Three books have been sitting on my desk for the last few weeks: A Sand County Almanac with Other Essays on Conservation from Round River by Aldo Leopold, (1949), Walden & Civil Disobedience by Henry Thoreau (1854), and The Forest Unseen by David Haskell, (2012). I had been trying to read them all at once with my badly ruined mind of corporate multitasking. I am fascinated by Leopold’s simple, relaxing style. It is an easy and pleasant read, yet profound in its simplicity and the imagery he uses is most amazing. Thoreau is a much more difficult and serious read for me, and I am taking it slowly.
While Leopold and Thoreau are classic nature/conservation reads in line with John Muir, David Haskell’s The Forest Unseen is a relatively new book, and a great continuation of the naturalist writings, published in 2012 by Viking Press. As one reviewer beautifully points out, his writing is “located between science and poetry, in which the invisible appear, the small grow large, and the immense complexity and beauty of life are more clearly revealed.” Haskell weaves some interesting scientific concepts and facts into a very readable and lyrical story of his own observations of the forest through the full year, January through December. Just like Thoreau and Leopold before him, Haskell embraces the fact that humans are not separate from nature, and all is connected, for example, chapter Ripples describes the effect of human activity on acid rain, therefore on snails, on birds, on mosquitoes, on viruses, and back to us.
These stormy and unpredictable May days we are out and about, day and well into the night. And when we are not mucking through swamps in search of critters, or jumping over our neighborhood creek, or climbing on the big rock at local Arboretum, with children, in the evenings, we are reading Nature Anatomy: The Curious Parts & Pieces of the Natural World and really enjoying illustrations by Julia Rothman as well as a great deal of biology science presented in a fun and simple manner. Kids have really enjoyed chapters on bees and spiders, varieties of grasses and wild plants, trees, bark and leaves, bird nests and bird calls, shells and jellyfish.
It fits to mention on the topic of forests and ecology, this past week, I watched two touching eco documentaries: If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front (2011), and Above All Else (2014). In Above all Else, David Daniel, a former competitive gymnast, rope walker, circus performer and stuntman puts up a fight against corporate titan TransCanada when he discovers the planned pipeline would cross his property. Working in collaboration with volunteer activist group, he helps construct an elaborate tree-sit on his property to prevent construction crews from clearing the area and moving forward.
If a Tree Falls (2011) documents the “most dangerous domestic terrorist” group in America, the Earth Liberation Front, the rise and fall of the group, and the subsequent trials. Some footage of of eco-protesters of the 1990s and 2000s and police brutality was new to me. In steps of Edward Abbey’s The Monkey Wrench Gang (1975), the Earth Liberation Front members recount their activities from peaceful protests to property destruction. Although I found both films to be somewhat defeatist, I’d still recommend both to anyone interested in causes of radical movements, social discontent, infiltration and intimidation tactics, and food for though of what is right and what is wrong.