Jason Mark

Jason Mark

Jason Mark's writings on the environment have appeared in The New York Times, TheAtlantic.comThe Nation, and Salon.com, among many other publications. He is the editor in chief of SIERRA magazine, was the longtime editor of Earth Island Journal, a quarterly magazine, and is a co-founder of San Francisco's largest urban farm. Time has called him "a rebel with a cause." For more, visit jasondovemark.com.
Photo Credit: Pexels

Island Press Holiday Gift Guide 2016

This holiday season, give the gift of an Island Press book. With a catalog of more than 1,000 books, we guarantee there's something for everyone on your shopping list. Check out our list of staff selections, and share your own ideas in the...

This holiday season, give the gift of an Island Press book. With a catalog of more than 1,000 books, we guarantee there's something for everyone on your shopping list. Check out our list of staff selections, and share your own ideas in the comments below. 

For the OUTDOORSPERSON in your life:

Water is for Fighting Over by John Fleck | An Island Press book

Water is for Fighting Over...and Other Myths about Water in the West by John Fleck
Anyone who has ever rafted down the Colorado, spent a starlit night on its banks, or even drank from a faucet in the western US needs Water is for Fighting Over. Longtime journalist John Fleck will give the outdoors lover in your life a new appreciation for this amazing river and the people who work to conserve it. This book is a gift of hope for the New Year.

Satellites in the High Country: Searching for the Wild in the Age of Man by Jason Mark
Do you constantly find your friend waxing poetic about their camping tales and their intimate connection to the peaceful, yet mysterious powers of nature? Sounds like they will relate to Jason Mark’s tales of his expeditions across a multitude of American landscapes, as told in Satellites in the High Country. More than a collection of stories, this narrative demonstrates the power of nature’s wildness and explores what the concept of wild has come to mean in this Human Age.

What Should a Clever Moose Eat?: Natural History, Ecology, and the North Woods by John Pastor
Is the outdoorsperson in your life all dressed up in boots, parka, and backpack with nowhere to go? Looking for meaning in another titanium French press coffeemaker for the camp stove? What Should a Clever Moose Eat leaves the technogadgets behind and reminds us that all we really need to bring to the woods when we venture out is a curious mind and the ability to ask a good question about the natural world around us. Such as, why do leaves die? What do pine cones have to do with the shape of a bird’s beak? And, how are blowflies important to skunk cabbage? A few quality hours among its pages will equip your outdoor enthusiast to venture forth and view nature with new appreciation, whether in the North Woods with ecologist John Pastor or a natural ecosystem closer to home.

Also consider: River Notes by Wade Davis, Naturalist by E.O. Wilson

For the CLIMATE DENIER in your life:

Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change by Yoram Bauman
This holiday season, give your favorite climate-denier a passive aggressive “wink-wink, nudge-nudge” with The Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change featuring self –described Stand-up Economist Yoram Bauman and award-winning illustrator Grady Klein. Give the gift of fun, entertaining basic understanding of what is, undeniably and not up for subjective debate, scientific fact!

Also consider: Heatstroke by Anthony Barnosky, Straight Up by Joseph Romm

For the HEALTH NUT in your life:

Unnatural Selection: How We Are Changing Life, Gene by Gene by Emily Monosson
Give the health nut in your life the gift of understanding with Unnatural Selection. Your friends and family will discover how chemicals are changing life on earth and how we can protect it. Plus, they’ll read fascinating stories about the search for a universal vaccine, the attack of relentless bedbugs, and a miracle cancer drug that saved a young father’s life.

Also consider: Toms River by Dan Fagin, Roads Were Not Built for Cars by Carlton Reid, 

For the ADVOCATE in your life:

Prospects for Resilience: Insights from New York City's Jamaica Bay by Sanderson, et. al
Need an antidote to the doom and gloom? Stressed-out environmental advocates will appreciate Prospects for Resilience: Insights from New York City's Jamaica Bay. It’s a deep dive into one of the most important questions of our time: how can we create cities where people and nature  thrive together? Prospects for Resilience showcases successful efforts to restore New York’s much abused Jamaica Bay, but its lessons apply to any communities seeking to become more resilient in a turbulent world.

Ecological Economics by Josh Farley and Herman Daly
Blow the mind of the advocate in your life with a copy of Ecological Economics by the godfather of ecological economics, Herman Daly, and Josh Farley. In plain, and sometimes humorous English, they’ll come to understand how our current economic system does not play by the same laws that govern nearly every other system known to humankind—that is, the laws of thermodynamics. Given recent financial and political events, there’s a message of hope within the book as it lays out specific policy and social change frameworks.

Also consider: Tactical Urbanism by Mike Lydon, Cooler Smarter by The Union of Concerned Scientists

For the CRAZY CAT PERSON in your life:

An Indomitable Beast: The Remarkable Journey of the Jaguar by Alan Rabinowitz
The cat lovers in your life will lose themselves in An Indomitable Beast, an illuminating story about the journey of the jaguar. This is the perfect book for any of your feline loving friends, whether they want to pursue adventure with the big cats of the wild, or stay home with a book and cup of tea.

Also consider: The Carnivore Way by Cristina Eisenberg, Jaguar by Alan Rabinowitz 

For the GARDENER in your life:

Wild by Design: Strategies for Creating Life-Enhancing Landscapes by Margie Ruddick
Give your favorite gardener an antidote to the winter blues. The lush photographs of Wild by Design, and inspirational advice on cultivating landscapes in tune with nature, transport readers to spectacular parks, gardens, and far-flung forests. This book is guaranteed to be well-thumbed and underlined by the time spring planting season arrives!

Also consider: Brilliant Green by Stefano Mancuso, Principles of Ecological Landscape Design, Travis Beck

For the STUBBORN RELATIVE in your life:

Common Ground on Hostile Turf: Stories from an Environmental Mediator by Lucy Moore
For the person keeping the peace in your family this holiday season, the perfect gift is Common Ground on Hostile Turf, an inspiring how to guide demonstrating it is possible to bring vastly different views together. This book gives lessons learned on setting down at the table with the most diverse set of players and the journey they take to find common grounds and results. If your holiday dinner needs some mediation, look to the advice of author Lucy Moore.

Also consider: Communication Skills for Conservation Professionals by Susan Jacobson, Communicating Nature by Julia Corbett

For the HISTORY BUFF in your life: 

The Past and Future City: How Historic Preservation is Reviving America's Communities by Stephanie Meeks with Kevin C. Murphy
When it comes to the the future of our cities, the secret to urban revival lies in our past. Tickle the fancy of your favorite history buff by sharing The Past and Future City, which takes readers on a journey through our country's historic spaces to explain why preservation is important for all communities. With passion and expert insight, this book shows how historic spaces explain our past and serve as the foundation of our future.

Also consider: The Forgotten Founders by Stewart Udall, Aldo Leopold's Odyssey, Tenth Anniversary Edition by Julianne Lutz Warren

For the BUSINESS PERSON in your life:

Nature's Fortune: How Business and Society Thrive by Investing in Nature by Mark Tercek
For the aspiring CEO in your life who drools at phrases like "rates of return" and "investment," share the gift of Nature's Fortune, an essential guide to the world's economic (and environmental) well-being.

Also consider: Corporation 2020 by Pavan Sukhdev, Resilient by Design by Joseph Fiksel

Grand Canyon/Photo Credit: Becca Bright

Backpacking the Arizona Trail with Jason Mark

Here at Island Press, I spend much of my time reading about our authors’ work in wild and remote places from the confines of a desk chair. So last May, I jumped at the chance to venture away from the office on a backpacking trip with Jason Mark,...

Here at Island Press, I spend much of my time reading about our authors’ work in wild and remote places from the confines of a desk chair. So last May, I jumped at the chance to venture away from the office on a backpacking trip with Jason Mark, author of Satellites in the High Countryand the winners of our Keep It Wild sweepstakes contest. I’d never set foot in Arizona, but my colleagues armed me with a GoPro camera and helpful advice—shake out boots in case of scorpions—and I was ready to hike.

Before our group of seven hit the trail, we met leaders from Save the ConfluenceGrand Canyon Trust, and the Sierra Club in Flagstaff to learn more about some of the threats facing the Grand Canyon region. Although the Grand Canyon was one of the first places in America protected as a national monument, the park itself is relatively narrow around the canyon itself. Much of the larger area is open to uranium mining, old-growth logging, and invasive new tourism development. Our Arizona Trail hike would take us through the Kaibab National Forest, on land that would be fully protected t if the proposed Grand Canyon National Heritage Monument is established.

We began the next morning at the Moqui Stage Station trailhead, once a stop on the stagecoach route from Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon, where we divvied up gear and took group photos before heading off into the low scrub. For the first two days, we would hike on the Arizona Trail, which runs from Mexico to Utah across more than 800 miles—the Southwest’s under-the-radar answer to the Pacific Crest or Appalachian Trail. We were lucky enough to receive logistical support and deep Arizona Trail knowledge from seasoned hiker and naturalist Sirena and others at the Arizona Trail Association, including a drop-off at the start of our trek.

Photo Credit: Rebecca Bright

The terrain was not the saguaro catcti and plateaus of Western movies that I’d expected. Instead, the trail took us through low scrubland of pinyon-juniper, sage, and grasses, with relatively open views and a chance to greet grazing horses. As we continued north and began to climb, the landscape changed around us and we walked under looming ponderosa pine, which, as Jason demonstrated, smell like butterscotch or vanilla when shove your nose right up against the bark.

Photo Credit: Rebecca Bright

Friends at the Arizona Trail Association had left a cache of water at bone-dry Russel Tank, and we collected our bottles before hiking on a few miles to set up camp at the base of Coconino Rim. Leaving our packs behind, we walked on to catch our first glimpse of the Grand Canyon in the distance. Through gaps in the trees and a bit of haze, the canyon was alluring, but it was tough to get any real idea of its scale. I thought about something Sirena had said the day before—can you imagine stumbling upon the Canyon before the era of GPS or even basic maps, with no advance warning? At our campsite that night, we cooked up mac and cheese with kale and counted satellites, and went to bed knowing that every bend in the trail the next day would bring us closer to the Canyon.

Photo Credit: Rebecca Bright

The next morning, we continued on along the Coconino Rim, catching views of the Canyon that got better and better. The end goal of day two was Grandview Tower, a fire lookout built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1936 that now includes a Forest Service campground. Sirena met us there with Arizona Trail beer—liquid courage for climbing 80 feet to the top of the tower, which creaked in the wind. We were rewarded by an overview the Canyon, a preview of the next day, when we would get in the van and drive across the boundary of Grand Canyon National Park.

Photo Credit: Rebecca Bright

The next day, we took in the hustle and bustle of the Grand Canyon’s South Rim, shifting from being some of the few humans on our stretch of the Arizona Trail to joining throngs of visitors from around the world. Leaving the crowds behind, Sirena took us to a few of her favorite spots, and we enjoyed incredible views and stories of the canyon from the afternoon through sunset and well after the stars came out. There’s nothing like visiting a new place with someone who knows it intimately.

Photo Credit: Rebecca Bright

It’s easy to imagine spending a lifetime exploring the Grand Canyon area—every new vantage point or shift in the light seems to bring out a new feature or personality in the land. We celebrated our last night at Mather Campground with a bonfire and s’mores, and I found myself wishing I had a warm enough sleeping bag to sleep under the stars like Jason and Sirena. Maybe I’ll invest in some new gear, and if I’m lucky, Island Press will send me out on another adventure.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

#KeepItWild Q&A with Jason Mark

Enter the sweepstakes here!

Why is Arizona significant to you and why should it be significant to the rest of the world?

I was born and raised in...

Enter the sweepstakes here!

Why is Arizona significant to you and why should it be significant to the rest of the world?

I was born and raised in Arizona, and I have a huge affection for the place: the Sonoran Desert with its creosote cloves, the “sky islands” around Tucson, the ponderosa pine forests outside of Prescott where I learned how to ride horses. And of course the Grand Canyon, which is a marvel of the world.

The Grand Canyon was one of the first spots in America protected as a national monument. But actually the park is quite narrow, and mostly only protects the gorge itself. Today, the surrounding lands are pockmarked with mines, or else are the target of reckless development. To really protect the Grand Canyon, we need to preserve its entire watershed.

The #KeepItWild trip on a section of the Arizona Trail (an 800-mile trail stretching from Mexico to Utah) will pass through wildlands that are currently open for development but would be protected by the proposed Grand Canyon National Heritage Monument. I hope that participants on this trip will come away with some of the same love of the place that I have.

Photo credit: Rick Moore

Arizona Trail. Photo credit: Rick Moore

What sort of physical fitness should I be in before I attempt this hike? If I don’t work out much can I still do it?

You don’t need to be a triathlete or a lean-and-mean trail runner to enjoy this experience, but you should be accustomed to exercise. We’ll be covering 19 miles in two days, so at the very least you should be comfortable walking for a while. You should also be prepared to carry 30 pounds of weight on your back while walking under the sun.

What do you anticipate the temperature and weather to be like?

It’s likely going to be hot and dry. The trip is in May — before the desert gets blazing — but it’s still going to be hot. Expect highs in the 90s, lows in the 60s. 

Are there specialty supplies that I’ll need?

You will need to own or rent basic backpacking equipment. This includes: overnight backpack; tent or shelter; sleeping bag and (recommended) sleeping pad; hiking boots; hat and layered clothing; water bottles; lightweight cups/bowl/utensil.

Here's the recommended gear list.

Photo credit: Rick Moore

Arizona Trail. Photo credit: Rick Moore

Will we encounter any water sources to safely drink from?

50-50 chance. If the winter precipitation is solid, there should be decent water at a spot called Russell Tanks 7 miles into the hike. If there’s been little snow and rain, the water there will likely be unpalatable. There are a chance that we might hit water at some of the seams in the Coconino Rim, but we can’t count on that.

I am recommending that each participant carry two gallons of water, which will make up the bulk of the weight in your pack.

What advice do you have for new hikers about how to pack to minimize trash?

Don’t bring anything wrapped in plastic.

What kinds of wildlife should I hope to see/be alert for?

Ideally we’ll spot the elk herds that roam the Colorado Plateau, or at the very least see a few deer. With any luck someone will spot a bobcat or fox. Other critters of interest include mountain lions, rattlesnakes, and javelinas, which is a feral pig with a ridgeback reminiscent of a cactus. The greater Canyon area is now home to the massive California condor, which is a fantastic rewilding success story.

Aside from first-aid kits, how do you suggest we prepare for emergency situations?

The first rule of wilderness adventures: don’t get hurt. … In case someone breaks that rule, I have wilderness first aid training and we will carry a complete backcountry first aid kit.

Photo credit: Rick Moore

Arizona Trail. Photo credit: Rick Moore


Tribal sensitivity and respect to sacred land is important, how do we make sure to be sensitive to native peoples and their spaces?

We will be traveling through the Coconino National Forest. “Coconino” is the Hopi word for the Havasupai and Yavapai who once called the area home. Treat the place as you normally would when a visitor in anyone’s home: with gratitude and respect. Leave the land better than you found it. Take nothing.

In your book you talk about the necessity of a diverse perspective in protecting wild places. What have you learned from your travels and interactions with native people and why does it matter in protecting the Grand Canyon/Arizona Trail areas?

The movement to expand protection for the park and establish a Grand Canyon National Heritage Monument has really been led by the tribes in the region. The Navajo, the Hopi, the Havasupai, the Utes—these tribes are holding the moral center of the effort to create the monument.

As I talk about in Satellites in the High Country, there’s this discourse today that says, “There’s no such thing as wilderness because Indians affected just about every part of North America before Europeans arrived.” It’s true that Native Americans transformed landscapes. And they held some places as sacred.

There’s a wonderful consolation of history in the fact that the United State’s first national monument is Devil’s Tower in Wyoming, that great monolith of stone on the Northern Plains. The Lakota and Cheyenne called the place, “Bear’s Lodge.” It was an important part of their star knowledge and their religion. It’s a site of reverence for both whites and natives. What wonderful evidence of how awe crosses cultures.

Photo credit: Ellen Heyn

Arizona Trail. Photo credit: Ellen Heyn

How can I act to keep this land protected for future generations to experience?

Get connected to the constellation of local and national groups calling for the establishment of the Grand Canyon National Heritage Monument: Grand Canyon Trust, the Sierra Club, the National Parks Conservation Association. Check out Congressman Raul Grijalva’s proposed legislation to expand protection for the canyon and call on your representatives to support it.

Can I bring my dog?

No. While dogs are permitted in national forests, they are usually not permitted in rental car vehicles, which we will be relying on. Keep the pooch at home.