LOST WOODS

THE DISCOVERED WRITING OF RACHEL CARSON

Biographer Lear (Rachel Carson: Witness for Nature, 1997) knits together here a number of Rachel Carson’s writings—often much more personal, quirky, and searching than her celebrated books—that add meat to her body of literary/scientific writing. Carson published just four books during her lifetime, but she also cranked out speeches and articles and newspaper work, kept copious field notes, and wrote thousands of letters. Lear has selected from this material a chronological sampling as a guide to Carson’s evolution as a writer and a natural scientist. Many of the pieces will be new to most readers, even if their tone—of “awakening an emotional response to nature”—is trademark Carson. This collection includes pieces on Carson the hard-core birder: there are both field jottings and essays on chimney swifts and warblers and gulls, and a rapt couple of days on a hawk watch in Pennsylvania. She wrote liner notes to Debussy’s La Mer, music which she comfortably interprets to jibe with her notion of the ocean’s mysteries. She was certainly one of the first to give the importance of island biogeography more than a passing nod; an essay on the destruction of rare island habitats, and the extinction of island species, has been included by Lear. And her anxiety over atomic weapons, especially when byproducts are dumped in the oceans, is spelled out here in her preface to the second edition of The Sea Around Us. As always, touching all aspects of her work are her puzzlings over the simple fact of life and her druidic appreciation of natural cycles and the beauty, excitement, and inscrutable elements of the natural world. Carson devotees will already be familiar with some of this material; the more casual (if no less admiring) fan will find in this collection an engaging glimpse into the breadth of Carson’s curiosity and the fashioning of her public voice as a defender of the environment.

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 1998

ISBN: 0-8070-8546-4

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Beacon

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1998

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A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

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NO ONE IS TOO SMALL TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

A collection of articulate, forceful speeches made from September 2018 to September 2019 by the Swedish climate activist who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Speaking in such venues as the European and British Parliaments, the French National Assembly, the Austrian World Summit, and the U.N. General Assembly, Thunberg has always been refreshingly—and necessarily—blunt in her demands for action from world leaders who refuse to address climate change. With clarity and unbridled passion, she presents her message that climate change is an emergency that must be addressed immediately, and she fills her speeches with punchy sound bites delivered in her characteristic pull-no-punches style: “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.” In speech after speech, to persuade her listeners, she cites uncomfortable, even alarming statistics about global temperature rise and carbon dioxide emissions. Although this inevitably makes the text rather repetitive, the repetition itself has an impact, driving home her point so that no one can fail to understand its importance. Thunberg varies her style for different audiences. Sometimes it is the rousing “our house is on fire” approach; other times she speaks more quietly about herself and her hopes and her dreams. When addressing the U.S. Congress, she knowingly calls to mind the words and deeds of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy. The last speech in the book ends on a note that is both challenging and upbeat: “We are the change and change is coming.” The edition published in Britain earlier this year contained 11 speeches; this updated edition has 16, all worth reading.

A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-14-313356-8

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2019

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An authoritative, engaging study of plant life, accessible to younger readers as well as adults.

THE INCREDIBLE JOURNEY OF PLANTS

A neurobiologist reveals the interconnectedness of the natural world through stories of plant migration.

In this slim but well-packed book, Mancuso (Plant Science/Univ. of Florence; The Revolutionary Genius of Plants: A New Understanding of Plant Intelligence and Behavior, 2018, etc.) presents an illuminating and surprisingly lively study of plant life. He smoothly balances expansive historical exploration with recent scientific research through stories of how various plant species are capable of migrating to locations throughout the world by means of air, water, and even via animals. They often continue to thrive in spite of dire obstacles and environments. One example is the response of plants following the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Three decades later, the abandoned “Exclusion Zone” is now entirely covered by an enormous assortment of thriving plants. Mancuso also tracks the journeys of several species that might be regarded as invasive. “Why…do we insist on labeling as ‘invasive’ all those plants that, with great success, have managed to occupy new territories?” asks the author. “On a closer look, the invasive plants of today are the native flora of the future, just as the invasive species of the past are a fundamental part of our ecosystem today.” Throughout, Mancuso persuasively articulates why an understanding and appreciation of how nature is interconnected is vital to the future of our planet. “In nature everything is connected,” he writes. “This simple law that humans don’t seem to understand has a corollary: the extinction of a species, besides being a calamity in and of itself, has unforeseeable consequences for the system to which the species belongs.” The book is not without flaws. The loosely imagined watercolor renderings are vague and fail to effectively complement Mancuso’s richly descriptive prose or satisfy readers’ curiosity. Even without actual photos and maps, it would have been beneficial to readers to include more finely detailed plant and map renderings.

An authoritative, engaging study of plant life, accessible to younger readers as well as adults.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-63542-991-6

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Other Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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