Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Wolf's Tooth Discussion Schedule Announced by Cristina Eisenberg, WILD READ moderator August 1-31

August 1-6

Aldo Leopold and the Mark of the Wolf’s Tooth

August 7-13

Why the Earth is Green: Trophic Cascades on Land and Water

August 14-20

Yellowstone and Beyond: Fear as an Ecosystem Engineer

August 21-27

Creating Resilience: Trophic Cascades and Climate Change

August 28-31

Finding Common Ground: Trophic Cascades and Ecosystem Management

About Cristina Eisenberg, author of The Wolf's Tooth and WILD READ moderator August 1-31, 2011

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Cristina Eisenberg Discusses Her Book, The Wolf's Tooth: Keystone Predators, Trophic Cascades and Biodiversity August 1-31, 2011

Welcome Cristina to America's WILD READ community. We all look forward to your first post here on August 1 and we all will converse with you through the comment function of the discussion blog.

WILDREADers, let me tell you a little about Cristina and next week she will surely tell you more.

Cristina Eilsenberg is a conservation biologist, science writer, Boone & Crockett Club Conservation Fellow, and Aldo Leopold Scholar. She is completing her doctorate in forestry and wildlife at the Oregon State University in the College of Forestry. Her doctoral research has focused on wolves and trophic cascades in Glacier National Park, Montana, and Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta. Cristina works as the research director on the High Lonesome Ranch in Colorado, a mixed-use ranch managed for conservation. She will be conducting postdoctoral research on trophic cascades involving fire, wolves, elk, and aspen. The author of The Wolf’s Tooth: Keystone Predators, Trophic Cascades, and Biodiversity, published by Island Press in 2010, she is currently at work on her second book, which is about large carnivore conservation in the American West. She comes from a ranching background and lives with her family in a cabin in northwestern Montana in a place where wolves and grizzly bears outnumber humans.

Dr. James Estes will also participate as he comments on Christina's posts and perhaps post his own short essay regarding the book and its topic. See information about Estes' Island Press book with John Terborgh entitled Trophic Cascades: Predators, Prey, and the Changing Dynamic of Nature and the Science (AAAS) article "Trophic Downgrading of Planet Earth" (Science, 333, p. 301-306).

August schedule of discussion topic is forthcoming. See How to Participate

Monday, July 11, 2011

Thank you Margaret Atwood! Respond to survey! Next WILD READ book!

Please take our survey so we can improve and plan new WILD READ book and essay discussions on topics of interest to our community of readers.

Thank you, Margaret Atwood, for your time and attention to our WILD READ discussion and giving us new insights and ideas about E.O. Wilson's Anthill.  You generously shared your time with us even as you finish your newest collection In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination, available this fall.

Our Next WILD READ Book:   We hope you continue to participate as we continue our WILD READ discussions from August 1-31, 2011 with moderator Cristina Eisenberg as we read her book The Wolf's Tooth: Keystone Predators, Trophic Cascades, and Biodiversity published by Island Press .  Christina will contribute weekly posts during August 2011and engage in a conversation with all participants through the comment tool.  Stay tuned for a schedule of discussion topics.  Join America's WILD READ now 

You may continue to post comments about E.O. Wilson's Anthill and the Leopold and Meine essays by clicking the Comment link after each Anthill posting.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Point of View by Margaret Atwood

The “ant” section of Anthill has been written as if ants have not only emotions but some sort of narrative memory. Do they have such things in any way that would be understandable to us if we could for a moment share them?

There have been other attempts to write from the POV of ants… I’m thinking of the Ant section in T.H. White’s The Sword In The Stone, in which the ants are used as an anti-fascist allegory…  Is it possible to write from the POV of another species, really? Is that question by its nature uanswerable?

(I have a stake in this matter, as my first novel (age 7) was about an ant.)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Religion and Nature by Margaret Atwood

In Anthill, the protagonist is almost murdered by a fanatical Christian religious group that also has an interest in turning the natural area he champions into an intensive housing development.

1.    Financial self-interest aside, is the role of religion vis a vis respect for the natural world always this negative?  (I’m thinking for instance of the Green Bible, and the many groups who view the natural world as a sacred trust or something in relation to which mankind is a “steward.”)

2.     To what can we attribute the extreme anti-nature stance taken by some religious groups?

3.     Are there not other religions for whom all life is sacred?

4.     Are we as a species hard-wired to always pick the low-hanging fruit, and thereby anti-conservationist by our very nature?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Of Ants and Men: Too Big for Our Britches? Too Ant-Like for Comfort? by Margaret Atwood

In Anthill, there is a runaway Supercolony of ants – made possible by a genetic variant that allows many queenlets, each with its own subcolony, to exist in close proximity, rather than one colony with one queen, all other claimants having been killed. This Supercolony is killing and eating every living thing within its reach. Nothing can stand against it.
Then some “gods” arrive – in reality, human beings with insecticide sprayers, tired of too many ants at their picnics – and put an end to the Supercolony.

If this deus plus machina had not arrived, would the Supercolony have perished, having expanded beyond the capacity of its environment to keep it supplied with food? Or would it just have kept expanding outward in a ring, like a mushroom, leaving a dead center? 

Wilson draws explicit parallels between ant colonies and human civilizations.  Each arises, builds itself up, fights off competitors, flourishes, goes into decline, and eventually perishes, overwhelmed by stronger invaders.  Is this parallel fully merited?

Is there an implication that human society on earth has now become a Supercolony,  devouring everything in its path and with no check to its growth?  If so, is it in danger of eating itself out of existence?  

What about the “gods” – the equivalent of the human beings with insecticide sprayers?  Are we in danger of becoming our own annihilating “gods,” and if so, what form might this act of self-extermination take?

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Margaret Atwood as Discussion Moderator July 3-9, 2011

Welcome Margaret Atwood, our America's WILD READ moderator from July 3-9, 2011.  The first post will appear tomorrow with some discussion questions and comments.  Please feel free to freely converse with her and other WILD READERs.

We are so fortunate to have such a distinguished author spend time with us this week as we discuss E.O. Wilson's Anthill and refer back to our earlier discussions with Will Stolzenburg and Curt Meine about the Leopold essay and Meine essay.  We invited Ms. Atwood after reading her marvelous review of Anthill in the New York Review of Books back in April 2010

Margaret Atwood was born in 1939 in Ottawa and grew up in northern Ontario, Quebec, and Toronto. She received her undergraduate degree from Victoria College at the University of Toronto and her master's degree from Radcliffe College.

Throughout her writing career, Margaret Atwood has received numerous awards and honourary degrees. She is the author of more than thirty-five volumes of poetry, children’s literature, fiction, and non-fiction and is perhaps best known for her novels, which include The Edible Woman (1970), The Handmaid's Tale (1983), The Robber Bride (1994), Alias Grace (1996), and The Blind Assassin, which won the prestigious Booker Prize in 2000. Atwood's dystopic novel, Oryx and Crake, was published in 2003. The Tent (mini-fictions) and Moral Disorder (short stories) both appeared in 2006. Her most recent volume of poetry, The Door, was published in 2007. Her non-fiction book, Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth, part of the Massey Lecture series, appeared in 2008, and her most recent novel, The Year of the Flood, in the autumn of 2009. Ms. Atwood's newest collection, In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination, will be available this October.  Ms. Atwood's work has been published in more than forty languages, including Farsi, Japanese, Turkish, Finnish, Korean, Icelandic and Estonian. In 2004 she co-invented the Long Pen TM.

Margaret Atwood currently lives in Toronto with writer Graeme Gibson.

Stay tuned for July 3 first posting by Margaret.  She would love to answer your questions and comment on your observations about Anthill.