The Books In Depth

The Mortal Sea: Fishing the Atlantic in the Age of Sail

The Mortal Sea: Fishing the Atlantic in the Age of Sail

W. Jeffrey Bolster

Since the Viking ascendancy in the Middle Ages, the Atlantic has shaped the lives of people who depend upon it for survival. And just as surely, people have shaped the Atlantic. In his innovative account of this interdependency, W. Jeffrey Bolster, a historian and professional seafarer, takes us through a millennium-long environmental history of our impact on one of the largest ecosystems in the world.

While overfishing is often thought of as a contemporary problem, Bolster reveals that humans were transforming the sea long before factory trawlers turned fishing from a handliner’s art into an industrial enterprise. More

The Story of Earth: The First 4.5 Billion Years, From Stardust to Living Planet

The Story of Earth: The First 4.5 Billion Years, From Stardust to Living Planet

Robert M. Hazen

Earth evolves. From first atom to molecule, mineral to magma, granite crust to single cell to verdant living landscape, ours is a planet constantly in flux. In this radical new approach to Earth’s biography, senior Carnegie Institution researcher and national bestselling author Robert M. Hazen reveals how the co-evolution of the geosphere and biosphere—of rocks and living matter—has shaped our planet into the only one of its kind in the Solar System, if not the entire cosmos. More

 

Children of the Sun: A History of Humanity’s Unappeasable Appetite for Energy

Children of the Sun: A History of Humanity’s Unappeasable Appetite for Energy

We don't often recognize the humble activity of cooking for the revolutionary cultural adaptation that it is. But when the hearth fires started burning in the Paleolithic, humankind broadened the exploitation of food and initiated an avalanche of change. And we don't often associate cooking with drilling for oil, but both are innovations that allow us to tap the sun energy accumulated in organic matter. Alfred W. Crosby, a founder of the field of global history, reveals how humanity's successes hinge directly on effective uses of sun energy. But dwindling natural resources, global warming, and environmental pollution all testify to the limits of our fossil-fuel civilization. More.

The Human Shore: Seacoasts in History

The Human Shore

Robert Gillis

Since before recorded history, people have congregated near water. But as growing populations around the globe continue to flow toward the coasts on an unprecedented scale and climate change raises water levels, our relationship to the sea has begun to take on new and potentially catastrophic dimensions. The latest generation of coastal dwellers lives largely in ignorance of the history of those who came before them, the natural environment, and the need to live sustainably on the world’s shores. Humanity has forgotten how to live with the oceans. More.

 
Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History

The Sixth Extinction 

Elizabeth Kolbert

Over the last half-billion years, there have been Five mass extinctions, when the diversity of life on earth suddenly and dramatically contracted. Scientists around the world are currently monitoring the sixth extinction, predicted to be the most devastating extinction event since the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs. This time around, the cataclysm is us. In prose that is at once frank, entertaining, and deeply informed, New Yorker writer Elizabeth Kolbert tells us why and how human beings have altered life on the planet in a way no species has before. More.

The Meaning of Human Existence

The Meaning of Human Existence

Edward O. Wilson

In The Meaning of Human Existence, his most philosophical work to date, Pulitzer Prize–winning biologist Edward O. Wilson grapples with these and other existential questions, examining what makes human beings supremely different from all other species. Searching for meaning in what Nietzsche once called "the rainbow colors" around the outer edges of knowledge and imagination, Wilson takes his readers on a journey, in the process bridging science and philosophy to create a twenty-first-century treatise on human existence―from our earliest inception to a provocative look at what the future of mankind portends. More.

 

Fantasy Islands: Chinese Dreams and Ecological Fears in an Age of Climate Crisis

The rise of China and its status as a leading global factory-combined with an increasing desire worldwide for inexpensive toys, clothes, and food-are altering the way people live and consume. At the same time, the world appears wary of the real costs of this desire: toys drenched in lead paint, dangerous medicines, and tainted pet food. Examining sites in China, including the plan for a new eco-city called Dongtan on the island of Chongming, suburbanization projects, and the Shanghai World Expo, More.

The Retreat of the Elephants: An Environmental History of China

The Retreat of the Elephants: An Environmental History of China 

by Mark Elvin

This is the first environmental history of China during the three thousand years for which there are written records. It is also a treasure trove of literary, political, aesthetic, scientific, and religious sources, which allow the reader direct access to the views and feelings of the Chinese people toward their environment and their landscape. More.



Water on Sand: Environmental Histories of the Middle East and North Africa

Water on Sand: Environmental Histories of the Middle East and North Africa

Edited by Alan Mikhail

 

From Morocco to Iran and the Black Sea to the Red, Water on Sand rewrites the history of the Middle East and North Africa from the Little Ice Age to the Cold War era. As the first holistic environmental history of the region, it shows the intimate connections between peoples and environments and how these relationships shaped political, economic, and social history in startling and unforeseen ways. Nearly all political powers in the region based their rule on the management and control of natural resources, and nearly all individuals were in constant communion with the natural world. More.

Global Crisis: War, Climate Change, and Catastrophe in the Seventeenth Century

Global Crisis: War, Climate Change, and Catastrophe in the Seventeenth Century

by Geoffrey Parker

Revolutions, droughts, famines, invasions, wars, regicides, government collapses—the calamities of the mid-seventeenth century were unprecedented in both frequency and extent. The effects of what historians call the "General Crisis" extended from England to Japan, from the Russian Empire to sub-Saharan Africa. The Americas, too, did not escape the turbulence of the time.

In this meticulously researched volume, master historian Geoffrey Parker presents the firsthand testimony of men and women who saw and suffered from the sequence of political, economic, and social crises between 1618 to the late 1680s. More.

The Books In Depth