Tuesday, August 26, 2014


I'm a huge fan of radio stations like CBC and NPR. I'll take fascinating interviews on subjects both familiar and foreign over music and commercials any day.

Some of my favourite interviews to listen to are interviews with authors. They introduce me to fascinating people I have never heard of and also give me book suggestions to help feed my insatiable reading appetite.

Last February, Doug and I went on a road trip and spent many hours listening to the radio as we drove. By the end of the trip I had five new books downloaded on my iPad ready for reading. As I also had a pile of books on my nightstand and armfuls of magazines to work through, I'm still reading my way through those books I first heard about as we were making our way down through the Eastern United States.

The other day I started one of those books. It is called the Once and Future World. Being a huge fan of the Once and Future King (it's about King Arthur and, if you haven't read it, please drop what you're doing and start) I was immediately drawn to someone who would pick that as their title.

The book is about nature which appeals to my biology-loving side. The author talks about the idea that the state of nature as we know it is the state that we use as a basis of comparison. In other words, the number of birds singing in the trees when I was a child, the volume of the frog chorus in the nearby pond and the diversity of plants and trees in the forest when I grew up is, to me, the way nature should be.

My 'normal' would shock the people who lived there two generations earlier and their normal would shock the people who lived there two generations before that. Our world is slowly but steadily loosing richness and diversity but, in many cases, it's happening too slowly for anyone but scientists to really freak out about it.

He talks about how there are efforts all over the world to return natural areas to an even more natural state but that there is great debate about what that natural state actually is. Do we want to return our forests and prairies to what they were before 1492, when Christopher Columbus arrived? Or earlier than that, when it was even richer and more diverse? And, if we really are committed to this, what does that mean for the animals that used to be here that we might not want to have walking around? Like elephants in North America? And large members of the cat family (think lions only bigger)?

I'm only a handful of chapters into the book so far but it already has me thinking a lot about our ideas about what nature is and what value we put on it. And how our age and where we grew up plays a huge role in how we feel about the state of things today.

Thank you NPR for yet another thought-provoking book suggestion.

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