Wednesday, November 19, 2014

New books in the Rhodes Library: a selection

BBC Scotland, 2012. How to grow a planet, BBC Worldwide Ltd
Do yourself a favour and make a point of watching this documentary -  excellent.
We might think humans are the most powerful living thing on Earth, but it's plants that time and again have set the agenda for life. All animals rely on plants for their survival. This is not an accident - they are the most powerful evolutionary force on Earth. Plants enabled amphibians to leave the water, they had a hand in the rise and fall of the dinosaurs, and they ensured the ultimate triumph of insects, mammals, birds and even us - all for their own benefit. Because plants have only ever had one goal - the total domination of the planet. It is a story of ruthless ingenuity, seduction and deception; of unimaginable power and ambition. An epic tale, How to Grow a Planet offers a stunning new perspective on Earth history.

      Climatologist Hansen, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and an internationally renowned global-warming expert, became even more famous when he was censored by the Bush administration. After decades of studying the role fossil fuels play in global warming and witnessing the federal government’s failure to take action to lower carbon emissions, he felt compelled to write his first book out of concern about the potentially catastrophic future facing his grandchildren. Hansen condemns governmental “greenwashing” and the undue influence of more than 2,300 energy lobbyists, and attempts to close the gap “between public perception and scientific reality” by lucidly explaining the dynamics of global warming, its acceleration, and how a slight rise in temperature can lead to disastrous consequences. He then boldly declares that the way to solve the climate crisis is to “rapidly phase out coal emissions.” How will we meet our energy needs without coal? Hansen tells the “secret story” of the jettisoned “fast” nuclear reactor, a safer and more efficient reactor than those currently in use, and advocates for its resurrection. Rich in invaluable insights into the geopolitics as well as the geophysics of climate change, Hansen’s guaranteed-to-be-controversial manifesto is the most comprehensible, realistic, and courageous call to prevent climate change yet. It belongs in every library. --Donna Seaman

Huntley, B.J., 2012. Kirstenbosch: the most beautiful garden inAfrica, Cape Town, South Africa: Struik Nature.
This beautiful coffee table book, written by acclaimed South African ecologist Professor Brian Huntley, was published in honour of the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens' centenary. Through vivid photographs, art work, valuable archive material and the author’s detailed, yet accessible writing style, Huntley tells the tale of a garden that has captured the hearts of many people for centuries.

Pääbo, S., 2014. Neanderthal man: in search of lost genomes, New York: Basic Books, a member of the Perseus Books Group.
      “It is a rare thing to read about an important development in science by its principal innovator, written in the spirit and style in which the research unfolded. Neanderthal Man is a dispatch from the front, and if you want to learn how real science is really done, I suggest you read it.”
Edward O. Wilson, University Research Professor, Emeritus, Harvard University

Tin, T. ed., 2014. Antarctic futures: human engagement with theAntarctic environment, Dordrecht; New York: Springer.
      “Antarctic Futures, based on a session held during the Oslo Science Conference (Norway) in 2010, focuses on the impact of human activities and regional environmental change in the polar regions … . Broad and thoughtful in its approach, this work is a noteworthy addition to the expanding canon of analyses of the human impact on and the future of Antarctica. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through professionals/practitioners.” (H. Doss, Choice, Vol. 51 (11), August, 2014)

Wilson, E.O., 2014. A window on eternity: a biologist’s walk through Gorongosa National Park First Simon & Schuster hardcover edition., New York: Simon & Schuster.
“Wilson describes in language that is both poetic and scientific a kind of parable of what is possible in the realm of environmental protection. . . . By destroying the natural world, we are destroying ourselves. Our blindness to this reality is the most crucial and fundamental fact of the world today. A Window on Eternity brings this reality into focus in a lucid and disarmingly gentle manner. It is a fitting capstone to Wilson's exceptional career.” (David Edmund Moody The Huffington Post)

Osseo-Asare, A.D.A., 2014. Bitter roots: thesearch for healing plants in Africa, Chicago; London: The University of Chicago Press.

“By choosing to investigate colonial and postcolonial science through scientific work with plant medicines, Abena Dove Osseo-Asare deepens our understanding of the power relations not only between African and European or American scientists but also between healers and these indigenous and foreign scientists. Her detailed account of transnational scientific collaborations will be a lasting contribution to the field of science studies.” (Stacey Langwick, Cornell University)

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