mother was a student of English literature who nurtured her love of reading. Both of these early influences engrossingly combine in this adroit story of a dedication to science. Jahren’s journey from struggling student to struggling scientist has the narrative tension of a novel and characters she imbues with real depth. The heroes in this tale are the plants that the author studies, and throughout, she employs her facility with words to engage her readers. We learn much along the way—e.g., how the willow tree clones itself, the courage of a seed’s first root, the symbiotic relationship between trees and fungi, and the airborne signals used by trees in their ongoing war against insects. Trees are of key interest to Jahren, and at times she waxes poetic: “Each beginning is the end of a waiting. We are each given exactly one chance to be. Each of us is both impossible and inevitable. Every replete tree was first a seed that waited.” The author draws many parallels between her subjects and herself. This is her story, after all, and we are engaged beyond expectation as she relates her struggle in building and running laboratory after laboratory at the universities that have employed her. Present throughout is her lab partner, a disaffected genius named Bill, whom she recruited when she was a graduate student at Berkeley and with whom she’s worked ever since. The author’s tenacity, hope, and gratitude are all evident as she and Bill chase the sweetness of discovery in the face of the harsh economic realities of the research scientist.

Jahren transcends both memoir and science writing in this literary fusion of both genres.

Pub Date: April 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-87493-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2016

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Whether you call this a personal story or nature writing, it’s poignant, thoughtful and moving—and likely to become a...

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  • Kirkus Prize
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H IS FOR HAWK

An inspired, beautiful and absorbing account of a woman battling grief—with a goshawk.

Following the sudden death of her father, Macdonald (History and Philosophy/Cambridge Univ.; Falcon, 2006, etc.) tried staving off deep depression with a unique form of personal therapy: the purchase and training of an English goshawk, which she named Mabel. Although a trained falconer, the author chose a raptor both unfamiliar and unpredictable, a creature of mad confidence that became a means of working against madness. “The hawk was everything I wanted to be: solitary, self-possessed, free from grief, and numb to the hurts of human life,” she writes. As a devotee of birds of prey since girlhood, Macdonald knew the legends and the literature, particularly the cautionary example of The Once and Future King author T.H. White, whose 1951 book The Goshawk details his own painful battle to master his title subject. Macdonald dramatically parallels her own story with White’s, achieving a remarkable imaginative sympathy with the writer, a lonely, tormented homosexual fighting his own sadomasochistic demons. Even as she was learning from White’s mistakes, she found herself very much in his shoes, watching her life fall apart as the painfully slow bonding process with Mabel took over. Just how much do animals and humans have in common? The more Macdonald got to know her, the more Mabel confounded her notions about what the species was supposed to represent. Is a hawk a symbol of might or independence, or is that just our attempt to remake the animal world in our own image? Writing with breathless urgency that only rarely skirts the melodramatic, Macdonald broadens her scope well beyond herself to focus on the antagonism between people and the environment.

Whether you call this a personal story or nature writing, it’s poignant, thoughtful and moving—and likely to become a classic in either genre.

Pub Date: March 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0802123411

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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