Interlocking: How People Rely on Nature
Many people take a great deal of pleasure in intuitive books about biology, medicine, and whatnot. I myself enjoy one called Boring Nature, about the challenges of human knowledge in the face of what some call “human extinction”.
But lately, I’ve been reading books that aren’t necessarily about “human extinction”–or even what it means to live in a messy universe, for that matter. I was introduced to them by indie bookseller Josh Levi at the San Francisco (SF) Books Expo where he’s the associate director of the Barnes & Noble Information Network, a program of the company aimed at bringing more books to its customers.
[I also like to read about related environmental science topics on my blog Electric Rural Roadies.]
In Books That Read Aloud, Levi describes some of the newest picks he’s presenting that can help individuals and groups visualize what is happening on the different scales that he terms life, climate, and sustainability. One of them is a book called Interlocking, by Joel Mokyr. I wanted to write about it, but I’m not used to discussing science with very young people, much less younger teens, much less out on the town with a book.
In Interlocking, the authors studied more than a hundred countries and more than a thousand communities and did and learned a lot of things about how people are affected by the frequency of natural disasters. (They made visits to countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Myanmar, Colombia, Haiti, Chile, and more). They analyzed the topic in a variety of ways, including a visit to shorebirds who enjoy the often warm waters that fall over mountainous areas during the slow-moving hurricanes of the Pacific Northwest. They found that people who live near the coast get some of the benefit of the benefits of the storms without worrying about rising sea levels–or the effects that higher waves will have on the coasts.
In their book, the authors include multiple age and background tables, to make the data more accessible to people in different stages of understanding. “We found that people feel a great deal of uncertainty about what’s happening with climate change,” they write. “But when people are asked to visualize how this relates to their lives, they can see the benefits of it…as well as the costs of inaction…Taking a lesson from this research, we now create books to help people make better decisions.”
Interlocking is available to order online in paperback and as a Kindle eBook.
Photography by Earth and Sky Photography, Chris Mooney.