Cry the Beloved Planet
One Planet : A Celebration of
Biodiversity (Abrams, $55) is both a celebration and a
lamentation. Powerfully combining words and images, Nicholas Hulot
(a journalist, book author and TV producer) decries
"destruction symptomatic of a shortsighted approach that favors
nonsustainable use of renewable resources to meet immediate needs."
Hulot pulls no punches in his critique of the modern
socioeconomic system that has accelerated species losses to
historical highs. (Some scientists believe the attrition ranks as
the sixth mass extinction.) Readers might think that the writing
echoes the doomsayers' drumbeat, which is ever more prominent in the
popular media, but there is a crisis unfolding.
The book highlights the tragedy of biodiversity's
decline. Hulot's collected images (from dozens of photographers)
reinforce and amplify his words. Niles Eldredge, curator of the
Division of Paleontology at the American Museum of Natural History,
writes in his introduction that the book helps the reader
"emotionally reconnect with the living world." It does.
For example, one image shows a bird trapped by a plastic bag in a
Spanish garbage dump (right, top), evoking feelings from
disgust to rage to sadness. Likewise, an aerial shot of a stand of
intact forest side by side with a clear-cut area (right, bottom
left) angers those who realize we have less destructive options
for using natural resources.
Such pictures are all the more poignant when contrasted
with our planet's diversity and beauty, which reveals unexpected
treasures wherever we look. On a coral reef, a seahorse (right
, bottom right) has evolved to blend in perfectly with its surroundings.
If the author's passion and self-awareness ever
percolate up to the decision-makers of the world, perhaps, one day
in the future, we will be celebrating.
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Happy Birthday to Alvin! August 2014 marks the 50th anniversary of Alvin, the submersible that has been so influential in ocean research, including the discovery of hydrothermal vents. In 2014, a retrofitted Alvin also took its first test cruise.
Heather Olins, a doctoral candidate at Harvard, studies microbial ecology at deep sea hydrothermal vents with the help of Alvin, and shares her personal tribute to the submersible on these landmark occasions.
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