April 22, 2011

Earth Day Reading

Earth Day is a day that is intended to spread awareness and appreciation for the Earth's natural environment. Things are blooming in the garden, and I was invited by Holley at Roses and Other Gardening Joys to participate in the Earth Day reading project, a fun little blog meme hosted by The Sage Butterfly.

Baptisia x 'Carolina Moonlight' (Carolina Moonlight Baptisia)

The rules are simple: create a post linking back to the person who invited you and the original post, list at least 3 books that have inspired you to preform sustainable living or act green and explain why, and select at least 3 other blogs to tag for the project. What a fun idea!

Rosa banksiae 'Alba Plena' (White Lady Banks Rose)
I was excited to accept the tag for this Earth Day post, as being in the environmental field I am always reading "green"-type books. My choices may be a bit different, as they are more about environmentalism and living in harmony with the earth than the modern interpretation of "green living".

(1) Silent Spring by Rachel Carson, 1962

I'll start with a classic in environmentalism that is also a great read about nature. Silent Spring is the epic book that is often touted as the book that started the environmental movement, and played a large part in the banning of DDT in 1970. What starts out as a beautiful passage about the sounds and images of spring, ends with the silence that was brought by wide-spread spraying of pesticides. The book is a mix of science and passion, and describes the effects of pesticides on humans and ecosystems. It also recommends alternative methods, many of which are used today, such as biocontrol.

"We stand now where two roads diverge. But unlike the roads in Robert Frost's familiar poem, they are not equally fair. The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy, a smooth superhighway on which we progress with great speed, but at its end lies disaster. The other fork of the road - the one less traveled by - offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of the earth"

Anthyrium 'Ghost' (Ghost Fern)
(2) My First Summer in the Sierra by John Muir, 1911

If you read my blog, you probably noticed I like John Muir.  I just love his writing style, his descriptions are almost lyrical and can take me to the deepest gorges of the Sierra Mountains in my bedroom. John Muir was perhaps one of the original environmentalists as founder of the Sierra Club, although at his time he was called a naturalist. My First Summer in the Sierra is John Muir's journal accounting his awe-inspiring visit to the place he loved and protected throughout his career. This book holds a special place in my heart, as the following passage was read by my brother at Brian and my wedding.

"No Sierra landscape that I have seen holds anything truly dead or dull, or any trace of that in manufactories is called rubbish or waste; everything is perfectly clean and pure and full of divine lessons. This quick, inevitable interest attaching to everything seems marvelous until the hand of God becomes visible; then it seems reasonable that what interests God may well interest us. When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe. One fancies a heart like our own must be beating in every crystal and cell, and we feel like stopping to speak to that plants and animals as friendly fellow mountaineers. Nature as a poet, an enthusiastic workingman, becomes more and more visible the farther and higher we go; for the mountains are fountains - beginning places, however related to sources beyond mortal ken."

Chionanthus virginicus (Native Fringe Tree)
(3) 1491 by Charles Mann, 2005

For my final selection, I wanted to choose something a little different. 1491 is a book I was introduced to when I was a teaching assistant for a forest history class. As the title would suggest, it explores what America was like the year before Columbus's famous trip. While the book has many revelations about what Native American cultures and ecosystems were like, perhaps the most significant one is that the number of Native Americans, their advances, and impacts on the land have been severely underestimated. In fact, at the time the life span of a Native American was longer than a European. However, 95% of the population was wiped out by diseases spread to people and forest animals by the European explorers, and when pilgrims came to America its forest had already been going through a century of successional changes. This book is a great lesson in how land management is not a negative activity as long as it is done with a conscious mind to ecosystem needs, and questions our thinking in what is a truly "unaltered" ecosystem.

"Before it became the New World, the Western Hemisphere was vastly more populous and sophisticated than has been thought—an altogether more salubrious place to live at the time than, say, Europe. New evidence of both the extent of the population and its agricultural advancement leads to a remarkable conjecture: the Amazon rain forest may be largely a human artifact."

Amertia maritima 'Nifty Thrifty'
Its been a busy week, and I was only able to get one blog tag together:
Visit Anne blog at Gardening with Binoculars

If you are hungry for more there are some also great Earth Day reading posts from:
 My Nice Garden
 Its Not Work, Its Gardening!
 Sweet Bean Gardening
 Southern Meadows
 Gardens Eye View
 The Gardening Blog

Dutch Iris (unknown variety)
Baptisia x 'Purple Smoke' (Purple Smoke Baptisia)

"You must teach your children that the ground beneath their feet is the ashes of your grandfathers.  So that they will respect the land, tell your children that the earth is rich with the lives of our kin.  Teach your children what we have taught our children, that the earth is our mother.  Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth.  If men spit upon the ground, they spit upon themselves."  
~Native American Wisdom


  1. Your choices are important in environmentalism and classic, fascinating books. I haven't read 1491 but it sounds amazing too! Thanks for inviting me to post on Earth Day Reading project!

  2. What an interesting and inspiring list of reads! John Muir is a great role model for us all. I am interested in reading 1491...it sounds very interesting and thought-provoking. Your post is so thoughtful, and I particularly like the appropriate quotes. Thank you for joining in The Earth Day Reading Project and Happy Earth Day!

  3. I love your picks and I will be investigating them especially 1491...thx for the shout out as well...great pictures of plants that are mostly native to my area and as yet have not flowered...glad you participated and Happy Earth Day...

  4. What a great list of books! I will be looking into these for sure, especially 1491...the Native American approach is fascinating to me. Thanks for the shout out and happy belated Earth Day!

  5. Oh I'm so sorry that I didn't respond to you. Please forgive me, we're in the middle of a big project here that leaves little time for blogging. I didn't see your invitation until this morning. Such an excellent post. I, too, am a huge John Muir fan. Would have loved to have been a mouse in his pocket. Love your Native American Wisdom quote. I feel much the same about this beautiful earth and the opportunity/responsibility we have to teach our children. I will look for that book.


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