The invention of nature: New book by Andrea Wulf on Alexander von Humboldt

Nature as a web of life!

Pressed from Jeremy Schmidt’s THE ANTHROPO.SCENE

Source: The invention of nature: new book from Andrea Wulf on Alexander von Humboldt

6a014e894ef9bd970d01b7c7771434970b-800wiThis looks like a fabulous new biography, and it’s already getting rave reviews. Here is a description, and hopefully a video…vimeo is always fussy about this stuff.

“The Invention of Nature” reveals the extraordinary life of the visionary German naturalist Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) and how he created the way we understand nature today. Though almost forgotten today, his name lingers everywhere from the Humboldt Current to the Humboldt penguin. Humboldt was an intrepid explorer and the most famous scientist of his age. His restless life was packed with adventure and discovery, whether climbing the highest volcanoes in the world, paddling down the Orinoco or racing through anthrax–infested Siberia. Perceiving nature as an interconnected global force, Humboldt discovered similarities between climate zones across the world and predicted human-induced climate change. He turned scientific observation into poetic narrative, and his writings inspired naturalists and poets such as Darwin, Wordsworth and Goethe but also politicians such as Jefferson. Wulf also argues that it was Humboldt’s influence that led John Muir to his ideas of preservation and that shaped Thoreau’s ‘Walden’. Wulf traces Humboldt’s influences through the great minds he inspired in revolution, evolution, ecology, conservation, art and literature.  In The Invention of Nature Wulf brings this lost hero to science and the forgotten father of environmentalism back to life.

Humboldt was, after all, as one contemporary said, ‘the greatest man since the Deluge’.

Interesting links: August – October 2013

I had high hopes of regular blogging when we started the journey of the Thuthuka-project. But the second part of the year got much more busy than I initially anticipated, and thus my postings on the blog dropped right off.  But now the teaching term has come to an end, students are preparing for exams, and I have moments for deeper breathing and looking up to the expansive blue sky for thinking inspiration. I’ll start my return to the blog in an easy way: sharing some of the resources and links I have saved over the last few months.

Climate-related links

The biggest news in this time period was the release of the Working Group 1 contribution, to the IPCC’s Fifth assessment report, on the physical science basis of climate change. Watch a short video, 5 things we learned about climate change, that highlights key findings.

For me another informative event is a Coursera course focused on the conversations on climate change; it’s called Climate literacy: Navigating climate change conversations, and is presented by Dr Sarah Burch and Dr Sara Harris. I enrolled for this course in September, but did not get far with it; hopefully I’ll pick-up speed in the next few weeks.

Climate Change Word CloudSource:

Another site I want to explore for its rich resources is the website ‘Dissertations initiative for the advancement of climate change research’; for short DISCCRS. DISCCRS is about fostering interdisciplinary work on climate change between new researchers. Its website offers a database of PhD dissertations, and various resources on funding, news and projects re climate change,

Margot Hill has got a book out, called Climate change and water governance: Adaptive capacity in Chile and Switzerland. The synopsis of the book states that the book “presents the results of several years’ research focusing on adaptive capacity and water governance in two widely-separated regions of the globe, namely the Swiss Alps and the Chilean Andes. The two regions share many similarities in hydrology and water resources: shifting precipitation patterns, highly variable winter snow pack and receding glaciers, resulting in changing seasonality and amounts of runoff that will subtly modify water availability and water use. As climate change is likely to amplify trends in surface run-off, the author investigates whether adaptive capacity in these two regions is sufficiently robust to respond to a situation which has never been experienced to date. … In order to understand and assess the interplay of complex and interlinked environmental and socio-economic issues, the author looks beyond the technology, modelling, engineering and infrastructure associated with water resources management and climate change adaptation, to assess the decision-making environment within which water and adaptation policy and practices are devised and executed. Using these insights, the author introduces, tests and enhances an indicator framework for the assessment of adaptive capacity. The aim is to help readers better understand the adaptive processes that allow the regimes governing water resources to respond to new shocks and changes in the hydrological system, in order to build more resilient water governance systems that can bend, but not break, in the face of new and unexpected challenges.” (Springer website).

Another book I hope to read soon is the edited collection ‘Water and climate change in Africa: Challenges and community initiatives in Durban, Maputo and Nairobi’. This book is edited Prof Patricia E Perkins, the principal investigator of a three year research project of the Climate Change Adaptation in Africa (CCAA) program, a joint initiative of Canada’s International Development Research Centre and the UK’s DFID. The book provides an overview of the ways in climate change is affecting the cities of Durban, Maputo and Nairobi. It takes an equity and climate justice approach, and discusses a range of initiatives at the grassroots level.

Water & climate change book

An article by Gary Gutting in the opinion pages of the New York Times calls on scientists to work with colleagues from the Humanities in an interdisciplinary approach to understand and address the issues related to climate change.

In South Africa Louis Scott of the University of the Free State is a leading scholar in the field of Palaeoecology. He recently retired, and to celebrate his career and contributions to palaeoscience a conference is being organised from 7 to 11 July 2014 at the University of the Free State. A call for papers to this conference – From past to present: Changing climates, ecosystems and environments of arid southern Africa – is out.

Methodology-related links

The Campbell Collaboration has an useful webpage indicating various open access evidence libraries on systematic reviews and impact evaluation studies.

The Collaboration for Environmental Evidence has a very useful page on their website about systematic maps.