Travis Beck

Travis Beck

Travis Beck is Superintendent of Parks for the City of Santa Cruz, California. He has also served as Director of Horticulture at the Mt. Cuba Center, a non-profit horticultural institution in Northern Delaware, and Landscape and Gardens Project Manager with the New York Botanical Garden. He is a registered landscape architect and LEED Accredited Professional with a Master’s degree in horticulture from The Ohio State University. The author's website is

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

Reflections on Earth Day

April 22nd, Earth Day, is also National Jelly Bean Day. How should one celebrate National Jelly Bean Day?

We asked our authors: In today's age of slacktivism, has Earth Day become meaningless as a way to make impactful environmental change? Check out what they had to say below.

Travis Beck, author of Principles of Ecological Landscape Design
April 22nd, Earth Day, is also National Jelly Bean Day. How should one celebrate National Jelly Bean Day? The internet suggests guessing the number of jelly beans in a jar, making jelly bean jewelry, or, simply, eating lots of jelly beans. The internet also suggests a number of ways to celebrate Earth Day in my immediate area. They include an Earth Day Celebration, an Earth concert, an Earth Day cleanup, a film screening, a moonlight hike, a 5k run/walk, an Earth Day festival, and an Earth Day fair. Or, if you’ve been invited to United Nations headquarters on that day, you could sign a global climate agreement.

All of this—the jelly beans, the festivals, and the signing ceremony—falls under the heading of marketing. The Earth needs good marketing. It’s too easy to ignore the pervasive, perplexing, and long term environmental issues we face in the rush of everyday life. Those recent video spots from Conservation International with Julia Roberts as the voice of Mother Nature, etc. are impactful, but a bit grim. Why not go on a moonlight hike instead, take in a film, wander a fair, or think about your nation’s CO2 emissions? And while you’re at it, enjoy a few jelly beans. Green ones.

John Pastor, author of What Should a Clever Moose Eat?
We have holidays to celebrate the planting of trees, the harvest, the four key points that define the Earth’s orbit (the solstices and the equinoxes), so why not a holiday to celebrate the whole Earth? And so we do, Earth Day, April 22. When Senator Gaylord Nelson founded Earth Day in 1970, he hoped to promote environmental activism and demonstrations, especially on campuses. Today, some campuses still have demonstrations against environmental degradation, but these are not as large as they once were. But I am encouraged by the growth of many environmental and nature organizations since the first Earth Day, such as the Xerces Society for the conservation of rare insects, WildOnes for the establishment of native plant gardens, and many others.  Demonstrations on Earth Day may not be as common, but people seem to be putting their energy into actively doing something for and learning about nature and the environment. Nonetheless, the idea of Earth Day as a day to celebrate the wonder of life on our planet home is still worthwhile. So celebrate Earth Day: if it makes you feel good, find and join a local environmental or nature organization in your area.

Global selfie - Earth Day, April 22, 2014. By NASA, via Wikimedia Commons

Yoram Bauman, author of Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change
Earth Day is a way of connecting like-minded people who care about sustainability, and hopefully (as with the Yes on 732 carbon tax campaign I’m part of in Washington State) those connections lead to more and deeper types of involvement!

Rob McDonald, author of Conservation for Cities
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”- a hackneyed quotation, but a true one. Yes, the kinds of minimal individual actions sometimes promoted for Earth Day don’t add up to much themselves. Given the magnitude of the challenge of climate change, for instance, biking to work one day a week is a pretty minor step toward reducing my carbon footprint. Similarly, avoiding food waste in my home is only a teeny step toward reducing global agricultural production. These kind of good first steps have some value on their own, but their real value is getting people to be educated and committed to an issue. For a small subset of people, these kind of first steps lead to bigger, more significant steps. Or they may lead to political support for broader legal or policy changes that do have a meaningful environmental impact. So, instead of criticizing the “slacktivists”, tell them what other steps they should take next, if they want to prove greater dedication to the environmental cause.