Larry Nielsen | Island Press

Larry Nielsen

Larry A. Nielsen is Professor of Natural Resources at North Carolina State University. He has worked in land grant universities—including earlier tenures Virginia Tech and Penn State—for forty years, as a faculty member and administrator, eventually becoming provost of North Carolina State University before returning to teaching and writing in 2009. He is a Fellow and Past President of the American Fisheries Society. He is author, coauthor, or coeditor of six books, including Ecosystem Management, published by Island Press, and Provost, a memoir and an analysis of university administration. Among many professional service roles, he served on the board of directors of the National Council for Science and the Environment for more than a decade. With Sharon, his wife of forty-seven years, he lives in Raleigh, North Carolina. 


Books related to environmental activism on a shelf

4 Reads on Driving Environmental Change

Excerpts from four Island Press books highlight activists, organizations, and strategies from environmental movements in the past.

Hundreds of thousands of people around the world raised their voices this week to demand action on climate change. The demonstrations, which happened as global leaders met for the UN General Assembly, showcased the growth and strength of the movement. It is still to be seen if governments and corporations will take timely action, but it is clear that activists and communities will continue mobilizing and demanding for change.   

The following four excerpts highlight leaders, organizations, and strategies from environmental movements in the past. From Gro Harlem Brundtland, the Godmother of Sustainable Development, to labor and environmental activist Chico Mendes, these activists offer lessons and inspiration for anybody who cares about our planet.

 

Nature's Allies book coverNature’s Allies

It’s easy to feel powerless in the face of big environmental challenges—but we need inspiration now more than ever. In Nature’s Allies, Larry Nielsen presents the inspiring stories of eight conservation pioneers, John Muir, Ding Darling, Aldo Leopold, Rachel Carson, Chico Mendes, Billy Frank Jr., Wangari Maathai, and Gro Harlem Brundtland. They show that through passion and perseverance we can each make a difference, even in the face of political opposition.

Excerpt: Gro Harlem Brundtland, Godmother of Sustainable Development

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The Rebirth of Environmentalism book coverThe Rebirth of Environmentalism

Over the past two decades, a select group of small but highly effective grassroots organizations have achieved remarkable success in protecting endangered species and forests in the United States. The Rebirth of Environmentalism tells for the first time the story of these grassroots biodiversity groups.

Excerpt: Boldness Has Genius: The Lessons of Grassroots Biodiversity Activism for the Campaign Against Global Warming

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Ignition book coverIgnition

For anyone who feels compelled to do more than change their light bulbs or occasionally carpool, Ignition is an essential guide. Combining incisive essays with success stories and web resources, the book helps readers answer the most important question we all face: “What can I do?”

Excerpt: Let's Cause Trouble, Good Trouble, Necessary Trouble

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The Burning Season book coverThe Burning Season

Author Andrew Revkin artfully interweaves the moving story of Chico Mendes's struggle with the broader natural and human history of the world's largest tropical rain forest. "It became clear," writes Revkin, acclaimed science reporter for The New York Times, "that the murder was a microcosm of the larger crime: the unbridled destruction of the last great reservoir of biological diversity on Earth." In his life and untimely death, Mendes forever altered the course of development in the Amazon, and he has since become a model for environmental campaigners everywhere.

Excerpt: The Burning Season

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Island Press Authors Share the Love

This Valentine’s Day, we thought it would be fun for Island Press authors to share the love. We asked a few authors to choose their favorite Island Press book—other than their own, of course—and explain what makes it so special. Check out their...

This Valentine’s Day, we thought it would be fun for Island Press authors to share the love. We asked a few authors to choose their favorite Island Press book—other than their own, of course—and explain what makes it so special. Check out their responses below, and use code 4MAGICAL for 25% off and free shipping all of the books below, as well as books from participating authors.

What’s your favorite Island Press book? Share your answer in the comments.

My favorite IP book—not that I’ve read them all—is Mike Lydon’s Tactical Urbanism. This book shows how ad hoc interventions can improve the public realm, especially if they’re later made permanent. I discussed the concept on the latest Spokesmen podcast with architect Jason Fertig and illustrator Bekka “Bikeyface” Wright, both of Boston. 

Carlton Reid, Bike Boom and Roads Were Not Built for Cars

Last year I wrote a cover story for SIERRA magazine about how Donald Trump's proposed wall along the US-Mexico border would all but eliminate any chance for recovering jaguar species in the Southwest. In the course of my research I came across Alan Rabinowitz's An Indomitable BeastIt's a great read, blending Rabinowitz's own experiences as a big cat biologist with cutting-edge findings on this amazing species. As a writer, this book and its amazing details helped me bring the jaguar to life for readers. 

Jason Mark, Satellites in the High Country

This day is a time for reaching beyond data and logic to think about deeper ways of knowing. Love, specifically, but I would add to that faith, tradition and ethics. That's why I love Aaron Wolf's new book, The Spirit of Dialogue: Lessons from Faith Traditions in Transforming Conflict. Going beyond the  mechanical "rationality" of the typical public meeting is necessary if we are to address the big issues of global sustainability and the smaller issues of how we sustain our local communities. Aaron Wolf provides the experience, tools and promise of a better, deeper approach.

Larry NielsenNature's Allies

Like many others, I am indebted to to Island Press for not one but three books that profoundly influenced my thinking. Panarchy (2001, edited by Lance Gunderson and C.S. Holling) introduced me to the concept of socio-ecological systems resilience. Resilience Thinking (2006, by Brian Walker and David Salt) taught me what systems resilience really means. And the follow-up book Resilience Practice (2012) helped me start to understand how systems resilience actually works. The latter remains the most-consulted book on my shelf—by Island Press or any other publisher—and I was thrilled and frankly humbled when Brian and David agreed to write a chapter for our own contribution to the field, The Community Resilience Reader (2017).

Daniel Lerch, The Community Resilience Reader

"A large percentage of my urbanism bookshelf is comprised of Island Press books, so it's very difficult to share my love for just one! So, I won't because the books we pull of the shelf most often these days are the NACTO Design Guides. Finally, a near complete set of highly usable and mutually supportive design standards that help us advocate for and build better streets, better places." 

Mike Lydon, Tactical Urbanism

 

 

Nicols Fox's Against the Machine is a book that’s becomes more relevant each year as technology impinges ever further on our daily lives. It’s a fascinating, deeply researched look at how and why people have resisted being treated as extensions of machines.

Phil Langdon, Within Walking Distance

Lake Effect by Nancy Nichols. I read this book several years ago. It is so important to hear the voices of those whose lives are impacted by industrial age pollutants, lest we slide into complacency. In this case, the story of the chemicals of Lake Michigan. It is a short, beautifully written, disturbing read.
Emily Monosson, Natural Defense and Unnatural Selection

Peter Gleick’s series, The World’s Water, is one of the most useful surveys of the cutting edge of global waters there is. Each edition brings in-depth coverage of the issues of the day, always eminently readable and backed up by the crack research team that he puts together for each topic. I use it in my classes, always confident that students (and I) will be kept abreast of the best of The World’s Water.
Aaron Wolf, The Spirit of Dialogue

Mark Jerome Walters' important book, Seven Modern Plagues, places great emphasis on linking emerging diseases with habitat destruction and other forms of modification natural processes. This book is a call for us to recognize that each new disease reflects an environmental warning.
Andy Dyer, Chasing the Red Queen

My favorite Island Press book is The New Agrarianism: Land, Culture, and the Community of Life, edited by Eric T. Freyfogle. Perhaps it remains my favorite IP text because it is the first IP text I remember reading front to back, twice! I first encountered the book as a graduate student and was struck my its scope and tone. The book is thought provoking. But it's also a joy to read, which isn't surprising in hindsight given the award-winning contributors.   
Michael Carolan, No One Eats Alone

Don't see your Island Press fave? Share it in the comments below!

Nature's Faithful Lovers

For Valentine's Day, I couldn't resist writing about nature's faithful lovers. 

This blog originally appeared on Larry Nielsen's "Today in Conservation" blog and is reposted here with permission. 

For Valentine’s Day, and I couldn’t resist writing about nature’s faithful lovers. Besides, other than Captain John Fremont “discovering” Lake Tahoe on this date, nothing else really important in conservation happened on February 14.

Being a faithful lover is one way to say it; being monogamous is another. Monogamy is highly variable in nature. It is a life-history strategy that has some advantages, including a reliable and desirable mate, ability for parental care of young and maintenance of resources through time. It also has some downsides, including reduced reproduction after loss of a mate. So, species and entire groups of animals have chosen one way or another.

Hylobates lar pair of white and black 01
Pair of Lar Gibbons, via Wikimedia Commons.

It is common among birds, with around 90% of species mating in pairs. Sometimes just for one year (serial monogamy), but sometimes for life. Bald Eagles roam around separately for most of the year, but come together for mating, usually with the same mate for decades. Swans, though, live together continuously, with the male doing a lot of the household work, including incubating eggs. The Albatross is picky about mating, sometimes delaying decisions for a few years while looking around for Mr. or Mrs. Right; after that, they are a pair forever.

Mammals, however, aren’t quite so faithful. Only about 5% of mammalian species are monogamous. Gibbons are famously faithful, pairing off and staying that way for their entire lifespan, 30 or more years. But, like humans, they sometimes discover irreconcilable differences and find that its better “the second time around.” Beavers are more faithful, and they have good reason to be—they spend a lot of time and effort building and maintaining a homestead together. A dam and lodge need lots of “sweat equity” that the pair puts in together.

Coragyps-atratus-001
American Black Vulture, via Wikimedia Commons

Among fish, monogamy is pretty rare. Most fish are promiscuous to the extreme, often just letting the eggs and sperm loose into the water without so much as a first date. Australia’s thorny seahorse is different, though, pairing off for life. It seems that they get better as breeding as they get to know each other better, producing more offspring as the years pass. The French angelfish is faithful, too, swimming together for years in their coral reef neighborhood.

But my favorite of all is the Black Vulture. The species is faithfully monogamous, living in pairs throughout the year and for many years; they live up to 25 years in nature. They have strong families as well, feeding their young for many months and living in communal groups. If you are related, you are welcome to the roost, but don’t come around if you aren’t part of the clan. And, of course, Black Vultures, like all their fellow species, are ugly as sin.

Which just proves the old adage:  Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  Happy Valentines Day!