This week’s dizzying photos of Colorado’s Air Force stadium beneath billowing smoke plumes are a strong reminder of just how unpredictable nature can be - or is it?
The books below, which chronicle the different ways that nature alters to meet human demands, make for some interesting summer reading.
The Beak of the Finch, Jonathan Weiner
Darwin spent five weeks in the Galapagos studying what would eventually become his theory of natural selection, evolution and the origin of species.
“The Beak of the Finch” follows Peter and Rosemary Grant, two Princeton University biologists who spent more than 20 years studying Darwin’s Finches in the Galapagos. The island of Daphne Major was their laboratory, where they had endless subjects of isolated birds unable to make the long perilous flight to other islands.
They were able to study not only the observable physical differences noted by Darwin, but also molecular evolutionary changes as well. Their research shows us the powerful, quick changes nature can make to ensure survival and makes us wonder about all the subtle adaptations our own bodies make in an ever-changing environment.
Against the Tide, Cornelia Dean
The cities of Galveston, Pensacola Beach and New Orleans have all felt the devastating effects of hurricanes. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, United States coastal counties only amount to 17 percent of total land area (excluding Alaska), but 53 percent of the total population reside within these counties.
Cornelia Dean, of the New York Times, chronicles the mass movement of Americans towards coastlines as well as the devastating effects of protecting oceanfront property, rather than coastlines. Dean highlights the many ways we’ve attempted to control the ocean to varying degrees of success. A fascinating read for anyone living within driving distance to the ocean.
The Control of Nature, John McPhee
"The Control of Nature" explores the constant battle between people and nature, using illuminating examples from California floods and wildfires, Icelandic volcanic eruptions and Mississippi River flooding in Louisiana. Eerily written prior to Hurricane Katrina, McPhee mixes humor with subtle warnings about the dangerous tug of war we’ve entered by trying to control our environment.