Synopses & Reviews
Never has there been a president less content to sit still behind a desk than Theodore Roosevelt. When we picture him, heand#39;s on horseback or standing at a cliffandrsquo;s edge or dressed for safari. And Roosevelt was more than just an adventurerandmdash;he was also a naturalist and campaigner for conservation. His love of the outdoor world began at an early age and was driven by a need not to simply observe nature but to be actively involved in the outdoorsandmdash;to be in the field
. As Michael R. Canfield reveals in Theodore Roosevelt in the Field
, throughout his life Roosevelt consistently took to the field as a naturalist, hunter, writer, soldier, and conservationist, and it is in the field where his passion for science and nature, his belief in the manly, andldquo;strenuous life,andrdquo; and his drive for empire all came together.
Drawing extensively on Rooseveltandrsquo;s field notebooks, diaries, and letters, Canfield takes readers into the field on adventures alongside him. and#160;From Rooseveltandrsquo;s early childhood observations of ants to his notes on ornithology as a teenager, Canfield shows how Rooseveltandrsquo;s quest for knowledge coincided with his interest in the outdoors. We later travel to the Badlands, after the deaths of Rooseveltandrsquo;s wife and mother, to understand his embrace of the rugged freedom of the ranch lifestyle and the Western wilderness. Finally, Canfield takes us to Africa and South America as we consider Rooseveltandrsquo;s travels and writings after his presidency. Throughout, we see how the seemingly contradictory aspects of Rooseveltandrsquo;s biography as a hunter and a naturalist are actually complementary traits of a man eager to directly understand and experience the environment around him.and#160; and#160;
As our connection to the natural world seems to be more tenuous, Theodore Roosevelt in the Field offers the chance to reinvigorate our enjoyment of nature alongside one of historyandrsquo;s most bold and restlessly curious figures.
“Thoreau, in Walden, proposed a ‘realometer to filter out prejudice and delusion. This eloquent new book fills that role for us, reminding us that global warming is not an abstract future proposition but a very profound current reality.”
“This is an important book that should be required reading for everyone who cares about the future of our planet, and especially for those who remain skeptical about the threats of climate change. What better place to chronicle the effects of global warming than in the cradle of the American environmental movement—Thoreaus Walden Woods.”
“Primacks elegant and eloquent scientific memoir shows how todays science is advancing thanks to Henry Thoreaus mid-nineteenth-century observations as recorded in his journal and in his almost completely unknown because unpublished charts containing years and years worth of data on first flowering, bird arrival times, and much else happening in Concords natural world. Primacks book is important in three ways: it is a report on what global warming has already done to a much-loved bit of American space—Walden Pond; it is a detailed warning about what we are now facing; and it is a stirring call to arms, especially to young Americans and students about how they can help. Emerson told Thoreau to keep a journal. Primack is urging people, especially young people, to keep Thoreauvian journals, not for personal reasons, but to advance our knowledge of what happens and when in the natural world we all share. This book is a grand gift, a bracing and appealing take on a difficult and complex problem. I wish I had read it when I was nineteen.”
“Determined to help the public understand global warming, Primack decided to search for evidence of climate change in Concord, Massachusetts, home of Walden Pond, made famous by pioneering environmentalist Henry David Thoreau. Primacks plan was to compare field notes of the past with new information about the same plants in the same places, but he despaired of finding reliable old records until he learned about Thoreaus unpublished, little-known tables precisely documenting the annual flowering dates for more than 300 plant species. Primack also struck gold in the form of invaluable nature journals kept by modern-day citizen scientists. He now tells the deeply instructive story of the challenges he and his dedicated graduate students faced during the past decade as they identified the many plants that have disappeared since Thoreaus time and those which “are flowering earlier in successive years” as spring temperatures rise. Primack shares striking tales from the field and elucidates from an unnervingly close-to-home perspective the dynamics and impact of climate change on plants, birds, and myriad other species, including us.”
“Primacks book brings the issue of climate change down to earth in a focused approach without hard science; recommended to students of environmental studies as well as to general readers active in the study of the subject.”
“Each chapter of this book documents alarming change: the flowering of the pink ladys slipper orchid has begun three weeks earlier; wild apple blossoms have advanced by two to four weeks; wood sorrel by six weeks. . . . [Walden Warming] show[s] compellingly how a place and its ecosystems can alter dramatically in the face of climate change.”
“The book tells the story of Primacks struggle to replicate Thoreau and find changes in flowering times, but soon broadens into a hymn to citizen science. Primack finds many others who are not conventional scientists but keep careful records of myriad things, from the times that migratory birds arrive to the date butterflies emerge and ice melts on ponds. It is these extraordinary people who make the book a rich, rewarding read. And there is also the inspiring message that anyone with a keen eye for nature can make a difference, with an afterword on how to become a citizen scientist.”
"This book is more than a clarion testament to the real and present effects of climate change. It is an exhortation to become more engaged in the natural world whether through citizen science or observation, and, in so doing, recognize and limit our own impacts on the earth. A constant presence throughout this book, Thoreau would be pleased to read this volume, which weaves together science, nature, ethics, and human action as part of a single whole."
"Primack’s story is worth telling, and Primack is a worthy storyteller. . . . Primack clearly demonstrates the value of several non-traditional forms of historical observations for documenting change, including personal journals, butterfly club observations, and fishing lodge records. Perhaps most importantly, Primack clearly demonstrates that our environment is changing rapidly, and this is undoubtedly due to anthropogenic climate change."
andldquo;While other authors have explored Theodore Rooseveltandrsquo;s time in the Badlands or his love of nature, Canfield is the first to highlight a distinct pattern in Rooseveltandrsquo;s life. Roosevelt did not just experience the outdoors in an ad hoc manner, flitting to and from dilettantish forays in the American West, Africa, or the Amazon. Instead, Roosevelt engaged with the outdoors with his entire being, simultaneously as a natural scientist, intellectual, and writer. For every formative moment Roosevelt spent in politics, Canfield rightly points out that there existed an equally formative moment spent andlsquo;in the field.andrsquo;andrdquo;
andldquo;Finally, a biography that convincingly captures the seemingly disparate and sometimes contradictory dimensions of Theodore Rooseveltandrsquo;s lifelong engagement with the natural world.and#160; Theodore Roosevelt in the Field does a wonderful job of showing how this larger-than-life leaderandrsquo;s abiding passion to experience nature directly found expression as a naturalist, big game hunter, specimen collector, conservationist, writer, explorer, and outdoor adventurer.andrdquo;
andldquo;Canfield is the perfect writer for this subject, and what a subject it is. This is Theodore Roosevelt at his most electric and aliveandmdash;the great naturalist in the field, which was far more his natural habitat even than the battlefield or the political arena. With his masterful writing and carefully researched details, Canfield reveals Roosevelt not just as we remember him, but as he truly was: vibrant, brilliant, and endlessly fascinating.andrdquo;
In his meticulous notes on the natural history of Concord, Massachusetts, Henry David Thoreau records the first open flowers of highbush blueberry on May 11, 1853. If he were to look for the first blueberry flowers in Concord today, mid-May would be too late. In the 160 years since Thoreaus writings, warming temperatures have pushed blueberry flowering three weeks earlier, and in 2012, following a winter and spring of record-breaking warmth, blueberries began flowering on April 1six weeks earlier than in Thoreaus time. The climate around Thoreaus beloved Walden Pond is changing, with visible ecological consequences.
In Walden Warming, Richard B. Primack uses Thoreau and Walden, icons of the conservation movement, to track the effects of a warming climate on Concords plants and animals. Under the attentive eyes of Primack, the notes that Thoreau made years ago are transformed from charming observations into scientific data sets. Primack finds that many wildflower species that Thoreau observedincluding familiar groups such as irises, asters, and lilieshave declined in abundance or have disappeared from Concord. Primack also describes how warming temperatures have altered other aspects of Thoreaus Concord, from the dates when ice departs from Walden Pond in late winter, to the arrival of birds in the spring, to the populations of fish, salamanders, and butterflies that live in the woodlands, river meadows, and ponds.
Primack demonstrates that climate change is already here, and it is affecting not just Walden Pond but many other places in Concord and the surrounding region. Although we need to continue pressuring our political leaders to take action, Primack urges us each to heed the advice Thoreau offers in Walden: to live simply and wisely.” In the process, we can each minimize our own contributions to our warming climate.
Thoreau’s incredible eye and appreciation for the natural world have rightly led to his reputation as one of the first American ecologists. Before he could turn his botanical records into a book, Thoreau succumbed to tuberculosis, and his copious, arguably obsessive writings on the natural world languished for some time, Emerson noting that “Thoreau had squandered his talents on the woods” and had become “the captain of a huckleberry party.” But his writings have since been revered by many, and are now part of the canon of conservation biology and climate change. The meticulous notes Thoreau kept on flowers in Concord have in the hands of Richard Primack and his students evolved from charming and detailed records to actual data sets.Thoreau would no doubt be saddened to learn that 27 percent of the plant species he documented have disappeared, and another 36 percent are in such low numbers that their disappearance is imminent. Concord's mean annual temperature though has climbed by 4 degrees, and the flowers and trees each spring awaken far earlier than they did 150 years ago. Climate change is wreaking havoc on Walden, as it is the world over, and in this wonderful tour of Thoreau’s data points Primack shows us how history informs the past, and how backyard natural history is one of the most important areas of scientific contribution, as it has been for centuries.
Theodore Roosevelt first set foot into the field as a very young man, started a natural history museum at 8 years old, and reveled in expeditions in the field throughout his life. His adventures defined him--his policies and his personaand#151;and are wonderfully chronicled in his journals and notebooks. TRand#8217;s constant quest and passion for the outdoors influenced his experiences from the Spanish American War, to negotiations with Cuba, to hikes through Yellowstone with John Muir.and#160;
Michael Canfield uses the notebooks to illuminate the force of nature in TRand#8217;s life.and#160; He isolates the elements that drove Roosevelt-- his love of science and nature, his need to express manliness, his drive for empireand#151;all of which share a common thru line, that of a propelling wish to act these out in the field.and#160; The outdoors to Roosevelt was like a perfect field jacket, which had a specific purpose, and yet which he donned for many pursuitsand#151;hunting, fishing, hiking, natural history study.and#160; This work invites readers to join TR on his adventures, with Canfield as a guide, and in the pages of his writings unearth a better understanding of what drove one of historyand#8217;s most remarkable characters.
About the Author
Richard B. Primack is professor of biology at Boston University. He is the author of Essentials of Conservation Biology and A Primer of Conservation Biology and coauthor of Tropical Rain Forests: An Ecological and Biogeographical Comparison. He lives in Newton, Massachusetts.
Table of Contents
1. Borneo to Boston
2. A Hard Rain
3. Thoreau, Scientist
4. Phantom Plants
5. Wild Apples and Other Missing Flowers
6. The Strife in Loosestrife
7. The Message of the Birds
8. Birds in the Mist (Net)
9. Bees and Butterflies
10. From Insects to Fish to People
11. Clouds of Mosquitoes
12. The Frog Chorus
13. Running in the Sun and Rain
14. A New Earth
Afterword: Citizen Science
Append: Species Mentioned