Joe Pickett series by C.J. Box

Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett is a fascinating character and the central focus of the 12 book mystery series by C.J. Box, beginning with Open Season. A man who loves his job and family, Pickett fights everything from bureaucracy to environmental terrorists in the series,  all the while he remaining true to himself and his sense of justice. Pickett is a happily married man, in love with his wife and daughters, and works hard to protect his family and the land and animals that he loves and respects. These are stories of an honorable man trying to do the right thing in every circumstance, and not always getting it right–a very likeable, human and flawed character. Game Wardens are unique in that nearly every encounter in their capacity as law enforcement officers is one that involves another person that is armed, often in an isolated area, making it a dangerous profession, and Pickett finds himself in many dangerous situations throughout the series. This is a series that should be read in order–the character interactions continue through the series as Pickett’s family changes and grows and the local community changes as well. Box has won several awards for his mystery writing and lives in Wyoming, making the locations in this series realistic and believable. This is a series to read start to finish–check on Novelist to find the order of the titles. You will find Joe Pickett a memorable character and this an outstanding mystery series!

The Man Who Planted Trees by Jim Robbins

We know very little about what trees do for the environment and the impact they have on the natural world. As trees disappear, we learn what they did from their absence, a poor way to manage our environment. The Man Who Planted Trees: Lost Groves, Champion Trees, and an Urgent Plan to Save the Planet is nominally about David Milarch, founder of The Champion Tree Project. The project is an effort to save what are known as the Champion Trees, the most impressive specimens of each species of tree found on the planet. Milarch’s story really just pulls together all the amazing information we do know about trees and what they do in the world. Robbins explains such things as how trees are great at cooling the area around them as water evaporates through their leaves. They are also awesome filtration systems for waterways and have the potential to save thousands if not millions of dollars when strategically planted to filter fertilizer and toxins from rivers, streams and ponds rather than treating water with modern conventional technology.

Many of the largest, most successful trees in the world have been harvested for lumber, paper production, etc. and the Champion Tree Project is an effort to clone the most successful trees left in the world to make sure their genes continue to live on. We still aren’t sure what role genetics plays in the success of trees, but this project ensures that when the technology is there to sequence tree genes, these trees will still be around to test. Some of the species the project has cloned include sequoias, redwoods, black walnut, willows and others that have well-documented environmental benefits. The project has never had as much funding as it needs, but Milarch and others who believe we need to reforest the earth in order to help mitigate climate change and keep the environment healthy for future generations are dedicated and continue to do what they can to spread Champion Tree genetics.

The Unconquered by Scott Wallace

>The Unconquered:In Search of the Amazon’s Last Uncontacted Tribes is an extraordinary tale of a journey into the most remote regions of the Amazon to locate a mysterious tribe–the flecherios–the Arrow People. Scott Wallace, on assignment for National Geographic, joins the 2002 expedition led by Sydney Possuelo, a leader in the National Indian Foundation of Brazil, whose goal is to protect uncontacted Indian tribes and to protect the large tract of unspoiled rainforest that has been set aside for the survival of these tribes. The trek is a grueling 3 month journey, often undertaken with insufficient food or clean water as they travel by boat, canoe and foot through the dense jungle, surrounded by dangers in the form of poisonous snakes and insects, caimans, piranhas, and deadly jaguars. Human dangers also face the men in the form of drug runners, illegal miners and loggers, and the elusive Arrow People, whose ability to shoot their arrows with deadly accuracy then vanish into the jungle strikes fear into all of the expedition members. Wallace describes the journey in fascinating detail, but besides telling a tale of adventure and exploration, he discusses the plight of indigenous tribes, both in the past and the present. The result of contact with people from the outside have usually resulted in the death and destruction of these isolated tribes. Possuelo’s approach is significantly different from contacts  with tribes throughout history, made with luring natives with beads, glass or knives and other tools. “[He] sought nothing, and in turn gave little. He was just passing through. He didn’t want locals to fret, didn’t want to uncover their secrets, didn’t want to know much of anything except to know that they were doing fine…What he offered was at once nothing and everything, something so huge and intangible that they’d never know he’d even given it to them–the chance to endure, to survive another day, to replicate their way of life, a way of life that had all but vanished from the rest of the planet”.

Wallace has written a profound and revealing portrait of the last great wilderness on earth and of the forces working both for and against it’s destruction. This is a thought-provoking look at our relationship with nature and our responsibility to allow these indigenous tribes to exist in their chosen manner and in their familiar environment without exploitation by the outside world.

Life on the Edge: Smithsonian’s Mountaineers

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By Marcia Allen
Technical Services and Collections Manager

Dorling Kindersley Publishing has long enjoyed a respected reputation for high quality books, particularly those with beautiful photography and interactive layout.  Each title seems to be an engrossing, all-encompassing tour of its topic, one which treats the reader to a visual feast.   Local readers may well be familiar with the lovely Eyewitness books that so many children love, or the Eyewitness travel books for adults that do so much more than simply describe a destination.
Fairly new to the library is one of the nicest books I have seen in the last year.  Mountaineers, which was sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution, was written by Ed Douglas and polished by a team of consultants.  I invite you to browse this wonderful book; though you may have little interest in mountaineering, you will be stunned by the audacity and determination of the central characters.
There are excellent references to climbers of ancient times.  In 1991, for example, German hiker Helmut Simon was exploring the Italian-Austrian border with a friend.  To the dismay of the two men, they discovered a skull protruding from a shelf of ice.  They reported what they thought were recent remains of a lost hiker, but further research indicated the man to have lived during the Neolithic Age, some 5000 years earlier.  The man, called “Otzi the Iceman” by scientists, had died as the result of an arrow wound that caused massive internal bleeding.
The Japanese monk Kukai, born in 774, is one of the more unusual climbers mentioned in the book.  He ascended Mount Koya located near Osaka in 818 to begin work on a monastery designed for meditation.  Avid followers brought about a permanent Buddhist refuge that is still in use today. 
Albert Frederick Mummery was an avid pioneer of alpinism during the 19th century.  Though dogged by childhood ailments, this determined Englishman climbed the Matterhorn at the age of eighteen and went on to espouse unguided climbing.  He even wrote a seminal memoir about climbing, entitled My Climbs in the Alps of Caucasus.  Like so many other enthusiasts of the sport, he disappeared during a climb, probably the victim of an avalanche.
Another equally famous climber, Charles Houston, is featured in the book.  Houston, a 20th century American physician, was involved with several climbs, among them two tries at scaling K2.  His failed attempts nearly caused his death, but they also brought about a greater good.  Houston wrote a book entitled Going Higher: Oxygen, Man and Mountains, that has been a valuable resource for other climbers, particularly on the subject of altitude sickness.
    Women climbers are also prominently featured in this book.  Lucy Walker, for example, was the 19th century daughter of Francis Walker, a British advocate of the adventure of climbing.  Lucy suffered from rheumatism and sought relief from it by joining her father and brother in a trek through the Alps.  Taken by the beauty of her new sport, she went on to become the first woman to scale the Matterhorn.
    Lest you think the book omits the most famous of the climbers, rest assured that George Mallory, Edmund Hillary, and Reinhold Messner are not forgotten.  Their stories, along with those of the many other successful , as well as tragic, climbers are highlighted by drawings,  photographs and maps that make each venture a treat for the reader.
    Mountaineering gear featured in the book is absolutely fascinating.  The ergonomically designed 20th century crampons that replicate the shape of the foot are now standards for serious climbers.  But 16th century wood and rope boot attachments, designed to steady steps in the snow, are also pictured.  The climbing rope, another vital component of a successful ascent, is also explained.  Hawser ropes from the 17th century, as well as highly specialized ropes from the 21st century, are featured along a timeline that illustrates clever uses by famed explorers.
    Beyond hiking up a couple of the Colorado Fourteeners with my family several years ago, I have never climbed a mountain.  Nor do I intend to.  But the breathtaking photographs and thrilling adventures stories will bring me back to this book again and again.  It’s that good.

The Wild Life of Our Bodies by Rob Dunn

>This fascinating book called The Wild Life of Our Bodies has a very telling subtitle: Predators, Parasites, and Partners that Shape Who We Are Today. Dr. Rob Dunn, a professor in the Department of Biology at North Carolina State University, has written the story of how human evolution was influenced by our interactions with other species. From the smallest intestinal worm to snakes and large predators, Dr. Dunn addresses everything from why humans currently look the way we do to why we have good eyesight to how some modern illnesses are caused by our guts “missing” their old enemies and the body attacking itself in search of something to fight. Not only does Dunn address the interactions that have made us who we are today, he addresses how we can reintroduce old enemies (and helpers) into our lives to improve them and the health problems we have created by banishing nature from our lives.

This book took me quite awhile to read since it was so compelling I wanted to read the stories he used to illustrate his points slowly and carefully. The notes provide a wealth of background papers and books in which to further explore this subject.

The Human Planet

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The BBC has again produced a stunning, informative and fascinating series, this time about human interactions with nature, titled The Human Planet. The series takes us to many diverse ecosystems in the world and illustrates how humans have adapted to life under the most extreme climates. Episodes describe life in mountains, grasslands, jungles, the arctic, deserts, rivers and cities. Using courage and ingenuity, humans manage to survive under the harshest circumstances. The series is beautifully filmed and the individuals highlighted in each episode have adapted to their environment in astounding ways–the fisherman who crosses the ravaging Mekong River on a self-made rope bridge in order to catch fish for his family, the New Guinea tribe who builds their homes high in the trees, the 3 tribesmen who hunt facing a pride of lions armed only with spears, the Mongols who train eagles to hunt for food . The people profiled in each episode are filmed with the utmost care and respect, and a 10-minute segment at the end of each series shows the difficulties the filmmakers encountered in filming that took place over a 3 year period. This is an amazing look at human life on our planet and how various cultures have adapted to living with nature.