The Greenhouse

TalkClub Read 2022

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The Greenhouse

Jan 4, 12:25am

Welcome to the Greenhouse

As much as I like pubs, I can't pass by a greenhouse without popping in. I think I will spend a lot of time at the Victorian Tavern, and I hope many of you will join me in the Greenhouse, every now and then.

I have noticed that many members on Club Read take an interest in Natural History, and environmental reading.

Last year, Penguin Books launched a new series of Green Ideas, or books on environmental topics. The series includes fiction as well as non-fiction。 The publisher launched the series with a selection of 20 books, which will likely be expanded over time. As far as I can see it contains many classics which I have read, many that I have never heard of and many new books I would be interested to read or read about.

I hope fellow members of Club Read or other interested LT members will come over and post what you are reading on this thematic thread.

Jan 4, 9:25am

What a wonderful idea. More reading on environmental topics is one of my stated goals on my CR thread this year, and this looks like a wonderful place to find ideas. I just had a look at this Penguin series, and it really covers a vast range.

This also fits in with a real life goal. In September 2021 I got my own real greenhouse, which is set up with about half the space devoted to a reading area. There's a synchronicity here!

Jan 4, 5:05pm

I love this idea, Edwin. Thank you for starting it.

Jan 4, 5:27pm

I hope to visit the Greenhouse soon

Jan 4, 6:35pm

I like the feel of this thread... too bad I'm not still reading Cather.

Jan 4, 8:15pm

Great thread topic! It also appeals because I'm about to order seeds for my own "greenhouse"—an attic space with windows and small skylights, which has been a great spot to start seedlings. Though I'm a little envious of your real one, sassyLassy.

Jan 4, 8:19pm

I’ve been drawn to reading books about the environment lately. I will gladly share my reading on the topic here and am excited to get some recommendations as well!

Jan 4, 8:21pm

I add the Wainwright Prize nominees to my TBR every year. I don't manage to read many of them, and a lot of them aren't even available in the US, but as it happens my first book of the year was Wintering by Katherine May, which was one of the longlist titles for 2020. Just posted a review on my thread here.

Jan 7, 6:10pm

At the end of last year I read three books on climate change:

White Skin, Black Fuel: On the dangers of Fossil Fascism by Andreas Maim
How to Save Our Planet: The facts b y Mark A Maslin
Less is More: How Degrowth will save the world Jason Hickel

I hope to read more this year.

Jan 12, 3:57pm

Like this idea! Is there a place for fiction that has climate change as a theme, or are we trying to stick to nonfiction?

Jan 13, 1:57pm

Last year I read No One Is Too Small To Make A Difference by Greta Thunberg, here is my review I posted back then in case anyone is interested:

This very slim volume contains eleven speeches held by Greta Thunberg between September 2018 and April 2019. There is an extended version available that contains more speeches from 2019, but this is the first version.
While I agree with most of Thunberg's positions, I am still a bit disappointed with the book. As many other reviewers have noted, the speeches are very repetitive. Most of them are so alike that it's hard to distinguish them, sometimes whole sentences and even paragraphs are copied, and the arguments made are repeated again and again.
Of course, this is because these are Thunberg's main points, and as said above, I mostly agree with them. I just don't think that this merits a book. If you watch a few of the speeches online, or even just read a few online posts, you will get the same amount of information.
On the other hand, Thunberg's message is of the uttermost importance and while the language of the speeches is very simple (and thus, after several of them, gets a bit uniform), this serves the purpose of getting that message across in a poignant way. I also learned from the book that equity is relevant to Thunberg, too, which is something I didn't know before (I thought that this aspect wasn't really cared about by the Fridays For Future activists, which had put me off a little).
All in all, this was a quick read and I absolutely don't criticize Greta Thunberg as an activist, but I still think there must be other books that teach the reader more about the topic.

Jan 13, 2:02pm

>9 baswood: Interesting titles, I will check them out and read your reviews!

I have three more books about climate change, but I am not sure if I will read them this year.

Oh, and so far I haven't read any other nature writing or environmental books, and I wasn't even really aware that this is kind of a genre until I came across such books on LT last year.

Jan 13, 7:17pm

Cross-posting from my own thread, as suggested by karspeak:

The Human Planet: how we created the Anthropocene by Simon L Lewis and Mark A Maslin

The idea of the 'Anthropocene' is that the world is now in a geological epoch defined by the impact of human activity. This book explains what that impact has been through time, and what it means for our future.

It's a short book (one of the Pelican list, which aim to be accessible introductions to important topics), but very wide ranging. It explains the early formation and development of Earth itself, and then turns to human development, going from prehistory through what the authors argue are the four major shifts in the way that humankind impacted the natural world - the change from hunter-gathering to agriculture, the first wave of globalisation (including colonisations and significant contact between Europe and the Americas), the industrial revolution, and the "Great Acceleration" (post-WWII increases in productivity and economic activity).

There are lots of interesting detours along the way (for example, a discussion on why particular animals were the ones which ended up being domesticated, or the earliest writing about environmental risk going back to the 17th century). But the main argument of the book is that human actions are "a new force of nature": not just in the obvious greenhouse gas emissions but in moving, for example, vast quantities of rocks, minerals and sand around the world. The authors argue that the effect humans have had on the planet goes back much, much further than generally thought - for example, the impact early humans had on the numbers of megafauna. According to the authors, we have been changing the nature of the Earth almost throughout human history. The most shocking thing I learnt about from the book was the 1610 'Orbis Spike', a short but clear dip in atmospheric carbon dioxide as a result of the mass societal collapse in the Americas following the arrival of Europeans and Old World diseases. "The collapse of these societies led to farmland returning to forest over such an extensive area that the growing trees sucked enough carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere to temporarily cool the planet - the last globally cool moment before the onset of the long-term warmth of the Anthropocene."

This book is full of really interesting ideas and information. Sometimes I thought the facts were more engaging than the arguments: as well as being an introduction to the issue, the book is a contribution to an academic debate about whether the Anthropocene exists and if so, when it started. This means that the authors are concerned to marshall every possible piece of evidence about human impact on the world and sometimes I thought they pushed their argument too far. It also took up some space in the book - eg a chapter on the process by which scientists agree shared definitions such as the Anthropocene, and another chapter on why the particular start date supported by these authors is the right one. I skimmed these. But regardless of these issues, a very worthwhile read.

Jan 14, 1:19am

I just finished the cli-fi Termination Shock, which is set in the very near future and deals with geoengineering. The author doesn't seem to add much to the geoengineering debate, he just makes it easy to imagine geoengineering happening in our lifetimes. This was a so-so read for me. This book, along with another cli-fi The Ministry for the Future, has me wondering if there is a trend for cli-fi books to be set closer to our present versus the distant future, as the effects of climate change are becoming more apparent and believable to most readers.

Jan 15, 3:41am

>10 markon:

I think some fiction is welcome too. The new Penguin series in the OP also includes fiction titles such as The Death of Grass, which I read and reviewed a few years ago.

Jan 15, 8:13am

>15 edwinbcn: Thanks. I'll be be interested to see what we read.

Jan 19, 8:56am

I just read a fascinating book on bird migration and environmental concerns surrounding what we are learning. Here's my review:

World on the Wing: The Global Odyssey of Migratory Birds by Scott Weidensaul

Excellent book that meshes the new information that scientists are discovering about the mysteries of bird migration with the environmental issues that are harming them. In the past 20 years, the study of bird migration has taken off, as technology has enabled scientists to fit birds with extremely light weight geo-locators. Even with the advances in technology there are still so many questions about bird migration. But, there is also a lot of fascinating information coming out that will hopefully make humans care about how they are affecting the world these birds inhabit with us.

As I look through my kindle notes, I could write pages about all the things I learned. I was particularly fascinated by the way birds navigate, the way they prepare for migrations that are thousands of miles long, and the various routes they take. Weidensaul makes you really care about each bird he focuses on (probably about a dozen throughout the book). It helped me to also look up some pictures of the birds as I read about them.

And then he starts talking about all the ways the world is changing and making things more difficult for the birds such as the fragmentation of forests, changing weather patterns, farming practices, light pollution, and hunting practices. The good news is that solid information about bird migration, including global hot spots that many different species of birds all rely on, is helping conservationists convince people and governments to make changes to help birds. Of course, this is not always an easy road and is met with resistance in many places, but at least there is now the beginning of the information we need to even know what change needs to happen.

Some of my favorite birds that I learned about in this book were the spoon-billed sandpiper, the red knot, the godwit, frigatebirds, kirtland’s warblers, and swainson’s hawks. I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in birds, nature, conservation, and/or environmental issues.

Original publication date: 2021
Author’s nationality: American
Original language: English
Length: 400 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Format/where I acquired the book: purchased for kindle
Why I read this: off the shelf

Feb 3, 1:36pm

Hello everybody,
I just placed my star on this thread (thanks to Karspeak). I am a member of the 75'ers Group and have participated in the Nonfiction Challenge for four or five years. The topic for this month is "Welcome to the Anthropocene." We are to read something having to do with the anthropocence era that we are living in. I plan on reading Water Will Come this month and will watch this thread to see what you guys are reading as well.

Feb 13, 4:53pm

>17 japaul22: Here is one you might be interested in. I
ran across it at the library, but did not get it. Have too much on my plate already.)

The bird way a new look at how birds talk, work, play, parent, and think by Jennifer Ackerman

Apr 2, 7:43pm

A book from an author who explores the natural world, the world before our time, and tries to put things into perspective in a marvellous introspective way - crossposted from Club Read 2022

Surfacing by Kathleen Jamie
first published in 2019

Although Surfacing is only the second book by Kathleen Jamie I've read, she's already become one of my favourite essayists and guides to the all too often unseen world around us.

Starting in a cave in the West Highlands, a cave where bone sfrom a bear that lived 45,000 years ago were found, she contemplates the changes in topography since then. Ice ages have come and gone twice. the last one 10,000 years ago. In "the great scheme of things", are we living through "a warm bank holiday weekend" before the glaciers return, or will the earth continue to heat up as Jamie seems to believe?

What the retreat of ice and glaciers has revealed are traces of past cultures, surfacing after hundreds of years. Two of the essays here each capture a village recently revealed, but only for now, both under threat from coastal erosion and wind: Quinhagak Alaska, a village by the Bering Sea, the other a Neolithic farming community in Orkney. Jamie's explorations are usually in the north, "a place of entrancing desolation".

Jamie has been called the leading Scottish poet of her generation. Words and their meaning are critical to her. She contemplates a remark about the early Neolithic farmers, knowing they were only a step away from the wild:
I began to wonder what it might have meant to them then, back when 'wild' was a new idea. Did stories linger of a way of life before farming, before cattle raising and sheep? Did 'the wild' thrill them, darkly? Shame them?

Who were the people who lived in these places? What happened to them? These aren't new thoughts, but Jamie builds on them:
By now we number in our billions, have built mega-cities with instant global communications, and send spacecraft to explore unknown shores. We can live to be eighty, ninety, a hundred years old! You early farmers were a success beyond measure. But {now} millions shrink in poverty. Others build high walls and fabricate missiles. Sea levels rise, storm winds are bearing down on us. We are becoming ashamed of our own layer - plastic and waste.

There are other essays here, more personal, from Jamie's own life. How to bring the sound of your grandmother's voice to the surface? a trek to Tibet aborted at the border because how could you know about Tienanmen in a pre internet age? Later there is the death of her father. With each essay another layer is added to the accumulation of her own life, a life these wanderings are simultaneously building and revealing for her.

It's difficult to convey a sense of Jamie's rootedness and introspection, her connection to the earth and the wild, so the best thing to do is just read her and discover it for yourself.

Apr 2, 7:57pm

>20 SassyLassy: Thoroughly noted and wishlisted, thank you!