The Forest Ecology Network Bookshelf

Restoring the Earth: Visionary Solutions From the Bioneers by Kenny Ausubel. 1998 H.J. Kramer.


Ausubel's book is vital, inspiring, and unique. In reading it, you will see the future of agriculture, design, medicine, and much more. For once, a book that fluidly merges and illuminates both social and environmental realities. For once, instead of simply depressing you or just screaming "somebody do something!"--it addresses these urgent realities with exciting solutions that are already tried and true.

This is more than a lucid, intelligent outline of our planet's most pressing circumstances, it is a series of well-written stories about today's visionaries: innovative, real people that have come up with almost magical solutions to save biodiversity and money at the same time. Reading Ausubel's book is a great way to be educated and uplifted at the same time.

Tax Shift: How to Help the Economy, Improve the Environment, and Get the Tax Man off Our Backs by Alan Thein Durning and Yoram. 1998. Northwest Environment Watch.


This book takes on one of the most con-fusing, yet funda-mental, facts of life: paying taxes. It describes the tangled maze that is our tax system, explains how we got it, and offers a novel way to fix it. Instead of taxing things we want-our paychecks and our businesses-we could tax things we don't want-like pollution and traffic congestion. Tax Shift explains how we can turn our tax system right side up.

Excerpts: "In general, economics tells us that when you tax something, you get less of it. Our problem is that we tax things we want more of, such as paychecks and enterprise, instead of things we want less of, such as toxic waste and resource depletion. Naturally, we get less money and more messes. Tax Shift is about doing the opposite -- removing taxes from

"In economic terms, a tax shift would take taxes off labor and capital and put them on the third factor of production--resources, the gifts of nature. Labor refers to people working. Capital means physical objects created by people, such as buildings, tools, and machinery. The gifts of nature are resources not made by people, such as air, forests, fossil fuels, land, metals, water, a stable climate, and rivers and other habitats.

Taxing labor and capital tells businesses and households to scrimp on workers and tools--in other words, to practice underemployment and under-investment. Taxing the gifts of nature (or, more precisely, taxing actions that degrade the gifts of nature) tells people to conserve these gifts."



Field Notes from the Northern Forest by Curt Stager, illustrated by Anne E. Lacy. 136 pages (May 1998). Syracuse University Press.



Short, personable essays enthusiastically explore the natural history of one of North America's largest (and possibly most overlooked) ecosystems. The Great Northern Forest sprawls from the Western Adirondacks to the coast of Maine and the Canadian Maritimes. Stager, who teaches biology at Paul Smith's College in the northern Adirondacks and hosts the public radio program "Natural Selections," argues that it's as complex as the tropical rain forest -- and just as threatened by overdevelopment and pollution.

Debunking woodcraft myths (like the belief that moss grows exclusively on the north side of trees), demystifying the northern lights, or weighing the pros and cons of backyard bird feeders, Stager balances his love of a good story with rigorous consideration of the latest scientific research. He explains with the passion and patience of a teacher, and his lay translations enlighten without bogging down in complexity and jargon. What's surprising is how little scientists know about much of the natural world: Research often turns up no definitive answers, especially regarding the tiniest plants and insects, such as lichens and bee-flies.

Stager's upbeat short takes are like a day afield with an avuncular guide, paying tribute to his neck of the woods while inspiring the rest of us that getting in touch with nature can be as simple as looking around our own backyards.


Reading the Forested Landscape: A Natural History of New England by Tom Wessels, illustrated by Brian D. Cohen. (May 1997) The Countryman Press.


This is a wonderful book that teaches a very fundamental lesson about real world systems, forests in particular. Most books about nature teach how to name or identify things; those books teach you words. Some books tell stories about a species or a metric like heat or energy; those books teach you sentences and paragraphs. Very few books give you structure around which the entire thing begins to form a whole text and this is one of those very rare books. It's title is perfect.

The lesson about systems this book teaches is that when you encounter a system it will be marked by the major events of it's past and that those marks will determine to a very large extent it's structure. If you can read those marks everything sorts into place around them.

A forest is the perfect place for this lesson since it's big and old enough that the major events are each unto themselves a great story: storms, fires, genocide, and economic upheavals. It's a transforming experience to read this book and then stand in the silent forest glade and realize that the entire vista is the echo of a economic fad, a winter storm, and fast moving fire.

This book is like a delightful collection of short mysteries. Each chapter begins with a picture, the scene of a crime if you will. Something happened, something big, maybe more than one thing. But it's not like a mystery. After reading about a perverse parson you don't understand the deep secret of many passing parsons. But here, suddenly every white pine you pass has a secret and you know it! Oh what stories you get to tell. Reviewed by Virginia Malone.


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