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Environmental Books

February 27th, 2006, 01:12 PM
Here are a few books I've read recently that I thought were good and very interesting. I'm a nerd engineer that really enjoys science and is concened about environmental issues. As a result I tend to seek out publications of data rather than just relying on the severely biased media.

State of Fear by Michael Crichton. This is a typical fast read thriller by MC. Very good if you like this sort of book. Although it is science fiction it presents a lot of data (with references) on global warming. After reading the book I studied the references and made a list of about 12 books I wanted to read. The ones below are what I've since finished from that list:

In a Dark Wood by Alston Chase. This is a study on the timber wars of the US pacific northwest in the 80's/90's (think spotted owl). It is very well documented and gives both sides of the story. After reading this I see logging in a whole new (more positive) light. Kind of long but very interesting.

Hot Talk Cold Science: Global Warming's Unfinished Debate by Dr. S. Fred Singer. This is basically a summary of data on global warming. It tells the side of the story that the media and environmentalists aren't telling. Whether you agree with the opinions or not, the data presented must be answered and considered. I don't believe anyone can have a truly informed opinion on the subject without reading this book. Again...extremely well documented and only 75 pages.

But it it True: A Citizens Guide to Environmental Health and Safety Issues by Aaron Wildavsky. This is a compilation of data on a variety of high profile envronmental issues in the past 50 years (DDT, Dioxin, Asbestos, Love Canal, Global Warming, etc) by a now deceased UC Berkeley professor and his graduate students. It presents everything on the issues from the actual scientific data to how the issues were presented by the media. Again...very well documented. A must read for anyone who has an opinion on these types of issues. Kind of long, but again, very interesting.

February 28th, 2006, 03:46 PM
oh good thread and very relevant

well if anyone wants to hve a good geographically appropriate read and find a background in our modern env issues i would reccomend they start with that old classic 'Silent spring' by rachel carson, still relevant today if not more so...

recently i saw a brilliant interview with L. Hunter Lovins (what a legend) who has helped release a new book on environmental economics ( Titled natural capatilism) and its relationship with economic growth in todays society, i have only managed to read parts of it but its really good stuff, far more interesting than my old env economics text for sure, sadly i cant remember the co authors name (an aussie) right now, but its easy to find, and any thing by L. Hunter Lovins is just really good stuff with plenty of thinking matter. obviously using our lands are important and may jsut be the way foreward.

sorry to disagree, but Michael Chriton jsut scares me and i find him quite irrisponsible., fiction writers really should reserve their opinions on such matters until they secure the adequate education and not jsut the dollars. how many ppl have siad to me since the release of that book 'oh didnt you hear, global warming and climate change dont exist' uhhhuuu, hmmm really scary stuff. i doubt he meant for ppl to take this attitude, but thats what happens when you relaese feel good info to the general mases, they will grab onto anythign that makes them feel better.

he may have great references, but if you check out the for argument team you will find dozens and dozens of the worlds leading climatologists who disagree with his theory, and theirs is an opinion based on years and years of research and observation, i think this sort of book just offers a way out for ppl, it makes them feel better to believe its not as bad as it truly is (ask those poor little polar bears if its happening, while they drown they may disagree).:D and it just makes mine and my husbands jobs (and all the other env scientists) a hell of alot harder. (a good read is 'climate change- turning up the heat).

and for a classic read, one may be interested in reading anything by Tim Flannery, yes i disagree with a few of his opinions of weed invasion/control in this land, but in general his stuff is really well written and informative.

and if you have a limited attention span, grab any copy of New Scientist Journal (weekly and cheap) for many current env issues and truths about global warming... i love NS, its a fantastic journal...

ah now thats a good thread indeed:D

February 28th, 2006, 07:08 PM
Silent Spring is a good read to get the other side of the story. However it is extremely outdated. Most everything in it has been disproved by good ol' science. In a Dark Wood and But is it True deal with this book extensively.

Like I said...the books above are all referenced extremely well with scientific data...even Michael Crichton's (although his does present do environmental groups). Also, none of them say global warming isn't happening. Scientists agree the earth temperature has raised 0.3C since the start of the industrial revolution (source of excess CO2). They just question the mass hysteria around it and present factual data. That is all that matters. I just wanted to point out some very good books that present data...not heresay. After reading them a person can judge for themselves.

As an aside, here are some global warming facts. Just something to think about.

1. As measured by surface stations the average earth temperature has raised 0.3C. However, satellite data shows the earth's average temp. has actually decreased slightly. Scientists have no explanation for this.
2. Some large cities have experienced larger average temp. increases (ground data) up to 1.5C. This is called the Urban Heat Island effect. It is unrelated to global warming and is instead related to the replacement of green space by reflective surfaces such as rooftops, concrete, and asphalt. Global Climate Models try to account for this by lowering the ground data temps., but there is a lot of discrepancy and unknowns. If your city feels hotter...this is why, not global warming. 0.3C is imperceptible.
3. The edges of Antartica have been melting since the industrial revolution. However, the ice thickness on the central portion of the continent has gotten hundreds of feet thicker. Scientists have no explanation, but one theory is the slightly higher global temperatures are increasing ocean evaporation rates and this extra moisture in the atmosphere is being deposited at the poles.
4. There is no evidence that sea levels are rising any more than normal. In fact, sea levels have fluctuated wildly in history and were hundreds of feet lower prior to the last ice age. Also, some scientists believe the increased evaporation rates caused by potentially higher global temperatures would offset the sea level rise due to glacier melt. No one really knows though.
5. The same GCMs that are currently predicting our future global warming doom and gloom have yet to predict an el nino event duration or intensity within 400%. That is no more than a guess. Yet some scientists quote these models like they are the absolute truth. In fact, weather cannot be predicted more than 10 days in advance.
6. The period around 1940 is the hottest on record, despite lower CO2 levels...not the 1980s and 1990s.
7. A quick look at the hurricane record shows that hurricane intensity and frequency have actually been declining in the past 10-20 years. 2005 was a bad year, but it was an anomoly. The record also shows that hurricane trends tend to be cyclic. There is no correlation with CO2 levels and hurricane intensity.

February 28th, 2006, 07:41 PM
Silent Spring is a venerable and honourable classic and should be required reading in high school - even if it is somewhat outdated. I also think Avory Lovins' books on soft energy paths should be read and even Fred Knewlman's book (the titke escapes me at the moment) on the risks assocuated with nuclear power. There is also one called Unacceptable Risk (author I cannot recall) and I also recommend Rosalie Bertrell's book on radiation in which she notes that we are in world war 3 now - cpoing as we are daily with the problems of what we have done to our world in the name of (cough - as a scientist!) science!! I have it in my klibrary - just cannot recall the name - I introudece her once at an alternate energy fair and loved her, what a qwonderful woman - she and Ursula Franki n of UofT, great women!! Rosalie is now in Canada tho she used to be in NY.

There is also a neat little book called "We Almost Lost Detroit" that details a "minor" accident that occuered in the constructions of the Fermi (named for you know who) reactor - a breeder reactor (scary stuff, those!!) - in which a constructiion worker lost one of those snaps that you pop off a can of soda (soft drink, pop, whatever you call it) and lost it in the reaxtor, almost setting off a meltdown. The reactor was shutdown and breeder reactos (whew!!!) went by the watside. Still, we have heavy water and light water reactors that scare the blazes out of me!! (we are sadly saddled with Pointless LePreau in NB, sigh! - it only costs us money and pray some terrorists never finds it r half of New England and the maritimes and much if Quebec will be forever uninhabitable.

I also subscribe to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists which has some great articles - I bought a sub to that when I could barel;y afford it and have always done so since. I also read the drivel the pr ppl from the nuclear industry puts out - just to keep up with what they think, or want us to think they think.

I do get tired of treating the problems created by this new world though. I think Silent Spring may be outdated - in that we have managed to do so much worse but it is hardly irrelevant - in fact, it is more relevant that ever. Have you read Margaret Atwood's Onyx and Crake- realize it's literature but both her parents were biologists or scientists at any rate so she has consulted some good people in her work - she said in an interview she writes about what worries her - and that is one scary book!!!!

Another out of print and out of date but still relevant book is The Perils fof the Peaceful Atom (a prof I had at Harvard wanted to pay me big bucks for my copy but I was not parting with that gem, lol). Peaceful atom indeed -

anyway - I could go on but you get the idea. ;)

February 28th, 2006, 07:56 PM
I believe everyone should read Silent Spring on their own accord to understand the beginnings of the modern environmental movement, but requiring it as reading in high schools would be irresponsible. The book is outdated and it's science is questionable. The ban on DDT is still very controversial with many believing it is directly responsible for the deaths of thousands due to disease. Some wildlife was undoubtedly helped, but to what extent and at what cost is the issue.

But is it True presents a very in-depth discussion of this ban and the science and politics involved.

May 28th, 2006, 11:43 AM
So few ppl think DDT has any useful qualities - which is why it is banned but you will alas still find it in 3rd world countries where it creates the same havoc as it once did here.

There are studies aplenty outlining its medical risk. (I myself have been affected by it tho Maritimer and conciliatory person that I am, I see no point in suing the company.) The company that used it did it in good faith - they thought it was safe.

Another book I did not mention is No Safe Place by Warner Troyer,. Troyer of course was a journalist but he outlined many of the hazards in our society.

I have seen hundreds and hundreds of children with cancer who - had their parents or they not encountered entities like DDT, might never have to fight these battles or might even be alive. So it worries me when anyone thinks DDT is OK, it is NOT, never will be. Same goes for 24D which many use unknowingly as pesticides or the many organophosphates. I studied much of this in biochemistry so I am not some ranting environmentalist - I look at it from a scientific viewpoint. There are some safer biological alternatives now and so no one needs pesticides.

One man in our faculty (Medicine) recently retired and was asked if he would now join the golf club. He replied "and what, walk around on greens full of carcinogens or organophosphates. I don't think so!". Smart man!!

I think Wendy Mesley has been doing some good work on cancer - as she fights breast cancer and I know I look it at very differently as a patient than as a doctor and researcher. I was zealous about it before - now I am angrier and want to know why it is we are spending so much money on research that helps to treat ppl in the developed world but does relatively nothing to actually find a cure.

A friend of mine - cancer researcher - refuses to donate to the Cancer Society for that reason. Until they begin to give as much money to environmental groups attempting to find the cause and to epidemiological research, they are part of the problem. I used to think she was a contrarian and now I wonder? It's more personal now - I do not want to die!!