Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forestby Suzanne Simard.
Simard brings us into her world, the intimate world of the trees, in which she brilliantly illuminates the fascinating and vital truths – that trees are not simply the source of timber or pulp, but are a complex, interdependent circle of life; that forests are social, cooperative creatures connected through underground networks by which trees communicate their vitality and vulnerabilities with communal lives not that different from our own. Discussion led by Wendy Feltham.
February 28, 2022.
The Abstract Wildby Jack Turner. Discussion led by Kathy Darrow.
March 28, 2022.
After the Blast: The Ecological Recovery of Mount St. Helensby Eric Wagner. Discussion led by Jean Mann.
April 25, 2022.
Hurricane Lizards and Plastic Squid: The Fraught and Fascinating Biology of Climate Changeby Thor Hanson. Discussion led by Phyllis Dolph.
May 23, 2022.
Beloved Beasts: Fighting for Life in An Age of Extinctionby Michele Nijhaus. Discussion led by Holly Hughes.
June 27, 2022.
In Search of Meadowlarks: Birds, Farms, and Food in Harmony with the Land by John Marzluff. Discussion led by Andrea Woods.
All meetings will be via Zoom from 3:30-5:00 pm until the public health protocols change. Please contact Linda Rhines at firstname.lastname@example.org details if you would like to join in.
We hope to meet in person again at Illahee Preserve as soon as it is deemed safe to practice social distancing and enjoy being outdoors together. During colder winter months, we’ll meet at the Pink House next to PT Library, or schedule a Zoom meeting, depending on the public health situation.
The The books is the list below are recommendations from book club members. This list is in alphabetical order by author. If you’ve read a natural history related book that you would like to add to this list, please e-mail your ideas to Linda at email@example.com. We also have an list of more than 100 books we have already discussed in this group on the first page of the Book Club website, so make sure your suggestion is not already there.
Joe Arnett, Walking in the Beauty of the World: Reflections of a Northwest Botanist (2004) Joe has been a professional botanist and teacher in the Northwest for over twenty years. This collection of 24 essays describe wild – and not so wild – places, personal knowledge of the plants, and wider topics of a human relationship with nature. The writer invites the reader to step off the path of routine and catch a glimpse of the natural world in which we live. (Recommended by Kathy)
Jonathan Balcombe, What a Fish Knows: The Inner Lives of Our Underwater Cousins (2016) What a Fish Knows will forever change how we see our aquatic cousins. We rarely consider how individual fishes think, feel, and behave. Balcombe describes a variety of fish behaviors, such as courtship rituals and cooperative hunting behaviors. What a Fish Knows offers a thoughtful appraisal of our relationships with fishes and inspires us to take a more enlightened view of the planet’s increasingly imperiled marine life.
Thor Hanson, Hurricane Lizards and Plastic Squid (2021) Biologist Thor Hanson tells the remarkable story of how plants and animals are responding to climate change: adjusting, evolving, and sometimes dying out. Anole lizards have grown larger toe pads, to grip more tightly in frequent hurricanes. Warm waters cause the development of Humboldt squid to alter so dramatically that fishermen mistake them for different species. Brown pelicans move north, and long-spined sea urchins south, to find cooler homes. And when coral reefs sicken, they leave no territory worth fighting for, so aggressive butterfly fish transform instantly into pacifists. A story of hope, resilience, and risk, Hurricane Lizards and Plastic Squid is natural history for readers of Bernd Heinrich, Robin Wall Kimmerer, and David Haskell. It is also a reminder of how unpredictable climate change is as it interacts with the messy lattice of life. (Recommended by Phyllis)
Lyanda Lynn Haupt, Rooted: Life at the Crossroads of Science, Nature, and Spirit (2021) Award-winning writer Lyanda Lynn Haupt’s highly personal new book is a brilliant invitation to live withthe earth in both simple and profound ways—from walking barefoot in the woods and reimagining our relationship with animals and trees, to examining the very language we use to describe and think about nature. She invokes rootedness as a way of being in concert with the wilderness—and wildness—that sustains humans and all of life. (Recommended by Kathy)
Elizabeth Kolbert, Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future (2021) The author takes a hard look at the new world we are creating. Along the way, she meets biologists who are trying to preserve the world’s rarest fish, which lives in a single tiny pool in the middle of the Mojave; engineers who are turning carbon emissions to stone in Iceland; Australian researchers who are trying to develop a “super coral” that can survive on a hotter globe; and physicists who are contemplating shooting tiny diamonds into the stratosphere to cool the earth. (Recommended by Wendy)
Barry Lopez, Horizon (2019) From pole to pole and across decades of lived experience, National Book Award-winning author Barry Lopez delivers his most far-ranging, yet personal, work to date. Horizon moves indelibly, immersively, through the author’s travels to six regions of the world: from Western Oregon to the High Arctic; from the Galápagos to the Kenyan desert; from Botany Bay in Australia to finally, unforgettably, the ice shelves of Antarctica. Along the way, Lopez probes the long history of humanity’s thirst for exploration, including the prehistoric peoples who trekked across Skraeling Island in northern Canada, the colonialists who plundered Central Africa, an enlightenment-era Englishman who sailed the Pacific, a Native American emissary who found his way into isolationist Japan, and today’s ecotourists in the tropics. And always, throughout his journeys to some of the hottest, coldest, and most desolate places on the globe, Lopez searches for meaning and purpose in a broken world. (Recommended by Kathy)
John Marzluff, In Search of Meadowlarks: Birds, Farms, and Food in Harmony with the Land (2020) With predictions of a human population of more than nine billion by the middle of this century and eleven billion by 2100, we stand at a crossroads in our agricultural evolution. In this clear and engaging yet scientifically rigorous book, wildlife biologist John M. Marzluff takes a personal approach to sustainable agriculture. He travels to farms and ranches across North and Central America, including a Nebraska corn and soybean farm, California vineyards, cattle ranches in Montana, and small sustainable farms in Costa Rica, to understand the unique challenges and solutions to sustainable food production. Agriculture and wildlife can coexist, Marzluff argues, if farmers are justly rewarded for conservation; if future technological advancements increase food production and reduce food waste; and if consumers cut back on meat consumption. Beginning with a look backward at our evolutionary history and concluding with practical solutions for change that will benefit farmers and ranchers, he provides an accessible and insightful study for the ecologically minded citizen, farmer, rancher, or conservationist. (Recommended by Andrea)
Alexandra Morton,Not on My Watch: How a renegade whale biologist took on governments and industry to save wild salmon (2021). Morton has been called “the Jane Goodall of Canada” because of her passionate thirty-year fight to save British Columbia’s wild salmon. Her account of that fight is both inspiring in its own right and a roadmap of resistance (Recommended by Oma)
Michelle Nijhuis, Beloved Beasts: Fighting for Life in an Age of Extinction (2021)
In the late nineteenth century, humans came at long last to a devastating realization: their rapidly industrializing and globalizing societies were driving scores of animal species to extinction. In Beloved Beasts, acclaimed science journalist Michelle Nijhuis traces the history of the movement to protect and conserve other forms of life. From early battles to save charismatic species such as the American bison and bald eagle to today’s global effort to defend life on a larger scale, Nijhuis’s “spirited and engaging” account documents “the changes of heart that changed history” (Dan Cryer, Boston Globe). (Recommended by Holly)
Merlin Sheldrake, Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds, & Shape Our Futures (2020) Fungi provide a key to understanding the planet on which we live, and the ways we think, feel, and behave. In Entangled Life, the brilliant young biologist Merlin Sheldrake shows us the world from a fungal point of view, providing an exhilarating change of perspective. (Recommended by Cheryl)
Susan Simard, Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest (2021) Simard writes–in inspiring, illuminating, and accessible ways—how trees, living side by side for hundreds of years, have evolved, how they perceive one another, learn and adapt their behaviors, recognize neighbors, and remember the past; how they have agency about the future; elicit warnings and mount defenses, compete and cooperate with one another with sophistication, characteristics ascribed to human intelligence, traits that are the essence of civil societies–and at the center of it all, the Mother Trees: the mysterious, powerful forces that connect and sustain the others that surround them. (Recommended by Wendy)
Jack Turner, The Abstract Wild (1996) If anything is endangered in America it is our experience of wild nature—gross contact. There is knowledge only the wild can give us, knowledge specific to it, knowledge specific to the experience of it. These are its gifts to us. We hunger for a kind of experience deep enough to change our selves, our form of life, writes Turner. Readers who take his words to heart will find, if not their selves, their perspectives on the natural world recast in ways that are hard to ignore and harder to forget. (recommended by Kathy)
Eric Wagner, After the Blast: The Ecological Recovery of Mount St. Helens (2020) On May 18, 1980, people all over the world watched with awe and horror as Mount St. Helens erupted. Fifty-seven people were killed and hundreds of square miles of what had been lush forests and wild rivers were to all appearances destroyed. Ecologists thought they would have to wait years, or even decades, for life to return to the mountain, but when forest scientist Jerry Franklin helicoptered into the blast area a couple of weeks after the eruption, he found small plants bursting through the ash and animals skittering over the ground. Stunned, he realized he and his colleagues had been thinking of the volcano in completely the wrong way. Rather than being a dead zone, the mountain was very much alive. Mount St. Helens has been surprising ecologists ever since, and in After the Blast Eric Wagner takes readers on a fascinating journey through the blast area and beyond. From fireweed to elk, the plants and animals Franklin saw would not just change how ecologists approached the eruption and its landscape, but also prompt them to think in new ways about how life responds in the face of seemingly total devastation. (recommended by Jean)
Scott Weidensaul, The World on the Wing: The global odyssey of migratory birds (2021) “In vivid prose that conjures up the rich spell of each landscape, Scott Weidensaul takes us on exhilarating expeditions that crisscross the globe and travel deep into the heart of nature. For lifelong experts and backyard birders alike, he’s a superb guide to the winged marvels that share our planet and our lives.” (Diane Ackerman). (Recommended by Noreen)
David B. Williams, Homewaters: A Human and Natural History of Puget Sound (2021)
Focusing on the area south of Port Townsend and between the Cascade and Olympic mountains, Williams uncovers human and natural histories in, on, and around the Sound. In conversations with archaeologists, biologists, and tribal authorities, Williams traces how generations of humans have interacted with such species as geoducks, salmon, orcas, rockfish, and herring. He sheds light on how warfare shaped development and how people have moved across this maritime highway, in canoes, the mosquito fleet, and today’s ferry system. The book also takes an unflinching look at how the Sound’s ecosystems have suffered from human behavior, including pollution, habitat destruction, and the effects of climate change. Witty, graceful, and deeply informed, Homewaters weaves history and science into a fascinating and hopeful narrative, one that will introduce newcomers to the astonishing life that inhabits the Sound and offers longtime residents new insight into and appreciation of the waters they call home.(Recommended by Kathy)
E.O. Wilson, Tales from the Ant World (2020) “Ants are the most warlike of all animals, with colony pitted against colony. . . . Their clashes dwarf Waterloo and Gettysburg,” writes Edward O. Wilson in his most finely observed work in decades. In a myrmecological tour to such far-flung destinations as Mozambique and New Guinea, the Gulf of Mexico’s Dauphin Island and even his parents’ overgrown yard back in Alabama, Wilson thrillingly evokes his nine-decade-long scientific obsession with more than 15,000 ant species. A personal account by one of our greatest scientists, Tales from the Ant World is an indispensable volume for any lover of the natural world. (recommended by Wendy)
What the Robin Knows: How Birds Reveal the Secrets of the Natural World by Jon Young
Deep bird language is an ancient discipline, perfected by Native peoples the world over. Finally, science is catching up. This groundbreaking book unites the indigenous knowledge, the latest research, and the author’s own experience of four decades in the field to lead us toward a deeper connection to the animals and, in the end, ourselves.
If you’ve participated in the Jefferson Land Trust Natural History course, you’ve been introduced to the idea of a “sit spot,” a special place outdoors that you regularly spend time just watching and listening. That concept is derived from the teachings of this author, Jon Young, and is discussed in more detail in this book.
Please join us at the Pink House next to Port Townsend Public Library on Monday, January 27th, 3:30-5:00 p.m. to talk about what we learned from the book and to share your experiences with listening to birds. We’ll also share with everyone some news from our special “sit spot.”
Our December 2019 natural history book club selection is Arctic Dreams: Imagination and Desire in a Northern Landscape by Barry Lopez. Originally published in 1986, Arctic Dreams won the National Book Award and remains a classic in natural history literature. Lopez offers a thorough examination of this obscure world-its terrain, its wildlife, its history of Eskimo natives and intrepid explorers who have arrived on their icy shores. But what turns this marvelous work of natural history into a breathtaking study of profound originality is his unique meditation on how the landscape can shape our imagination, desires, and dreams. Its prose as hauntingly pure as the land it describes, Arctic Dreams is nothing less than an indelible classic of modern literature. Please join us to share in discussion and your personal experiences in arctic wildlands.
We’ll be meeting at the Pink House next to the Port Townsend Public Library on Monday, December 9th, from 3:30 to 5:00 p.m. After the discussion, we’ll be making a list of suggested reading for February-July 2020. We’ll be e-mailing the list to all book club participants to vote for their top 6. If you have any titles you’d like us to consider, please e-mail Kathy at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll add it to the list. Keep in mind that we prefer books on natural history topics that are related to the Pacific Northwest.
The September 2019 selection for Jefferson Land Trust Natural History Society book club is Wintergreen by Robert Michael Pyle. We are honored to have the opportunity to meet with the author for our book discussion on Monday, October 7, from 3:30 – 5:00. Please RSVP to Jean at email@example.com for information, including directions, about the location.
Naturalist, scientist, and poet Robert Michael Pyle describes the land, animals, plants, and people of the Willapa Hills area of southwest Washington State. In spite of the obvious disruption caused by widespread logging, Pyle moved to the little town of Gray’s River, Washington, in the 1970s and continued his career as a writer and naturalist. His explorations of the area are recounted in Wintergreen, winner of the 1987 John Burroughs Medal for the best natural history book of the year. Although originally written in the 1980s and republished with a new preface in 1996, the well-written book has valuable insights and lessons for today.