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Nature and Gardening Book Reviews

Gardeners’ interest extends to many related subjects, such as nature. Here are reviews of some books that will be of interest.

“Ecology-Key Concepts in Critical Theory”-second edition by Carolyn Merchant was released by Humanity Books/Prometheus. This comprehensive collection brings together key environmental writings that document the human view of nature and the environmental impact of human activities. It examines various aspects of the environmental movement, and our view of nature beginning with the Enlightenment.

This anthology explains how various cultures around the world view nature. Some of the topics in this volume include nature and social change, nature’s role in spirituality, and the approach of eco-feminism. This also explores the deep ecology movement and socialist ecology. This book devotes one section to globalization, and explores the role of global capitalism and the various global ecological movements. Readers can also learn about the environmental justice movement. The last section looks at post-modern science.

“The End of the Wild” by Stephen M. Meyer was released by Boston Review/The MIT Press. This is a must-have for those who are concerned about the future of the planet. Wonderfully written, this presents the state of the planet. Easy to read, this is jargon-free. The author shows how human domination over the earth has brought us to the present situation in which countless species of animals and plants are facing extinction.

The author concludes that the end of the wild is in sight. While he expects things to get worse, he offers valuable ideas on how we can avoid a worst case scenario in which invasive/exotic species fill the void left by extinct species. He recommends the creation of large trans-regional reserves in order to protect the greatest number of species. The author has received numerous conservation awards.

“Conservation Refugees-the Hundred-Year Conflict Between Global Conservation and Native Peoples” by Mark Dowie was released by the MIT Press. This definitive title discloses the history of the conservation movement. Beginning in the U.S., it spread to Europe and elsewhere.

The author shows that it didn’t always take into account the needs of the local people. In fact, natives have often viewed conservation efforts as a means of post-colonial control. The author presents the stories of various parks and conservation efforts, including the creation of Yosemite. In numerous cases, the efforts have pitted one side against the other.

This book shows that conflict between the two sides is avoidable if they work together to achieve common goals through sustainable means. The author carefully explains how the West has a unique view of nature that influences our conservation efforts. Throughout the book are helpful tables, quotes, and boxes that provide additional background information.

Cezanne in the Studio-Still Life in Watercolors” by Carol Armstrong was released by Getty Publications. Cezanne elevated the still life to a new level in the world of French art. This enlightening volume focuses on one painting called Still Life with Blue Pot.

The author sheds light on each detail or element in this still life. In addition, this book provides the historical context for this type of painting. The author shows that Cezanne’s large format still lifes are reminiscent of his landscape art. Throughout the book the author also presents many of Cezanne’s other still lifes along with those done by other artists. This also explores Cezanne’s series of apple still lifes. While many of Cezanne’s paintings featured food or flowers, some included other objects as well.

The large format does justice to the 100+ lush color photos of the art. The appendix has drawings showing the details of each painting.

This enlightening book inspired an exhibition of the same name at the J. Paul Getty Museum in October 2004-January 2005.


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