Deep: Freediving, Renegade Science, and What the Ocean Tells Us about Ourselves by James Nestor

bookshelves: summer-2014, environmental-issues, nonfiction, radio-4, sciences, published-2014

Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from July 22 to 27, 2014

 

BOTW

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b049y3mf

Description: In his new book, “Deep: Freediving, Renegade Science and What the Ocean Tells Us About Ourselves”, American journalist James Nestor investigates the world of freediving, both competitive and scientific.

He learns how to stay underwater for extended periods; goes shark-tagging; has a close encounter with sperm whales; plunges to 2,500 feet in a DIY submarine; unveils startling facets of human physiology – most notably the extraordinary life-preserving reflexes known as the Master Switch of Life.

And we learn about the old and new life-forms that inhabit our deep oceans – a habitat with the greatest biodiversity on earth, yet most of it remains unknown.

Abridged and produced by Pippa Vaughan.
A Loftus production for BBC Radio 4.

1/5 James Nestor searches for the elusive ‘doorway to the deep’.

2/5 James Nestor meets some scientific freedivers and goes shark-tagging.

3/5 Nestor dives with the Ama, women who have been freediving in Japan’s seas for 2,000 years.

4/5 In the Caribbean, James Nestor plunges to the Midnight Zone in a home-made submarine.

5/5 Nestor is in Sri Lanka, diving in the hope of encountering the world’s largest predator.

A Rough Ride to the Future by James Lovelock

bookshelves: spring-2014, absolute-favourites, author-love, britain-england, climate, cover-love, e-book, how-to, nonfiction, published-2014, environmental-issues, net-galley

Read from March 25 to May 19, 2014


Description: In A Rough Ride to the Future, James Lovelock – the great scientific visionary of our age – presents a radical vision of humanity’s future as the thinking brain of our Earth-system James Lovelock, who has been hailed as ‘the man who conceived the first wholly new way of looking at life on earth since Charles Darwin’ (Independent) and ‘the most profound scientific thinker of our time’ (Literary Review) continues, in his 95th year, to be the great scientific visionary of our age. This book introduces two new Lovelockian ideas. The first is that three hundred years ago, when Thomas Newcomen invented the steam engine, he was unknowingly beginning what Lovelock calls ‘accelerated evolution’, a process which is bringing about change on our planet roughly a million times faster than Darwinian evolution. The second is that as part of this process, humanity has the capacity to become the intelligent part of Gaia, the self-regulating Earth system whose discovery Lovelock first announced nearly 50 years ago. In addition, Lovelock gives his reflections on how scientific advances are made, and his own remarkable life as a lone scientist. The contribution of human beings to our planet is, Lovelock contends, similar to that of the early photosynthesisers around 3.4 billion years ago, which made the Earth’s atmosphere what it was until very recently. By our domination and our invention, we are now changing the atmosphere again. There is little that can be done about this, but instead of feeling guilty about it we should recognise what is happening, prepare for change, and ensure that we survive as a species so we can contribute to – perhaps even guide – the next evolution of Gaia. The road will be rough, but if we are smart enough life will continue on Earth in some form far into the future. Elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1974, JAMES LOVELOCK is the author of more than 200 scientific papers and the originator of the Gaia Hypothesis (now Gaia Theory). His many books on the subject include Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth (1979), The Revenge of Gaia (2006), and The Vanishing Face of Gaia (2009). In 2003 he was made a Companion of Honour by Her Majesty the Queen, in 2005 Prospect magazine named him one of the world’s top 100 public intellectuals, and in 2006 he received the Wollaston Medal, the highest Award of the UK Geological Society.

Sipping this with total love on a daily basis gives rise to two burning issues:

Our National Treasure is into his 95th year and here he is with a new book – match that STGRB *cough* authors. More importantly, he is not scared to u-turn or change tack.

Does anyone here read Brain Pickings? there was a great debate about not sticking to a mind-set when interially, a thought is now untenable. **INSERT ARTICLE HERE** The Backfire Effect: The Psychology of Why We Have a Hard Time Changing Our Minds

Don’t try to save the planet in environmental terms, instead build domed, dammed cities, this is the new message in a nutshell.

WOW – how do I love thee, let me count the ways.

Of course you wouldn’t get me or mine kicking or screaming into a sealed-in space where the consumerism vulture can sit on neon light stands to pick off the unwary – we’ll take our chances thank you very much. But hey, you bods who already live in cities, would you even notice if the dome closed over your heads if the rags didn’t inform you? When was the last time anyone looked to the sky when in Picadilly Circus.

Say it was sneakily done – so long as there are shop fronts to languish over and the gossip press pumps gumph out, really, who would notice. Strikes me it wouldn’t be too much of a hardship for the majority of first-worlders; so long as young mums can demand to wear Jimmy Choo up to a nine month regardless of the safety of the unborn, who cares about the planet earth.

Did I mention I was cynical?

Did I mention that Lovelock is the bee’s fricking knees?

Okay – I’ve gushed enough and readers need some hard facts – this is repetitive: think Ouspensky’s Strange Life of Ivan Osokin tops, or Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life at base, or Groundhog Day at funniest. Seriously though, look this man up; see what he has been about. Love him.

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Walking by Henry David Thoreau

bookshelves: published-1862, e-book, gutenberg-project, essays, nonfiction, environmental-issues, romantacism

Recommended to ☯Bettie☯ by: Laura
Read from May 18 to 19, 2014


Read here

Opening: I wish to speak a word for Nature, for absolute freedom and wildness, as contrasted with a freedom and culture merely civil—to regard man as an inhabitant, or a part and parcel of Nature, rather than a member of society. I wish to make an extreme statement, if so I may make an emphatic one, for there are enough champions of civilization: the minister and the school committee and every one of you will take care of that.

Thoreau expounds upon the art of sauntering. In the wilds I do the same, willy-wandering I call it, and usually have one mp3 earpiece on, leaving the other ear to take in the sounds (or lack thereof) of the forest. However, why do so many practice sauntering two abreast in the supermarkets, or five abreast on Oxford Street pavements – I ask yah!

Tend to like the idea of Thoreau more than I have actually enjoyed his fixated spouting, yet am quite sure nothing less than 3* would be worthy of our Wordsworth wannabe. (alliteration striven for *snerk*)

My choice of music

The Invention of Brazil by Misha Glenny

bookshelves: spring-2014, published-2014, nonfiction, travel, politics, filthy-lucre, anthropology, casual-violence, environmental-issues, fradio, gangsters, slaves, under-10-ratings, true-grime, south-americas, sleazy, revolution, religion, recreational-drugs, radio-4, music, lifestyles-deathstyles, history, colonial-overlords, bullies, brazil, art-forms, architecture, adventure, plague-disease, roman-catholic, sport, suicide

Read from May 02 to 19, 2014

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b042jcxs

Description: Forget the beach volleyball, carnival, and the rest – here’s the truth about Brazil. The murder rate is among the highest in the world. The economic inequality is visible wherever you go. Behind the happy cultural imagery there lies a much darker Brazil, the result of an extremely dark colonial history when this land was little more than a giant farm worked by slaves.

Misha Glenny and producer Miles Warde travel from the favela of Rocinha in Rio de Janeiro up the coast to Salvador, the first capital of Brazil, and then back to Sao Paulo, economic powerhouse of the south. On the way they meet contributors including the anthropologist Peter Fry; Americo Martins of Rede TV; historian Lilia Schwarz; and bestselling author Laurentino Gomez. Further contributions from Luciana Martins, David Brookshaw and Patrick Wilcken, author of Empire Adrift.

From the team behind The Invention of Germany and The Invention of Spain.

Salvador. Most of the slaves to Brazil landed here. At that time, Salvador was the capitol.

São Paulo is a sprawling mass and is the modern economic hub of this vast country. It was from this area that the slavers worked to capture indigneous indians. Think ‘The Mission’, Portugeuse style.

Episode 1: BBC DESCRIPTION: In The Invention of Brazil, Misha Glenny traces the gaps between the image and reality, beginning with the arrival of the Portuguese in 1500. More slaves were transported to Brazil than anywhere else, more than the United States, more than anywhere. “There were many Africans who served as interpreters,” Joao Reis explains, “who could tell the slaves: ‘You are not going to be eaten by those whites’. And that was the African fear – that they were being brought to an unknown world by whites where they would be eaten.”

Rocinha, the biggest slum in South America.

The favela borders Gavea, one of the richest areas of the city. The contrast is stark.

Episode 2: BBC DESCRIPTION: Misha Glenny continues his exploration of the little known but extraordinary events that have shaped Brazil. This week, two unexpected events in Brazil’s path to independence. The first occurred in 1808, when the entire Portuguese court moved across the Atlantic to escape Napoleon. They lived in Rio de Janeiro, which they enjoyed so much that they stayed on for another 13 years. The second occurred in 1822 when the King of Portugal’s son, Dom Pedro, declared ‘Independence or Death’, breaking Brazil free from her European overlords. We reveal that the British were heavily involved in both events.

Episode 3: BBC DESCRIPTION: From giant factory farm for Europeans to modern BRIC economy, the story of Brazil’s transformation is captured in this final programme in the life of Getulio Vargas – moderniser, dictator, and finally democratically elected president. In the final part of the Invention of Brazil, Misha Glenny explores the life of Vargas, the man who changed Brazil.

“I was struck by how short he was … the crowd went wild with adulation, an enormous mass of people. Their spontaneous shouts made me think I was in Italy, watching one of those fascist rallies.” Unnamed public official, seeing Vargas for the first time.

Vargas came to power in 1930 and proved an expert at keeping himself in power. Initially he styled himself on Mussolini – the story of why he took Brazil into the Second World War on the side of the Allies is central here. As also are the events leading up to his suicide while still in power. With contributions from anthropologist Lilia Schwarz, Professor David Brookshaw, Peter Fry, and author Ana Maria Machado whose father was arrested by Vargas several times.

“As quid pro quo for escorting the Portuguese across the Atlantic, the British ended up arm twisting the Portuguese royal court into signing a very one sided treaty, which in fact ended up giving the British more rights than the Brazilians themselves.” Patrick Wilcken, author Empire Adrift.

I enjoyed this three part documentary, however flister Laura, a Brazilian herself, rated this 2* so maybe this is not a rounded portrayal.

The Birds of Pandemonium by Michele Raffin

bookshelves: spring-2014, nonfiction, published-2014, cover-love, environmental-issues, zoology, net-galley, e-book

Recommended for: Jeanette
Read from May 12 to 15, 2014

 

Algonquin Books

16 pages of full-color photos in the book, however they were not included in this ARC.

Description: Each morning at first light, Michele Raffin steps outside to the bewitching bird music that heralds another day at Pandemonium Aviaries–a full symphony that swells from the most vocal of over three hundred avian throats representing over forty species. “It knocks me out, every day,” she admits.

Pandemonium Aviaries, the home and bird sanctuary that she shares with some of the world’s most remarkable birds, is a conservation organization dedicated to saving and breeding birds at the edge of extinction, including some of the largest populations of rare species in the world. And their behavior is even more fascinating than their glorious plumage or their songs. They fall in love, they mourn, they rejoice, they sacrifice, they have a sense of humor, they feel jealous, they invent, plot, cope, and sometimes they murder each other. As Michele says, “They teach us volumes about the interrelationships of humans and animals.”

Their amazing stories make up the heart of this book. There’s Sweetie, a tiny quail with an outsize personality; the inspiring Oscar, a disabled Lady Gouldian finch who can’t fly but finds a brilliant way to climb to the highest perches of his aviary to roost. The ecstatic reunion of sibling Victoria crowned pigeons, Wing and Coffee, is as wondrous as the silent kinship that develops between Amadeus, a one-legged Turaco, and an autistic young visitor. Michele shares with us the challenges of caring for such an extraordinary menagerie and the precarious fate of the birds themselves.

Ultimately, The Birds of Pandemonium is about one woman’s crusade to save precious lives, bird by bird, and offers a rare insight into how rescuing others, regardless of species, can lead to true happiness.

Dedication: To Ross, Jason, and Nick

Opening: Morning at Pandemonium: I rise every morning a 4:00 a.m. – gladly on most days – and pad as silently as possible across the terra-cotta-tiled floors of our home. If I make the smallest sound as I pass by the dining room, they might hear. I don’t want to set off our resident clown posse – not yet.

In the foothills of Santa Cruz range, Michell Raffin lives with her family, two donkeys, a pair of goats, a collie, a sheepdog, a cat and some birds in ‘Pandemonium Aviaries’.

Pandemonium Averies is a party house that also serves as a protected birds’ paradise.

This is a joyful book full of music and dance and birds. Who knew African grey parrots will form a conga line to the beat of hip-hop. You like birds, rare ones or not, you will love this.

“Michele Raffin has made an important contribution to saving endangered birds, and her book is a fascinating and rarely seen glimpse behind the scenes. The joy she gets from her close relationships with these amazing animals and her outsized commitment to them comes through loud and clear in this engaging and joyful book.” —Dominick Dorsa, Curator of Birds, San Francisco Zoo

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The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber

bookshelves: published-2014, net-galley, e-book, spring-2014, sci-fi, religion, christian, little-green-men, epistolatory-diary-blog, environmental-issues

Read from May 02 to 15, 2014


Crown Publishing. Hogarth,

Description: A monumental, genre-defying novel over ten years in the making, from the internationally bestselling author of The Crimson Petal and the White. The Book of Strange New Things tells the story of Peter Leigh, a devoted man of faith called to the mission of a lifetime, one that takes him literally light years away from his wife, Bea. Peter becomes immersed in the mysteries of an astonishing new environment and the ego-gratifying work of ministering to a native population hungry for the Bible–this “book of strange new things.” But he soon begins to receive increasingly desperate letters from home. North Korea is devastated by a typhoon; the Maldives are wiped out by a tsunami; England endures an earthquake, and Bea’s faith, once the guiding light of their lives, begins to falter.
A separation measured in galaxies, and defined both by one newly discovered world and another in a state of collapse, is threatened by an ever-widening gulf that is much less quantifiable. Peter’s and Bea’s trials lay bare a profound meditation on faith, love tested beyond endurance, and the responsibility we have to others.

Opening:

‘I was going to say something’, he said.
‘So say it’, she said.
He was quiet, keeping his eyes on the road. In the darkness of the city’s outskirts, there was nothing to see except the tail-lights of other cars in the distance, the endless unfurling roll of tarmac, the giant utilitarian fixtures of the motorway.

According to the advance blurb from Chicago Tribune this is ‘deliciously dirty’ so I’d better put on my splash mask.

When Peter signed up as inter-galactic missionary it was the kiss of death to planet Earth, or that is how Beatrice construed it.

The dual storyline is reconciled by letters of disintegrating communication between Bea and Peter, she dealing with climate change issues on earth, and he ministering to the indiginous population.

And hovering in the background is the disappearence of two men from the base, Kurtzberg and Tartaglione:

‘They didn’t vanish overnight. It was kinda gradual. They would come back to base less and less often. They became…distant. Didn’t want to stick around.’

For most of The Book of Strange New Things it felt like HEART OF DARKNESS IN SPAAAAACE, not least because one of the missing men was called Kurtzberg.

I don’t know which book that Chicago Tribune bod read; it couldn’t have been this one as this proved to be tame on all levels.

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Rabid: A Cultural History of the World’s Most Diabolical Virus

bookshelves: spring-2014, dog-steals-the-show, e-book, environmental-issues, boo-scary, ipad, lifestyles-deathstyles, medical-eew, newtome-author, nonfiction, ouch, plague-disease, published-2012, tbr-busting-2014, zoology, sciences, bedside

Recommended for: GeeVee, Pat, Susanna, and all other disease lovers
Read from April 15 to May 01, 2014

 

Description: An engrossing, lively history of a fearsome and misunderstood virus that binds man and dog The most fatal virus known to science, rabies—a disease that spreads avidly from animals to humans—kills nearly one hundred percent of its victims once the infection takes root in the brain. In this critically acclaimed exploration, journalist Bill Wasik and veterinarian Monica Murphy chart four thousand years of the history, science, and cultural mythology of rabies. From Greek myths to zombie flicks, from the laboratory heroics of Louis Pasteur to the contemporary search for a lifesaving treatment, Rabid is a fresh and often wildly entertaining look at one of humankind’s oldest and most fearsome foes.

If you can believe this, it IS my bedside read. Rabies has a better (i.e. worse) hit rate than bubolic plague: almost 100% death rate. Brrrr.

I have turned into a hydropochondriac – just how close did those pipstrelles come to the patio in the gloaming last night? And when Linnea’s microwave-ably small lap dog sneezed did some globules of spittle come my way?

I always wonder why those people who want horror stories never reach for non-fiction, because every chill the mind could possibly want is out there in reality.

3.5*

White Beech: The Rainforest Years by Germaine Greer

bookshelves: published-2013, radio-4, zoology, winter-20132014, those-autumn-years, nonfiction, fradio, forest, environmental-issues, australia

Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from January 27 to 31, 2014

 

R4 BOTW

BBC description: Germaine Greer is in search of ‘heart’s ease’. She longs to find a patch of her native Australia to make good, to restore after years of misguided exploitation. And she has just the person to help her with her project – her sister who is ‘a properly trained Australian botanist’. But finding the right patch of land turns out to be far more difficult than she ever imagined.

Read by Germaine Greer Abridged and produced by Jane Marshall A Jane Marshall production for BBC Radio 4.

1. Overview and reasons why. GG finds herself an Eco Warrior in her mid-life

2. After a two-year search, Germaine Greer has almost given up her quest for a piece of land to heal. But then she goes to see an abandoned dairy farm on the Gold Coast.

3. Germaine Greer has bought a piece of battered rainforest on the Gold Coast and the task of restoring it seems overwhelming. Now she has to admit to her sister what she’s done.

4. The hero of Germaine Greer’s rainforest is the rare white beech tree. She discovers it is neither white nor a beech, but it is one of the most endangered species of the forest.

5. Germaine Greer returns from a six-month stay in England to find some exciting plantlings in her propagation unit in the rainforest – a discovery that makes all her work worthwhile.

Gondwana Rainforest

Soo good I shall look at deals on the paper book.

5* Poems for Gardeners
5* White Beech

The Uninvited by Liz Jensen

bookshelves: winter-20132014, under-1000-ratings, tbr-busting-2014, published-2012, britain-scotland, taiwan, recreational-homicide, casual-violence, mental-health, lifestyles-deathstyles, fraudio, britain-england, psychology, boo-scary, anthropology, mystery-thriller, sci-fi, dystopian, filthy-lucre, forest, mythology, religion, arran, sweden, trolls, fantasy, dubai, environmental-issues, suicide, little-green-men, cannibalism

Read from July 01, 2012 to January 20, 2014

Description: A seven-year-old girl puts a nail-gun to her grandmother’s neck and fires. An isolated incident, say the experts. The experts are wrong. Across the world, children are killing their families. Is violence contagious?

As chilling murders by children grip the country, anthropologist Hesketh Lock has his own mystery to solve: a bizarre scandal in the Taiwan timber industry. He has never been good at relationships. Asperger’s Syndrome has seen to that. But he does have a talent for spotting behavioural patterns, and an outsider’s fascination with group dynamics.

Nothing obvious connects Hesketh’s Southeast Asian case with the atrocities back home. Or with the increasingly odd behaviour of his beloved step-son, Freddy. But when his Taiwan contact dies shockingly, and more acts of sabotage and child violence sweep the globe, Hesketh is forced to make connections that defy the rational principles on which he has staked his life, his career and – most devastatingly of all – his role as a father.

Part psychological thriller, part dystopian nightmare, The Uninvited is a powerful and viscerally unsettling portrait of apocalypse in embryo.

Origami Crane

Origami Praying Mantis

Origami Hermit Crab

In the Dubai gymnast leap sequence Tokoloshe was mentioned three times.

From wiki: In Zulu mythology, Tokoloshe is a dwarf-like water sprite. It is considered a mischievous and evil spirit that can become invisible by drinking water. Tokoloshes are called upon by malevolent people to cause trouble for others. At its least harmful a tokoloshe can be used to scare children, but its power extends to causing illness and even death upon the victim. The way to get rid of him is to call in the n’anga (witch doctor), who has the power to banish him from the area.

The children start forming a collective consciousness, show signs of arrested development and an addiction for salt.

Hesketh narrates the first person action from an anthropological and autistic viewpoint and it works very well. In Wyndham’s ‘Midwich Cuckoos’ the story is satisfactorily resolved (view spoiler), all tied up with bows; here was a somewhat wobbly ending as the author mounted her own environmental soapbox, her viewpoint working through the Professors notebooks and Hesketh’s epiphany. Lost a star right there. It has been a while since I read The Rapture but I have a feeling the same thing happened there too. Time for a re-visit of that before I spend future money on habitual preachy endings.

That said, 95% of this was very exciting and fresh.

4* The Rapture
4* The Uninvited

Trivia: Liz Jensen is married to author Carsten Jensen:

5* We, The Drowned
3* I Have Seen the World Begin

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Earth by David Brin

bookshelves: published-1990, sci-fi, environmental-issues, winter-20132014, tbr-busting-2014, fraudio, epic-proportions, dystopian, desert-regions, lifestyles-deathstyles

Read from December 18, 2013 to January 11, 2014

 

Description: Set in the year 2038, the book is a cautionary tale of the harm humans can cause their planet via disregard for the environment and reckless scientific experiments. The book has a large cast of characters and Brin uses them to address a number of environmental issues including endangered species, global warming, refugees from ecological disasters, ecoterrorism, and the social effects of overpopulation. The plot of the book involves an artificially created black hole which has been lost in the Earth’s interior and the attempts to recover it before it destroys the planet. The events and revelations which follow reshape humanity and its future in the universe.

A formerly restrained singularity has broken loose and is comfortably nestled in the earth’s core EATING THE PLANET FROM THE INSIDE OUT. nom nom nom. Bring new meaning to Hitler’s beloved Hollow Earth Theory:

@25% point: A BIG read/listen that has me in its grips. Not a regular customer of sci-fi yet once into an epic such as this, I’m away.

@100% Scary storyline; it’s dystopian sci-fi so I expected to be disconcerted, however events caught my horror bone in a vice. Loses a star because Brin’s characters didn’t jump out off the page and into believable people.

Singularly(!) recommended.

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