Roads Were Not Built for Cars
8 x 10
one 16-page color insert, 135 illustrations
8 x 10
one 16-page color insert, 135 illustrations
In Roads Were Not Built for Cars, Carlton Reid reveals the pivotal—and largely unrecognized—role that bicyclists played in the development of modern roadways. Reid introduces readers to cycling personalities, such as Henry Ford, and the cycling advocacy groups that influenced early road improvements, literally paving the way for the motor car. When the bicycle morphed from the vehicle of rich transport progressives in the 1890s to the “poor man’s transport” in the 1920s, some cyclists became ardent motorists and were all too happy to forget their cycling roots. But, Reid explains, many motor pioneers continued cycling, celebrating the shared links between transport modes that are now seen as worlds apart. In this engaging and meticulously researched book, Carlton Reid encourages us all to celebrate those links once again.
"This fascinating insight into the origin of roads will break down some road ownership issues, and help promote harmony for all road users whether on four wheels or two."
Edmund King, President, Automobile Association
"Featuring an impressively informed and informative text that is occasionally enhanced with the inclusion of period illustrations, Roads Were Not Built for Cars: How Cyclists were the First to Push for Good Roads & Became the Pioneers of Motoring is an extraordinary cultural history that should be a part of every community and academic library collection."
"Roads Were Not Built For Cars is a major and original piece of work, and a significant contribution to social history. It is also an underpinning for current debates about the urban realm."
Professor David Cox, OBE, Chair of Council, CTC
"Cycling enthusiasts will enjoy learning about the influence of early cyclists on roadway development. But while Reid spends much of his time on cycling, he is also careful to examine the history of roads as thoroughfares, transportation networks, public spaces, as well as the roles they have played in broader trends...worthwhile reference...fascinating..."
"This fascinating book examines the role of bicycles and cycling enthusiasts in the automobile industry and the US's 'good roads movement' of the late 1800s–early 1900s. Reid has done an outstanding job of blending history, photographs and illustrations, short stories, quotes, facts, and informational pieces into an easy-to-read, thoroughly enjoyable book...This is a must read for anyone interested in planning and highway design as well as bicycle transportation."
"...[a] fascinating, meticulously researched book..."
When Two Tribes Were One
Mastodons to Motorways
Who Owns the Roads?
“What the Bicyclist Did for Roads”
Ripley: “the Mecca of all Good Cyclists”
Good Roads for America
America’s Forgotten Transport Network
Motoring’s Bicycling Beginnings
Without Bicycles Motoring Might Not Exist
From King of the Road to Cycle Chic
Appendix A – History of roads timeline
Appendix B – Motor marques with bicycling beginnings
Appendix C – Kickstarter supporters
Index of Names
As sales of electric bicycles (e-bikes) have surged and outpaced the sales of all-electric cars since 2020, more and more people are enjoying increased mobility, while communities are confronting the need to manage them, especially on public trails and greenways.
Join the Maryland Department of Planning and the Smart Growth Network at 1:00 p.m. EDT on Thursday, June 23, as journalist and author of Roads Were Not Built for Cars and Bike Boom Carlton Reid, Dillon Fitch of the UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies, and Andrew Brown of iGo Electric Bikes look at the evolution of e-bike technology, how communities are responding to the increase in e-biking demand and usage, and what the future holds for these vehicles.
Participants of the live webinar are eligible for 1.5 AICP CM credits (live attendance required). To register, complete and submit the form below. If unable to attend, the recording will be posted at http://smartgrowth.org/the-past-present-and-future-of-electric-bicycling/ after the live program.
After two years at home, sitting in a darkened room trying to make sense of research notes, wrestling slippery arguments into a book, I took the show on the road, spending half of April travelling around the US. It felt great to be out in the open, breathing in crisp spring air, talking to strangers. (Thankfully, my ability to converse with real live people had not been lost during my exile.)
I had a blast, and those who attended my talks seemed to enjoy themselves, too. Mountain-bike pioneer Otis Guy said my talk was “awesome,” which, to my English ears, is just about the most American word in existence.
Otis attended the talk I gave at the Marin Museum of Bicycling in Fairfax, California. I was chuffed with the high turnout at this venue – 70+ folks paid ten bucks a head to listen to me wittering on, raising $900 for this great new museum. Roads Were Not Built For Cars majors on the on-road campaigns of cyclists in the 1880s and 1890s but I’ve got a personal interest in the formation of off-road cycling in the 1970s and 1980s, and those at my talk were mountain biking royalty (Fairfax was at the epicentre of mountain biking as it coalesced in the 1970s). It was a huge honour to present in front of the likes of MTB pioneers Joe Breeze, Jacquie Phelan and Marc Vendetti (Charlie “Repack” Kelly even poked his head in afterwards).
The tour had kicked off in New York City, at the NYC Velo bike shop, and ended in San Francisco, at SPUR. In between I gave a talk in a rural auction room (Copake, New York State); a pub (Smith Public Trust, Washington, D.C.); and a regional bicycle advocacy HQ (Velo Quebec, Montreal).
I also spoke in front of the Congressional Bike Caucus in a committee budget room in the Cannon building, opposite the Capitol in Washington, D.C.
OK, it was cool to talk in such politically-elevated surroundings but you know what else was cool about Washington, D.C.? I got to meet everybody at Island Press. All. At. Once. I gave a “brown bag” presentation in the Island Press board room. Up until this meeting I’d not met any Islanders in the flesh – the negotiations for the rights to my book had taken place on Skype, from my darkened writing room. It’s good to get out.
Carlton Reid is the executive editor of BikeBiz magazine, a publication for the bicycle trade based in the UK, and author of Roads Were Not Built for Cars.
With the end of COP 21 and the signing of the historic Paris Agreement, it’s not just countries that are thinking about how to reduce emissions—individuals are reflecting on how their habits and actions impact climate change as well.
Island Press authors shared what they’re doing to reduce their carbon footprints and, in some cases, what more they could be doing. Check out their answers and share your own carbon cutbacks—or vices—in the comments.
Jason Mark, author of Satellites in the High Country:
Very much like the Paris Climate Accord itself, ecological sustainability is a process, not a destination. Which, I'll admit, is a squirrely way of saying that I'm doing my best to reduce my carbon footprint. I ride my bike. I take mass transit. Most days my car never leaves the spot in front of our home. Most importantly, I have sworn off beef because of cattle production's disproportionate climate impact. The (grass-fed, humane) burger still has a siren song, but I ignore it.
Grady Gammage, author of The Future of the Suburban City:
I drive a hybrid, ride light rail to the airport and don’t bother to turn on the heat in my house (which is possible in Phoenix). My greatest carbon sin is my wood burning fireplace. I don’t use it when there’s a “no burn” day, but otherwise, I have a kind of primordial attraction to building a fire.
John Cleveland, co-author of Connecting to Change the World:
We just installed a 12 KW solar array on our home in New Hampshire. At the same time, we electrified our heating system with Mitsubishi heat pumps. So our home is now net positive from both an electricity and heating point of view. We made the solar array large enough to also power an electric car, but are waiting for the new models that will have more range before we install the electric car charger. The array and heat pumps have great economics. The payback period is 8-years and after that we get free heat and electricity for the remainder of the system life — probably another 20+ years. Great idea for retirement budgets!
Dan Fagin, author of Toms River:
Besides voting for climate-conscious candidates, the most important thing we can do as individuals is fly less, so I try to take the train where possible. I wish it were a better option.
Photo by Bernal Saborio, used under Creative Commons licensing.
Darrin Nordahl, author of Public Produce:
The United States is the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases behind China, and how we produce food in this country is responsible for much of those emissions. From agriculture, to the fossil fuels needed to produce bags and boxes for pre-packaged food, to the burning of gas and oil to transport both fresh produce and pre-packaged food, I have discovered I can reduce my carbon footprint with a simple change in my diet. For one, I avoid processed food of any sort. I also grow a good portion of my vegetables and herbs and, thankfully, local parks with publicly accessible fruit trees provide a modicum of fresh fruit for my family. We also eat less meat than we used to and our bodies (and our planet) are healthier because of it.
Yoram Bauman, author of The Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change:
I try to put on warm slippers or other extra layers around the house in order to not have to heat the house so much, but I still like to take long hot showers. (Maybe those two things are connected).
Rob McDonald, author of Conservation for Cities:
I try to pay attention to my daily habits that make up a lot of my carbon footprint. So I bike to work, or take mass transit. That gets rid of the carbon footprint of driving. I also try to only moderately heat or cool my home, so I’m not burning a lot of energy doing that. The biggest component of my carbon footprint that I haven’t managed to cut is for travel. I have to travel once or twice a month for my job, and unless it is a trip in the Northeast (when I can just use Amtrak!), I am stuck travelling. The carbon footprint of all that air travel is huge. I try to do virtual meetings, rather than travel whenever I can, but there still seems to be a big premium people place on meeting folks face to face.
Emily Monosson, author of Unnatural Selection:
We keep our heat really low in the winter (ask our teenage daughter, it's way too cold for her here!) and I hang my clothes on the line in the summer. Because it’s so cold, I love taking really hot long showers. I should also hang my clothes in the winter too, and ditch the dryer.
Jonathan Barnett and Larry Beasley, co-authors of Ecodesign for Cities and Suburbs:
We both live in a town-house in the central part of a city – on opposite sides of the continent: one in Philadelphia the other in Vancouver. Our neighborhoods have 100% walk scores. We each own one car, but don’t need to drive it very much - most of the time we can go where they need to on foot. We wrote our book using email and Dropbox. What they still need to work on is using less air travel in the future.
Jan Gehl, author of Cities for People:
I live in Denmark where 33% of the energy is delivered by windmills. A gradual increase will happen in the coming years. As in most other countries in the developed world, too much meat is on the daily diet. That is absolutely not favorable for the carbon footprint. It sounds like more salad is called for in the future!
Photo by Katja Wagner, used under Creative Commons licensing.
Suzanne Shaw, co-author of Cooler Smarter:
Cooler Smarter: Practical Steps for Low Carbon Living provides a roadmap for consumers to cut their carbon footprint 20 percent (or more). My approach to lowering my carbon footprint has gone hand in hand with saving money through sensible upgrades. Soon after I purchase my 125-year-old house I added insulation, weather stripping and a programmable thermostat. When I needed a new furnace, I swapped a dirty oil furnace to a cleaner, high-efficiency natural gas model. And now have LED bulbs in every fixture in the house, Energy Star appliances throughout, and power strips at my entertainment and computer areas. This summer, I finally installed solar panels through a 25-year lease (zero out-of-pocket expense). In the month of September, I had zero emissions from electricity use. Living in the city, I am fortunate to have access to public transportation and biking, which keeps our household driving to a minimum.
Peter Fox-Penner, author of Smart Power Anniversary Edition:
I’m reducing my footprint by trying to eat vegan, taking Metro rather than taxis or Ubers, and avoiding excess packaging. Right now I travel too much, especially by air. P.S. Later this year I’ll publish my carbon footprint on the website of the new Boston University Institute for Sustainable Energy. Watch for it!
Carlton Reid, author of Roads Were Not Built for Cars:
Our family has a (small) car but I cycle pretty much all of the time. My kids cycle to school (some days) and my wife cycles to work (sometimes). It’s useful to have the car for some journeys, long ones mostly, but having a family fleet of bikes means we don’t need a second car. Reducing one’s carbon footprint can be doing less of something not necessarily giving up something completely. If everybody reduced their car mileage (and increased their active travel mileage) that would be good for the planet and personally: win/win.
Katharine is the Publicity & Marketing Associate at Island Press.
Last week, President Obama had this to say about the future of transportation at his final State of the Union Address: “Rather than subsidize the past, we should invest in the future — especially in communities that rely on fossil fuels. That’s why I’m going to push to change the way we manage our oil and coal resources, so that they better reflect the costs they impose on taxpayers and our planet. That way, we put money back into those communities and put tens of thousands of Americans to work building a 21st century transportation system.”
We wanted to know—what will this 21st century transportation system look like? We turned to some of our authors to find out:
Ray Tomalty, co-author of America's Urban Future (forthcoming February 2016)
The president was of course alluding to a carbon tax, which he is known to favor over cap-and-trade systems. Economists estimate a carbon tax could raise $1.2 to $1.5 trillion per year in the US, and if even a small part of this were spent on developing innovative transportation technology, a 21st century transportation system would be a real possibility in the US. At present, only about $2.3 billion in federal spending is devoted to transportation research. This is helping to test new technologies such as vehicle-to-vehicle communication, which has great potential to avoid accidents and improve traffic flow, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve travel times, and obviate the need for road infrastructure expansion. This technology is being tested on small stretches of urban highways across the country, but at the present rate of investment, it will be decades before fully automative vehicles are widespread in the US.
Many transportation experts believe the most pressing application of driverless technology is in driverless buses, which can greatly reduce the cost of public transit and vastly improve service. Unfortunately, little research and development is being dedicated to this purpose, something that could be addressed with funding from a carbon tax. Drone technology is another research and development area in need of greater public investment, a technology that is bringing the driverless movement to aviation and creating new possibilities for personal and goods transportation. Beyond research, new investment is needed in innovative transportation infrastructure. High-speed train service is a proven technology all over the developed world but in its infancy in the US (only one high-speed route in the country, the Acela Express linking Boston to Washington).
More thinking and research is also needed to explore the link between new transportation technologies, behavioral responses, and land use planning. This will require greater cooperation among local, regional and state planning authorities and cross-sectional cooperation among planning and transportation agencies. As the soon-to-be-released book, America’s Urban Future, written by Alan Mallach and myself shows, this is a field in which Canadian metropolitan areas have a long history of experimentation, so there may be something to be learned by looking north of the border for ideas on moving forward on this front.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock
Grady Gammage, author of The Future of the Suburban City (forthcoming April 2016)
By about 2050, driving your own vehicle will be a recreational activity like off-road four wheeling. Routine travel in autonomous, mostly electric vehicles will be commonplace. The cars will be smaller, lighter and often shared use but mostly they will still have only one or two people in them at a time. Transit in all forms will dramatically increase, but in most cities people will still be living in houses with driveways and garages and they’ll use personal mobility vehicles to get around.
Carlton Reid, author of Roads Were Not Built for Cars
Cars? Where we’re going we won’t need cars. The past can tell us a lot about the future, and the past tells us that we’re very poor at predicting the next transport revolution.
18th-century folk thought canals would last forever. Early 19th-century folk thought the same about turnpike roads. And for those who grew up in the "railway age," the only future imagined was of steel rails and steam trains. Few predicted the motor car’s eventual dominance, and it’s reasonable to assume that the same inability to accurately predict the future afflicts us, too. As "car age" people, we tend to extrapolate into the future of transport using what we know, and that’s car-shaped objects on roads. The Tesla is a wonderful thing but the technology that underpins it is hardly new – electric cars were more popular in the 1890s than gasoline cars. And electric cars may appear to be “cleaner,” but this is only true if they’re replenished by solar power – all other recharging methods involve traditional power sources so, really, most electric cars are coal-powered cars.
And what of autonomous cars? Again, this is hardly the disruptive technology that many think it is. I’ve been using driverless cars for 50 years, cars which scuttle away and hide when not needed. Taxis. I can summon one with an app when in a meeting and it will appear outside and whisk me to wherever I want to go. When I use taxis, including Uber, I can kick back and let the driver – a silent automaton if I so will it – worry about the road ahead. I fiddle on my smartphone without even raising my eyes. Where autonomous vehicles might change the world – if we let them, and I’d rather we didn't – is over who has priority on roads. Currently, driverless cars are programmed to avoid cyclists and pedestrians. In a city full of cars driven by onboard computers it will be a great game to ride or step in front of them, safe in the knowledge they’re programmed not to touch you.
Because cities are expected to fill with more and more people I don’t see how driverless cars will be able to navigate around these empowered pedestrians or emboldened bicyclists, at least not in central business districts. It’s far more likely that there’s another technology waiting in the wings that we can scarcely even imagine. That is certainly what happened to our forebears. Until then (and, if I’m allowed to, even after then) I’ll continue to ride my bicycle. A driverless car has clear user benefits, but an autonomous bicycle would be rather dull and pointless.
Richard Willson, author of Parking Management for Smart Growth
Just as we need to stop subsidizing the past in energy policy, we need to stop subsidizing the past by favoring driving and parking over more appropriate transportation modes. Parking should be priced to cover both its actual cost and the costs it imposes on others and the planet. This is rarely the case in US cities, where the dual legacies of excessive minimum parking requirements and parking subsidies have distorted vehicle ownership and travel choices. These distortions have in turn, undermined land use efficiency, design, social equity, and livability. The 21st century transportation system will have fewer privately-owned cars and less parking. New technologies will ensure that we have all the mobility we want with fewer cars. Car companies know this – that’s why they are redefining themselves as mobility companies.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock
Jeffrey Kenworthy, co-author of The End of Automobile Dependence
New technologies will clearly be part of any 21st century transportation system, including autonomous cars, but they should not be embraced in the way they are currently envisaged. A car is a car and takes up space with roads and parking, as well as helping to facilitate the continued destruction of agricultural land and natural areas through sprawl. This can be said of autonomous cars as well as electric cars, so ideally a 21st century transportation system will not look like the current automobile-dependent system in the USA, where cars are still responsible for around 96% of all the motorized passenger travel in cities.
A 21st century urban transportation system will have a multitude of modes (walking, bikes, car-sharing, transit, car-on-demand, private cars and probably other innovative technologies such as pedelecs, Yikes, etc.) seamlessly linked together. This will be achieved increasingly through the use of smart communications technologies, which will give people instant access via smart phones and tablet computers, for the best combination of modes for any trip.
In all the excitement over autonomous cars, we must not forget that electrically powered conventional transit modes such as light rail (LRT) and metro systems are still vastly under-provided for in US cities, due to being starved of adequate funding over the last 80 years. With advances in design, materials, comfort, on-board facilities, wireless networks and many other improvements, especially more protected rights-of-way, using transit in the future will be very different from what we know today. 21st century transportation systems should not only see more transit, but much more non-motorised movement, such as walking and cycling, leading to a less obese nation. This change alone will see billions shaved off US health care costs, not to mention the cost savings of a "road diet.”
John Renne, co-author of Transport Beyond Oil
Rapid changes in technology, such as self-driving electric cars and trucks, hold promise that the transportation industry will continue to innovate during the 21st century. Combined with a societal move towards an information and sharing-economy there is no doubt that marginal efficiencies will allow for a less carbon-intensive transportation system. However, the scale and intensity of weather impacts due to climate change necessitate a more drastic approach to achieve the key goal of limiting global temperature rise. The good news is that the path is simple. Anything we can do to promote walkable and bikeable communities will have the greatest impact. Therefore, we need to prioritize mass transit, which is the only transportation technology that has been proven to create walkable communities at the local level and deliver regional connectivity with the lowest consumption on carbon and emissions.
Katharine is the Publicity & Marketing Associate at Island Press.
In May, many of us will celebrate National Bike Month by leaving the car at home and cycling to work. It's often the fastest way across town, and it's a great way to get some exercise, reduce our carbon footprint and - importantly - remember that roads are not just for driving.
From behind the steering wheel, it is tempting to think that motorists own the road, that cyclists are interlopers on our God-given asphalt. That's why most drivers would be surprised to learn that it was cyclists, not motorists, who first pushed for high-quality, dust-free roads back in the late 19th century.
Before motoring came along, roads and streets were used for transport, of course, but they were also public spaces - open for commerce, meetings, and yes, dancing in the streets. Some cities recreate that space by periodically banning cars. In Bogotá, Colombia, for example, during ciclovías- or "open streets" events - highways are closed to motorized traffic, and people take over, on skateboards, on roller skates, on foot and on bicycles. Space normally dedicated to motors alone becomes a venue for pop-up cafes, leisurely chats, architectural tours and more.
Reclaiming the street from cars - if only for a day - frees us to imagine a world that is not wholly shaped by the automobile. Indeed, the reign of the auto is not inevitable, and it is likely not permanent. This kind of thinking may be difficult for anyone born in the US after, say, 1940. But it's helpful to remember that previous generations felt the same way about their dominant modes of transport. If you asked an 18th century American what form of transportation would prevail, he or she would have answered "canals." (The moribund C&O Canal project, a notorious boondoggle, is testimony to how quickly that reality changed.) In the 19th century, and well into the 20th, the answer would have been "trains."
Then, as now, few people could imagine what was (literally) coming down the pike. The dominant mode of transport captures our imagination and resources, sometimes blinding us to better alternatives.
So, what are those alternatives - and what will the future of transportation look like?
It probably won't look like the car-centric present. As we face the existential challenge of climate change - not to mention the daily struggles of traffic jams and parking - some believe we have reached the age of Peak Car. Millennials, who are too busy peering at their smartphones to drive safely anyway, are increasingly disenchanted with auto culture.
And change is in the air. That motor-car use ought to be restrained is becoming less of a minority position as the social, environmental, health and economic benefits of the "livable city" are better understood. Cities that put quality of life for all before amenities for motorists alone are finding that one of the first steps toward civic "attractiveness" is to rip out much of the ugly infrastructure that motorists are deemed to require. Some of this motor-centric infrastructure - roundabouts, crash barriers, sweeping corners with long sight-lines - encourages motorists to travel faster, making urban areas sterile, unpleasant and dangerous to those on foot or bike.
The future of transportation could hinge on some unforeseen technological game-changer. Or it might feature an idea that's already in development - driverless cars, for example. While they might be good for those distracted millennials, driverless cars are fundamentally a dystopian vision of the future; a doubling-down on the automotive infrastructure that wreaks havoc on our climate, our cities and our health. Imagine if the affluent purchase driverless cars for each member of their family - whole fleets of cars robotically shuttling each kid off to school or soccer practice. And you think traffic is bad now!
Alternatively - if we are lucky - the future of urban transportation will look something like the past. Yes, it will probably include cars, for the foreseeable future - though those cars will be much more efficient and less polluting. It will certainly include ubiquitous public transit: light rail, bus rapid transit and streetcars. And, increasingly, cars will share the road with cyclists, pedestrians and many forms of vibrant civic life.
Bicycles are especially well-suited to the realities of a future in which two-thirds of the world's people will live in cities by 2050, and most journeys are less than three miles. Our bike-centric city could have some high-tech elements, as well, such as "bike lifts," similar to ski lifts, helping cyclists up steep hills. The tension between motorists and cyclists would abate, Netherlands-style, as motorists realize that more bikes mean fewer cars - and less congestion.
If this vision sounds too good to be true, consider this: Elements of it are already a reality in cities as diverse as Amsterdam, where half of all journeys are made by bike, and Curitiba, Brazil, a city whose efficient bus system has inspired copycats the world over.
The future of transit - the future of anything - remains inscrutable to us mortals. Still, during Bike-to-Work week, I will zip through town on my bicycle - and allow myself to dream.
Carlton Reid is the executive editor of BikeBiz magazine, a publication for the bicycle trade based in the UK, and author of Roads Were Not Built for Cars.
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...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
Katharine is the Publicity & Marketing Associate at Island Press.
It can seem like every news story spells bad news for the environment—from the ongoing clean water crisis in Flint, Michigan to Earth's hottest summer ever recorded. But it's not all doom-and-gloom. With so many dedicated people working on environmental issues, there are also stories of hope. We asked Island Press authors to share good news in their field. Check out the inspiring stories they shared below and if you know of other environmental success stories, share them in the comments.
Abbie Gascho Landis, author of Immersion:
Last summer, mussel biologists and crew worked to relocate over 100,000 mussels, many federally protected, prior to the construction of the I-74 bridge over the Mississippi River. There's also the creation of the Fairmount Water Works' Mussel Hatchery in Pennsylvania, and the proposed listing of the yellow lance mussel as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. While it's sad that the mussel needs to be listed, the act of listing it means that its habitat (which is significant!) might benefit from more protections. Better to list a declining species than to ignore it. There's also this video of mussel sexy time, which is awesome, if not newsy.
Laurie Ann Mazur, editor of the Urban Resilience Project and Resilience Matters:
Left behind by the globalized economy, Buffalo New York has lost more than half its population since 1950. By 2005, when the community group People United for Sustainable Housing (PUSH) Buffalo was founded, West Side residents were struggling with unemployment, rampant blight and high energy costs.
At that time, there were an estimated 23,000 vacant homes in Buffalo. PUSH took on a state housing agency that was using vacant buildings to speculate on Wall Street, and got the buildings turned over to the community—with funding to fix them up. Next, PUSH brought together hundreds of community residents to craft a plan for a large, blighted area. The result is a 25-square block Green Development Zone (GDZ) that is now a model of energy efficient, affordable housing. PUSH and its non-profit development company rehabilitate homes in the GDZ, installing efficiency upgrades like insulation and geothermal heating that dramatically lower residents’ utility bills. PUSH also won a New York State grant to build 46 new homes—including a “net zero” house that produces as much energy as it consumes.
The GDZ doubles as a jobs program. Through its construction projects, PUSH has cultivated a growing network of contractors who are committed to hiring locally. And PUSH successfully advocated for New York’s Green Jobs - Green New York program, which seeks to create 35,000 jobs while providing energy upgrades and retrofits for 1 million homes across the state.
Excerpted from an Urban Resilience Project piece in Yes! Magazine by Taj James and Rosa Gonzales
Carlton Reid, author of Bike Boom and Roads Were Not Built For Cars:
There have been a gazillion studies which say how cycling is good for public health, but one new one is a biggie—with a sample size of more than 250,000 Brits—and led to global media coverage. The Scottish study was published in the British Medical Journal and, staggeringly, it said cycling to work lowers the risk of dying by 40 percent. If medical science created a pill with that sort of impact it would be quickly bigger than Viagra! Cancer is a huge worry for the Western world, yet cycling to work halves your chance from dying from it. Amazing, really.
Michael S. Carolan, author of No One Eats Alone:
If you go back to the first 100 years of this nation, our food system was built on people sharing seeds. That was, in fact, the *only* way new seeds were acquired—that and saving seeds from the prior year's harvest. Seed saving and sharing is not only becoming a lost art, it is also illegal in certain instances.
For example, take the case, from 2014, when the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture informed a seed library in its state that they were in violation of a 2004 state law—the Pennsylvania Seed Act of 2004. The seed library, its officials were told, fell under the definition of a “seed distributor,” which meant they needed to start acting like one. That required that they meet stringent labeling requirements. The labels, which need to be in English, must clearly state the name of the species or commonly accepted name of kind of plant. If it is a hybrid plant, the label must explain something about whether the seed has been treated. Lastly, labels must include the name and address of the seed-sharing entity. As a seed distributor, the library was also told they must conduct germination and purity analyses.
On a more encouraging note: In September 2016, the Seed Exchange Democracy Act (Assembly Bill 1810) was signed into law in California. The bill amends the “seed law” chapter of the state’s Food and Agricultural Code thus exempting seed libraries from burdensome testing and labeling requirements.
The Sustainable Economic Law Center offers a toolkit of resources to help concerned citizens make the Seed Exchange Democracy Act a reality in their own state. It includes sample legislation, local resolutions, letters of support, and more.
Joy Zedler, co-author of Foundations of Restoration Ecology:
Restoration ecology and our book on its foundations support new pathways for restoring watersheds to protect wetlands. After decades of teaching conservation and restoration of ecosystems, I'm using the wisdom captured in our book to practice what I've been preaching. I'm one of the fortunate few who have wetlands in our back yards. I live near intact natural ecosystems among citizens who tax themselves so our township can purchase development rights and create conservation easements. The challenge is to extend voluntary approaches upstream to achieve watershed restoration goals and protect downstream wetland gems. The solution won't be top-down governance in this state—or in this country at the present time—but the solution could be bottom-up watershed-care based on strong science and wetland ethics.
Donald A. Falk, co-author of Foundations of Restoration Ecology
To me the really big and encouraging news is that ecosystem restoration is understood increasingly as a central component of global efforts to reverse anthropogenic climate change. This means that the streams of ecological restoration, ecosystem and biodiversity protection, and climate action are fusing, creating a powerful incentive to both protect and restore ecosystems which are absorbing at least a quarter of all GHG emissions annually (for an essay on this, see Ecosystems are critical to solving the global climate crisis).
Katharine is the Publicity & Marketing Associate at Island Press.