- The central theme of 2021’s books is not just about cataloging declines or degradation but also how we as a species deal with, mitigate, reverse and adapt to these changes.
- Below is a selection from the important literature published this year on conservation and the environment.
- Mongabays endorsement does not mean that a book is included in this list. The views expressed in the books are the authors’ and not necessarily Mongabay’s.
Everywhere you look, there are signs of human impact. We live in a world that has microscopic plastic bits strewn across the highest mountains and deepest sea trenches. Our world-shaping power extends to the two-thirds planet covered by the oceans, including the largest animals ever known. We’ve changed the climate, driven many species to extinction, and put many more at risk. We’ve wiped out mountains, altered the course of rivers and toppled forests. Yet, despite all the power humans have in causing the planet’s decline, we still have the power and ability to help it recover.
The selections for this year’s list deal with both the consequences and the implications of both those powers, which are shared by more than 7.5billion people today and the descendants of those who came before us. The authors consider whether we should allow nature to heal by itself, or if we should try to get it to conform to our idealized vision of the world.
By Elizabeth Kolbert
New YorkerElizabeth Kolbert, staff writer, has been praised for her coverage on climate change and the global extermination crisis. She won a Pulitzer for her book in 2014. The Sixth Extinction – An Unnatural History. Much of this work focuses on how humans have affected the natural world and created a lot of problems.
Under a White SkyThis article looks at the other side to that power to control the world around you, this time in an effort save it. She writes that scientists are currently working hard to stop the spread of invasive species, which we have introduced into our environment, sometimes unknowingly. They are working feverishly to find solutions to remove climate-warming carbon. They are also creating new varieties of reef-building coral to withstand the heat waves that industrialization has unleashed on the Earth. In Under a White SkyWe get to look over these researchers with Kolbert at their helm.
By Michael J. Moore
Michael J. Moore is a marine scientist and veterinarian at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the United States. He has seen the impact of human activity on the ocean and the effect it has had on the whales that call it home. In All Whalers Are OneMoore recounts the four decades of research he has done over the past 40 years, including the frustrating and sometimes perplexing decline in the North Atlantic right whale. This has been a major focus of Moore’s work. Despite the continued efforts of scientists like Moore and a growing number of conservation laws, right whale populations have continued to decline. The current best estimates place the number of right whales at less than 350.
Yankee whalers once loved right whales. Today, however, they are endangered by a variety of fishing gear and high-powered ships plowing through their habitat. While most people will never own a harpoon, we have some control over what happens to it. From the seafood we eat and from where it came from to the products we purchase, which are shipped in huge containers across the oceans.
That burden could become a burden that is too heavy to sink a book or its message. Moore makes it a responsibility we all share. We can make the ocean a more welcoming home by paying more attention how things get to us and calling for new technologies such as ropeless gear to fishers.
By Michelle Nijhuis
Beloved BeastsThis book is as much a history of the people involved with conservation over the last century and a quarter as it is about their efforts to save endangered species. Through history, conservation and environmental movements have made many breakthroughs, as well as attracting some controversial figures. Michelle Nijhuis’ book is a guide to this history. It takes us from the beginning to the present, when we are facing an extinction crisis that has only grown. We learn as much about ourselves as the species we are trying to save.
By Laura Coleman
The Bolivian Amazon is the setting for The Puma Years It might be tempting enough to buy it The book. It is the personal story of the author, however, that makes this book a real page turner. As the title implies, Laura Coleman forms a long-lasting friendship with Wayra, a puma living at an animal refuge in a forest. Coleman seems to learn as many things about herself and the animals she cares for as she does about the people she meets.
Edited and edited by Lauren Baker, Paula Daniels, and Barbara Gemmill–Herren
The global system that provides us with food is responsible for many of the most devastating impacts on our environment. This includes the conversion of great rainforests into agriculture and the effects of industrial livestock production on water, land, air, and water. An increasing body of evidence is proving the weight of our choices, but how much are they worth?
A series of case studies from all over the globe are presented. True Cost Accounting for FoodThese consequences get more depth, contours, or nuance by adding depth and nuance. The contributors discuss water systems in California’s Andes and cotton production in Egypt. Others look at the social reverberations that food choices have on our lives.
By Karen Lloyd
The title of the collection is Karen Lloyds essay collection. Abundance: Nature in Recovery,This is a positive attitude. Lloyd looks for examples of investments in natural ecosystem restoration and bringing species back from the brink of extinction around the world. Lloyd’s writing is not a trivialization of the many challenges ecosystems face. Some of the most thought-provoking passages in the book are meditations on what humans choose to save or let go.
By Paul Watson
How does the world’s most well-known anti-whaling campaigner, Paul Watson, reconcile his life’s purpose with Indigenous nations’ cultural traditions? Paul Watsons Death of a whaleWe can see both the internal struggle of the animal lover and the external fight to save it. Captain Watson, founder and leader of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society tracks a campaign to stop Makah people from hunting gray whales in Pacific Northwest.
Watson wrestles with themes that range from relativism to life’s sanctity, and tries to steer his storytelling towards an adventure story and a parable about living that encourages us all to question our long-held beliefs.
By Meg Lowman
Tree canopies high above forests hold a dizzying range of life. Meg Lowman, a scientist who has been closely watching these ecosystems for decades, has climbed to this eighth continent or soared high above them. In The ArbornautShe shares some of the secrets in this ethereal wine terroir. Few readers will resist allowing a little bit of Lowman’s infectious enthusiasm for the treetops to rub off on them.
9. Cull 2031
By Nick Thomas
The only fiction entry on Mongabays list 2021 is here Cull 2031Imagine a future in which climate activists see violence as a way out of the crisis. It is a chilling thought that might make you wonder: How could we all unite to prevent such a fate?
By Emma Marris
What does it mean for a person to be wild? Emma Marris explores these questions and more in her reporting. She packs a lot of insight. Wild Souls. The book shows how profoundly humans have impacted the world and the lives it supports. It also asks what role we should play in saving that life. The end result is philosophically oriented and tends to favor pragmatism over purism, acceptance of a world that has been altered by humans rather than insisting on a perfect world.
Banner imageA mountain lion in California’s Santa Susana Mountains. Image by the U.S. National Park Service via Wikimedia Commons (Public domain).
John CannonMongabay staff writer, Find himon Twitter @johnccannon
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