BookScapes

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Climate and Conservation
Eds. Jodi A. Hilty, Charles C. Chester and Molly S. Cross
Island Press (publishers) May 2012 392 pages
I anticipated an interesting and informative read as Island Press is a leading non-profit environmental publisher which specialises in ecology, biodiversity, conservation and natural history, all subjects I love. They publish 40 titles each year (with a library of over 800 titles) trying to reach a broader audience with scientific information. One of their books “Unnatural History of the Sea” by Callum Roberts (2009) was declared one of Jonathan Yardley’s top ten books of the year, a formidable accolade. EO Wilson’s memoir was another mesmerizing, unforgettable title for me.
Climate and Conservation consists of 19 case studies presented from many of the world’s ecosystems: temperate, polar, equatorial, montane etc. The studies are presented by ‘people on the ground’ primarily academics and scientists, many working for the Nature Conservancy, WWW or similar NGOs (non-governmental organisations). Although this is published in 2012, it feels dated with much information from 2002-2006/9. At the very least some of the climate data from 2011, 2010 should have been included, especially updating the introductory chapters, which were otherwise excellent.
This book contains some very interesting habitat / ecosystem studies from Madrean Sky Islands to Albertine Rift (Africa) or closer to home with the Appalachians or Yellowstone. Each region has a detailed map of the area, with a few good quality photographs also illustrating some regions. The chapters have specific details to vast generalisations, with multiple authors reflecting different styles, although there is an overall message of providing recommendations to DO something in each local environment, which ultimately will have a global benefit. Some of the pictures painted are dire (the Amazon with illegal land appropriation and deforestation always comes to mind and is represented here).
Having worked in many of the areas represented here the overall portrayal of conditions, expectations and assessments are accurate. I felt confident that regions I knew little about were also presented well, and enjoyed learning more about Mongolian Grasslands and Arctic Alaska (ecosystems I know I will not study myself).
My initial impression on reading this is who is the audience: students? colleagues? professionals? general public? As this book does not just show problems of biodiversity and climate change, but also involves problem solving, de-emphasizing the doom and gloom of many popular presses, I think the book is intended to reach a broad audience, providing scientific facts to people on the ground, such as for planners and managers. I think it could have a much broader audience with this remit. I can’t see many of my neighbors reading this book, but I would like to buy each of them a copy. It would also be an important reference for community and high school libraries which should provide accurate information on an important current topic. 2012 was the warmest year on record, when are we going to wake up?My kindle copy had annoying grammatical errors, typos, weird hyphenation, lack of capital letters for author names, poor indexing, … The Bios of contributors / authors were interesting, and provide reassuring credentials (scientists and academics with good experience). I confess I read that chapter first before assessing the case studies. The index, however, was basic and incomplete, not including the authors or all the locations. There is an impressive list of references or publications, but I feel these would have been more useful and appropriate at the end of each chapter/case study.
I do think this is a valuable reference book, and applaud the kindle format for additional accessibility, with potentially a wider audience. Anything that can get facts into people for educated and informed opinions as this is critical in determining our environmental future. This is a timely book in our current political climate but also before degraded ecosystems are the only habitats we can have. I applaud Island Press for partnering with EcoAdapt who launched CAKE – Climate Adaptation Knowledge Exchange website in 2010, an online community with database of case studies, literature and professionals. http://www.cakex.org
3.5 stars
Read as an ARC

Book of the Moment
Dan Fesperman The Double Agent
I love discovering a new author to read: his list of awards for previously published novels is delightful. The Double Agent is an old-fashioned spy thriller, well researched (well read!) and well written. His style (descriptive, intrigue, pace) pays homage to Cold War espionage novels and made me quite nostalgic for those books. Especially with the multiple literary references from the masters of this genre: Le Carre, Deighton, but also recognising several of my personal favourites: Geoffrey Household, Helen McInnes, John Buchan and Alan Furst. The Appendix has a list of 222 books from 48 author, 18 of whom were in intelligence. 57 were published before 1957. All will provide hours of entertaining reading if you haven’t already perused this literature.
These spy novels provide literary clues throughout this book, which I relished discovering and remembering (yes, I got sidetracked into several books after reading this one). I loved the references to plots, international locations and historical events.
This story is narrated by Bill Gage, as he tries to uncover the truth behind an earlier incident in his career which decades later has left him a rather sad PR agent instead of journalist. The past, with his father, his son, a previous girlfriend, and the locations of his youth (eastern European) is unravelled with steady pace action, but thoughtful intelligence. This is less high tech/buff agents and more reality on the ground. It wasn’t as dark and dangerous as I remember many spy books, but it was also less desperate and more entertaining. A very good read. *4 stars

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