Monday, June 8, 2009

Monday's green books series: Bringing Nature Home

How's your garden doing? that's an easy question that hopefully the answer on it would be 'great' or 'really great'. But how many of your plants are native plants? that's much more difficult to answer and actually this is the more important question, as we can learn from the green book we're reviewing today.

Our book today is:

Bringing Nature Home: How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens

Author: Douglas W. Tallamy (forwarded by Rick Darke)

Douglas W. Tallamy is
Professor and Chair of the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware in Newark, Delaware. Chief among his research goals is to better understand the many ways insects interact with plants and how such interactions determine the diversity of animal communities.

Publisher: Timber Press

Published on:
First edition published in 2007. Updated and expanded paperback edition published in 2009

What this book is about? (from the publisher's website)
The pressures on wildlife populations today are greater than they have ever been and many gardeners assume they can remedy this situation by simply planting a variety of flowering perennials, trees, and shrubs. As Douglas Tallamy points out in this revelatory book, that assumption is largely mistaken. Wild creatures exist in a complex web of interrelationships, and often require different kinds of food at different stages of their development.

There is an unbreakable link between native plant species and native wildlife. When native plant species disappear, the insects disappear, thus impoverishing the food source for birds and other animals. Fortunately, there is still time to reverse this alarming trend, and gardeners have the power to make a significant contribution toward sustainable biodiversity. By favoring native plants, gardeners can provide a welcoming environment for wildlife of all kinds.

Healthy local ecosystems are not only beautiful and fascinating, they are also essential to human well-being. By heeding Douglas Tallamy's eloquent arguments and acting upon his recommendations, gardeners everywhere can make a difference.

Why you should get it?
Firstly the author is a Professor at UD in Newark, DE where Eco-Libris is headquartered, so even though we don't know him personally (yet..), we're for the book even before I opened the first page (supporting local products!).

My opinion didn't change a bit after I opened the book and dived into the world of plants, gardens, insects, butterflies, birds, trees, landscape and communities. The book is full with interesting and valuable information and not only for gardeners, but also to anyone who is interested in humans-nature relationship in general and in urban settings specifically.

You can look at this book as a manifesto explaining why we should favor native plants, but it's much more than that. It's a plan to sustain the endangered biodiversity and even more, it's a plan to transform suburbia from an environmental liability to an environmental asset that is supporting the natural world.

And of course if you're really into gardening, or like us into tree planting, you must have a copy of this book. As Rick Darke, author of The Encyclopedia of Grasses of Livable Landscapes put it in his forward:

"Rich in concept and detail, this book asks and answers essential questions for modern gardeners inclined to good stewardship. How can we adjust our planting palette to be both beautiful and environmentally useful? how much more does a local oak species contribute to habitat richness than an out of ecological context exotic tree?...Spending some time with Bringing Nature Home and its wealth of revelatory moments is certain to enrich your understanding of how connected and contributing good gardens can be."

Last but not least, the book is filled
with beautiful photographs which makes it even more compleing and accecible, even for those who are a little bit less into biology and ecology.

What others say about the book?
"Provides the rationale behind the use of native plants, a concept that has rapidly been gaining momentum. The impact on our environment is huge. The text makes a case for native plants and animals in a compelling and complete fashion." —Joel M. Lerner, Washington Post, June 28, 2008

"If you cut down the goldenrod, the wild black cherry, the milkweed and other natives, you eliminate the larvae, and starve the birds. This simple revelation about the food web — and it is an intricate web, not a chain — is the driving force in Bringing Nature Home." —Anne Raver, New York Times, March 6, 2008

"A fascinating study of the trees, shrubs, and vines that feed the insects, birds, and other animals in the suburban garden." —Anne Raver, New York Times, December 6, 2007

If you're looking for other interesting green-themed books, you are invited to check out our Eco-Libris green books page on our website's green resources section.

Raz @ Eco-Libris

Guest post: The features that will perfect your eBooks

Today we have a guest article by Dan Harrison who writes about eco-friendly technology for EnviroGadget features the latest news and reviews about green gadgets, such as solar powered gadgets, eco-friendly camping gadgets, devices that benefit your health, and more!

eBooks have been around for a while now, and eBook reading devices such as the Kindle are just starting to become popular. However, for an ebook reader to be a true replacement for a good old-fashioned book, there are some challenges that we need to overcome. So here are a few ideas on features we need to see from eBook readers to even consider them a fair replacement.

Selling an eBook on again.
With a real book, we can exchange, swap or sell them with other people. eBooks are essentially just files and a great deal of work has gone into copy-protection schemes to protect against theft. Surely we want to be able to sell, give away, or exchange our copy if we choose to? However, this issue does imply that we are paying per book and have some ownership over the book.

Renting an ebook I'm personally a fan of public libraries. It's a great way to experience books without owning all of them. Wouldn't it be great to go to a library website and rent a book for a week or two? Ideally this would be free, but if there's money to be made, publishers would probably want a subscription service. Perhaps in the same way Spotify exists for music.

Colour and animations Sure, we're getting closer to being a fully-fledged computer now, but having moving diagrams and colour images in an eBook reader would really improve the experience. I'm thinking more of childrens' books and text books here, but images can really help with explaining something. I believe that most eBook readers at the moment are just black and white.

Writing on some of the pages. For some books, it makes sense to annotate the pages, particularly if you're studying. There are all kinds of things you could do with this feature, such as exporting the notes on to your computer.

Bookmarking pages or portions of text.
When I find a great page or quote in a book, I want to save the quote, but I usually end up losing the bit of paper with the details on it. So a useful feature would be to save a portion of text or to bookmark pages with some kind of note. You can then of course export this information to your computer. If you're writing a research paper, being able to save quotations and extract the correct details for references sections would be a huge time saver.

Reading a book using a Text-To-Speech engine
If you're too tired to read a book, or there's little light, it would be great if the book could read itself to you. You could adjust the voice, pitch and speed to make it as comfortable as possible to listen to. That said, this feature is just desirable, rather than being essential!

So there are my thoughts on important features ebook readers need to have to match or exceed the usefulness of a book. What would you like to see as a feature for an ebook reader?