The small Central American country of Costa Rica—less than one-eighth the size of California—boasts the highest density of plant and animal species in the world. Its wild and rugged landscapes include dense rainforests where jaguars roam, a volcano that spews rivers of molten lava, and beaches as unspoiled as they were when Christopher Columbus first anchored his ships off the Caribbean coast in 1502.
Agriculture in the United States today increasingly operates in two separate spheres: large, corporate-connected commodity production and distribution systems and small-scale farms that market directly to consumers. As a result, midsize family-operated farms find it increasingly difficult to find and reach markets for their products. They are too big to use the direct marketing techniques of small farms but too small to take advantage of corporate marketing and distribution systems.
Surveys show that our growing concern over protecting the environment is accompanied by a diminishing sense of human contact with nature. Many people have little commonsense knowledge about nature—are unable, for example, to identify local plants and trees or describe how these plants and animals interact. Researchers report dwindling knowledge of nature even in smaller, nonindustrialized societies. In The Native Mind and the Cultural Construction of Nature, Scott Atran and Douglas Medin trace the cognitive consequences of this loss of knowledge.
Our morning cups of coffee connect us to a global industry and an export crisis in the tropics that is destroying livelihoods, undermining the cohesion of families and communities, and threatening ecosystems. Confronting the Coffee Crisis explores small-scale farming, the political economy of the global coffee industry, and initiatives that claim to promote more sustainable rural development in coffee-producing communities.
This abundantly illustrated look at orangutan life tells the story of one of the most fascinating members of the great ape family. In Orangutans, conservation biologist Junaidi Payne presents an informative and compelling description of the lives of orangutans, from their habitat and behavior to the complex intricacies of orangutan society, with discussions of such topics as the differences between wild and captive creatures and characteristics of age and sex.
Energy in Nature and Society is a systematic and exhaustive analysis of all the major energy sources, storages, flows, and conversions that have shaped the evolution of the biosphere and civilization. Vaclav Smil uses fundamental unifying metrics (most notably for power density and energy intensity) to provide an integrated framework for analyzing all segments of energetics (the study of energy flows and their transformations).
Food is essential to our sense of place and our sense of self, but today—as fast food nation meets the slow food movement and eating locally collides with on-demand arugula—our food habits are shifting. Food examines and imagines these changes, with projects by writers and artists that explore the cultural and emotional resonance of food, from the "everyday Dada" of mashed potatoes and Jell-O to the rocket science of food eaten by astronauts in space.
Although the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to a Kenyan environmentalist, few have considered whether environmental conservation can contribute to peace-building in conflict zones. Peace Parks explores this question, examining the ways in which environmental cooperation in multijurisdictional conservation areas may help resolve political and territorial conflicts. Its analyses and case studies of transboundary peace parks focus on how the sharing of physical space and management responsibilities can build and sustain peace among countries.
In Frontiers, Michael Redclift examines the relationship between nature and society in frontier areas—contested zones in which rival versions of civil society vie with one another, often over the definition and management of nature itself.