These are a Few of My Favorite Books

By: Stacey Wildberger – December 2016

The holidays are coming and you are probably trying to figure out what to get the ecologically-minded people on your list this year.  I have compiled a list of my favorite books for every nature loving conservationist on your list, and for those of you looking to be inspired to action!  Happy Holidays!!

  1. A Sand County Almanac by: Aldo Leopold – “There are some who can live without wild things and some who cannot. These essays are the delights and dilemmas of one who cannot” – Aldo Leopold.  I am one who cannot.  As one of the cornerstones of modern conservation, this collection of essays is a must read for not just the conservation minded of us but everyone.  I believe it should be required reading for our young people.  It will truly inspire and ignite a passion for conservationism, a desire to protect that which is natural and a feeling of empowerment that our actions can make a difference.   Aldo Leopold is considered by most to be the father of wildlife management system of the U.S.  He was a conservationist, forester, philosopher, educator, writer and outdoor enthusiast.  A Sand County Almanac shares stories, triumphs, and failures of the ecological restoration experiment his family embarked on when Leopold bought a worn out farm in Baraboo, Wisconsin: it examines the human relationship to the natural world.  One of the most telling examples of that relationship is the essay Thinking Like A Mountain-it tells of Leopold watching the ‘green fire’ die in the eyes of a wolf and how changed his perspective on wildlife management.  His original feeling was that fewer wolves meant more deer and more deer would be a hunter’s paradise but years later as he reflected on that day he realized that neither the wolf nor the mountain viewed it the same as he witnessed the destruction on the landscape by too many deer.  There should be a balance and harmony between man and nature.

  1. Bringing Nature Home by: Doug Tellamy —Tellamy is an entomologist professor at the University of Delaware and in my opinion one of the most influential conservationist of our day. His book Bringing Nature Home changed my whole way of thinking about gardening and seeing beauty in our garden.  He challenges us to think about the space on our property-no matter how large or small as a wildlife preserve to sustain biodiversity in our landscapes. Our gardens and home landscapes should not be statement of our status but a place to nourish and sustain our native flora and fauna.  What does he propose it takes for local fauna to survive and even thrive? NATIVE PLANTS!  Native plants and animals have co-evolved together for centuries and their relationships to one another are essential for biodiversity and their survival.  If we plant all non-native ornamental species our insects cannot service to pollinate our food, and flowers.  This book will inspire you to take a closer look at your gardening practices and make changes.
  2. Silent Spring By: Rachel Carson—This is the story one woman’s fight against the chemical industry and humankind’s impact on nature. She questioned the chemicals being sprayed to stop the spread of “pests”.  In her 1962 book she exposed the hazards of DDT, and set the stage for the environmental movement.  There is story after story of the devastating effects to nature after an area had been sprayed.  I wept for the senseless loss of so many animals, birds, reptiles, insects, and amphibians. She outlined the very serious threats of contamination of the food chain, cancer, genetic damage, and the death of entire species.  I cannot help but wonder what Carson would say about the irrational spraying of mosquitoes to this day in suburbia to ward off Zika Virus?  The effects of losing millions of pollinators far outweigh our chances of ever contracting Zika virus. If instead we let natural predators do their job our ecosystem and even our human bodies would be much better off.
  3. Gardening in a Post Wild World by: Claudia West & Thomas Rainer—West and Rainer make the case that our traditional landscaping practices would benefit from increasing their ecological function. While they do recommend the use of native plants they are not adverse to using nonnative plants along with natives if the plants exist in the same or similar conditions for soil, light, and moisture.  They talk about “plant communities’ and not so much about where the plant comes.  While I am still partial to using mostly natives, an occasional use of non-invasive, non-native plants can play a role in the aesthetics of your garden landscape.  One of my favorite concepts they write about is vertical design layers.  It factors in root depth, function, behavior  and seasonal succession.  The bottom layer is ground cover “green mulch’ that does not allow for bare soil in which weeds could colonize.  The other layers include seasonal, filler and structural layers.  Pick up this innovative book to learn more.
  4. Garden Revolution by: Larry Warner & Thomas Christopher—This beautifully photographed book embraces a better, smarter way to garden. Warner and Christopher advocate tossing out conventional time consuming gardening methods and instead advise choosing plants that fit the existing conditions.  Do not waste time, energy and money tilling, weeding, irrigating and fertilizing when you can choose plants that have evolved over time for your site-native plants!
  5. Chesapeake Landscaping by: Barbara W. Ellis –Ellis’ book is a wonderful guide for home owners, garden designers and landscapers in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed region. The book includes 6 basic principal that everyone can use.  Reduce lawn, build plant diversity, grow native plants, manage run off, welcome wildlife and garden wisely.  I recommend this book for its easy to understand concepts for our specific region.
  6. The Last Child in the Woods by: Richard Louv—An extraordinary look at the decline nature in children’s lives and the divesting effects of the loss of nature including obesity, attention disorders and depression. A phenomenon he calls nature-deficit.  There is mounting research indicating that children need direct exposure for healthy childhood development and for their physical and emotional health.  In an ever increasing world of electronic devices children are losing touch with the natural world.  The newest addition includes actionable ideas to create change in your community, school and family, inspirational points about the importance of nature in our lives.  Put down your electronic devices and learn more about Louv’s research and then get outside with your kids!
  7. The Lorax by: Dr. Seuss—An essential read for the young and old. Every child should have this book on their shelf to start an early learning and appreciation for the natural world around them and the importance of trees.  And to quote the Lorax “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not” –Dr. Seuss The Lorax
  8. Among the Ancients by: Joan Maloof—Another book that brought tears to my eyes. As I read about the destruction of so many old growth forests I couldn’t help feel a tremendous sense of loss.  A loss of something I will never be able to experience.  Joan visited an old growth forest in each state east of the Mississippi for a firsthand look at their majestic beauty.  She asks the question why save these treasures in her journey. The answer is in addition to their ability to sequester carbon, control runoff and provide oxygen for their sheer beauty.

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