Green Bookshelf

Back to the wild

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The Hidden Lives of Trees
By Peter Wohlleben (Greytone)

German forester Peter Wohlleben spent most of his career sizing up trees according to their harvest-readiness and managing forests for profit. But after a life spent in close company with his sylvan neighbors, he began to see their complex lives and interactions with more depth and empathy.

In The Hidden Life of Trees, short chapters explore hidden dimensions of tree lives that science is slowly uncovering, enhanced by Wohlleben’s anecdotal experiences from the woods.

He explores how trees communicate, both internally from the roots to the leaves at the end of branches, as well as to other neighboring trees through mycelial networks. He applies concepts like love, community and learning to trees, and finds myriad ways they benefit the forest community, from pumping, storing and respirating water to serving as a “community housing project” for countless bugs, birds, bats and other creatures.

“When you know that trees experience pain and have memories and that tree parents live together with their children,” the amiable author concludes, “then you can no longer just chop them down and disrupt their lives with large machines.”

Boundary Layer: Exploring the Genius Between Worlds
By Kem Luther (Oregon State University Press)

“To make a boundary layer, all we need is a pair of large stable systems of regularity that rub against each other,” writes Vancouver Island naturalist Kem Luther. “Where they come into contact, the two systems create a third region that is unstable.”

Luther finds these thin, dynamic and unexplored margins making sand dunes in Tofino, BC, producing moss in Cypress Provincial Park, and sending out mycorrhizal networks beneath the forest surrounding Victoria.

Revealing a hidden world that thrives beneath our feet, Luther champions the small and overlooked in nature, species that, though little-understood, make the world go around.

Being a Beast: Adventures Across the Species Divide
By Charles Foster (Metropolitan)

“Earthworms taste of slime and the land. They are the ultimate local food and, as the wine people would say, have a distinct terroir,” Charles Foster explains. “Worms from Chablis have a long, mineral finish. Worms from Picardy are musty…worms from Somerset Levels have a stolid, unfashionable taste of leather and stout.”

But why is the British writer—who is also a veterinarian, holds a doctorate in law and bioethics and teaches at Oxford—eating worms?

“I want to know what it is like to be a wild thing,” he explains. “I want to have a more articulate talk with the land.”

Being a Beast chronicles his experiment in trying to live like animals do—burrowing, rooting, pooping, swooping, swimming and sniffing. He chooses a badger, an otter, a fox, a deer and a swift and sets out to inhabit their unique worlds as close as he can.

The tools he chooses to aid him in his quest are psychology, natural history, neuroscience, sensory enhancement and even shamanic transformation. A fool’s errand? Perhaps, but it’s a pleasure to follow the resulting discoveries and disasters in this bestselling book.

Whether trying to catch fish with his teeth, sleeping in an underground burrow, snacking on bugs, lying on the bottom of rivers or being pursued by bloodhounds, Foster’s hands-on account is by turns funny, philosophical and full of interesting tidbits of information from the forefront of natural science. He is an engaging storyteller, self-deprecating and clever as he shares with readers his own personal process of re-wilding.

ICU Roof #2
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Magpie Murders
A mystery within a mystery

Now that there’s been snow in the lowlands of Whatcom County and the sun sets before 5pm, it’s time to flip on the gas fireplace and cozy up with a stack of mysteries from the library. Anthony Horowitz’s latest thriller is just the thing to take your mind off the weather and…

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Unexpected Treasures
A collection for the ages

In a town known for its abundance of resident poets and writers, Port Townsend poet Finn Wilcox has long been considered a local treasure. 

For more than three decades he has been crafting clear, poignant and jewel-like poems from distinctly non-literary pursuits—riding freights and…

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Fading Frequency
KMRE community radio’s uncertain future

Two trends in broadcast media appear to be moving in tandem and accelerating. One is the continued consolidation and monopolization of media in the hands of fewer and fewer players. The other, not surprisingly given the first trend, is the increasing homogeneity and bland sameness of…

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