Chelsea Green Publishing

Gods, Wasps and Stranglers

Pages:208 pages
Book Art:Black-and-white illustrations throughout
Size: 5.5 x 8.5 inch
Publisher:Chelsea Green Publishing
Hardcover: 9781603587143
Pub. Date November 15, 2016
eBook: 9781603587150
Pub. Date November 01, 2016

Gods, Wasps and Stranglers

The Secret History and Redemptive Future of Fig Trees

Availability: In Stock

Hardcover

Available Date:
November 15, 2016

$22.50

Availability: In Stock

eBook

Available Date:
November 01, 2016

$22.50 $18.00

They are trees of life and trees of knowledge. They are wish-fulfillers … rainforest royalty … more precious than gold. They are the fig trees, and they have affected humanity in profound but little-known ways. Gods, Wasps and Stranglers tells their amazing story.

Fig trees fed our pre-human ancestors, influenced diverse cultures and played key roles in the dawn of civilization. They feature in every major religion, starring alongside Adam and Eve, Krishna and Buddha, Jesus and Muhammad. This is no coincidence – fig trees are special. They evolved when giant dinosaurs still roamed and have been shaping our world ever since.

These trees intrigued Aristotle and amazed Alexander the Great. They were instrumental in Kenya’s struggle for independence and helped restore life after Krakatoa’s catastrophic eruption. Egypt’s Pharaohs hoped to meet fig trees in the afterlife and Queen Elizabeth II was asleep in one when she ascended the throne.

And all because 80 million years ago these trees cut a curious deal with some tiny wasps. Thanks to this deal, figs sustain more species of birds and mammals than any other trees, making them vital to rainforests. In a time of falling trees and rising temperatures, their story offers hope.

Ultimately, it’s a story about humanity’s relationship with nature. The story of the fig trees stretches back tens of millions of years, but it is as relevant to our future as it is to our past.

REVIEWS AND PRAISE

Shelf Awareness, Starred Review-

"Mike Shanahan's Gods, Wasps and Stranglers: The Secret History and Redemptive Future of Fig Trees is a deceptively brief account of the Ficus genus of trees in history, emphasizing but not limited to their relationship with humans. Shanahan brings the expertise of decades of ecological fieldwork and a bubbling enthusiasm to a topic clearly close to his heart. He makes a strong argument that his readers should be attuned to and excited about fig trees, too. The plant figures into the origin stories of cultures all over the world. Fig trees have provided food, shelter, medicine and materials to humans for as long as humans have existed: figs predate us by nearly 80 million years. Because of their contributions as keystone species in ecosystems around the world, figs offer distinctive services in reforestation efforts and the mitigation of climate change. They have contributed to the theory of evolution, the birth of agriculture and possibly humans' development of opposable thumbs. The story of the fig is inseparable from that of fig wasps, numerous tiny insect species that have evolved to pair respectively in symbiosis with individual species of fig. Shanahan relates all this and more in a joyous voice with occasional lyricism, as when 'the Buddhist monk's robe sang out loud saffron over the rainforest's muffled tones of brown and green and grey.’ Mythology, biology and hope for the future combine in this highly accessible story of the family of fig trees, with its profound ecological relevance.  A joyful, celebratory world history of the fig tree and its ecological impact.”

Booklist-

"Fig trees, with their 'sinuous aerial roots,' hidden flowers, wondrous pollinators, and nourishing fruits, have sustained diverse ecosystems and civilizations for millennia. In this lively and mind-expanding mix of personal adventures, myth, religious history, and science, rain-forest ecologist and award-winning journalist Shanahan traces the intricate connection between humans and Ficus species. He cogently illuminates how fig trees were held sacred by various spiritual traditions around the world, including those of ancient Egypt and Greece, along with the fig tree’s place in the Buddha’s story and the Garden of Eden. He profiles intrepid fig-tree experts and vividly explains how tiny fig-wasps burrow into figs, lay eggs, and reemerge to distribute pollen, allowing the planet’s 750 Ficus species to thrive and feed 1,274 species of birds and mammals, including humans. Scientists now recognize that fig trees are “keystone resources” essential to sustaining life and foresee their playing a central role in forest restoration as we struggle with the consequences of environmental decimation and global warming. Shanahan’s spirited celebration of the fig tree as symbol and life force is richly entertaining and truly enlightening.”

“In his insightful book, Gods, Wasps and Stranglers, Mike Shanahan combines poetry and science, history and humanity, to tell a story not only of the fig tree but of life on Earth in all its beautiful and astonishing complexity. In doing so, he reminds us of what a remarkable place we inhabit—and how much we should all want to protect and preserve it.”--Deborah Blum, director, Knight Science Journalism Program, MIT; author of The Poisoner’s Handbook

“Surprising, engrossing, disturbing and promising, Gods, Wasps and Stranglers combines masterful storytelling and spellbinding science. This is a beautifully written and important book about trees that have shaped human destiny.”--Sy Montgomery, author of The Soul of an Octopus

“The complex web of ecological connections between fig trees, tropical forest animals and plants, as well as people and human culture is nothing short of a marvel. Gods, Wasps and Stranglers is a page-turner and a revelation: You will never again think of a fig as just something to eat. There is no better way to introduce the complexity and wonder of nature—and our intricate relationship with it. A must read.”--Thomas E. Lovejoy, University Professor of Environmental Science and Policy, George Mason University; fellow, National Geographic Society

“This book concerns the stunningly versatile and ancient family of fig trees now being used as a framework species to restore damaged tropical forests. Figs are not only considered the keystone species in forests but are perhaps the world’s most perfect tree—they provide highly nutritious fruits with health-giving and medicinal qualities. They attract birds and animals. They grow very rapidly and produce abundant fruits in a few years. They make shade and shelter, their deep powerful roots can break up compacted soils, they draw up water, they prevent erosion, and they have important spiritual qualities. The tree in the Garden of Eden was very likely not an apple but a fig.”--Annie Proulx

“In Gods, Wasps and Stranglers, rainforest ecologist Mike Shanahan charts a lifelong love affair with figs, one that has taken him from India to Kenya, through temples and rainforests, all in search of a deeper understanding of what he describes as ‘humanity’s relationship with nature.’ The fig becomes a tasty lens that reveals not only the fruit’s cultural and biological significance but our relationship to that which most deeply nourishes us.”--Simran Sethi, author of Bread, Wine, Chocolate

“A real labour of love, concisely and elegantly told.”--Fred Pearce, author; environmental consultant for New Scientist

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mike Shanahan

Mike Shanahan is a freelance writer with a doctorate in rainforest ecology. He has lived in a national park in Borneo, bred endangered penguins, investigated illegal bear farms, produced award-winning journalism and spent several weeks of his life at the annual United Nations climate change negotiations. He is interested in what people think about nature and our place in it. His writing includes work published by The Economist, Nature, The Ecologist and Ensia, and chapters of Dry: Life without Water (Harvard University Press); Climate Change and the Media (Peter Lang Publishing) and Culture and Climate Change: Narratives (Shed). He is the illustrator of Extraordinary Animals (Greenwood Publishing Group) and maintains a blog called Under the Banyan.

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE

Luminous Fish

Luminous Fish

By Lynn Margulis

This collection of linked stories by internationally renowned evolutionist Lynn Margulis reveals science from the inside--its thrills, disappointments, and triumphs. A largely fictional account, it draws on her decades of experience to portray the poor judgment, exhaustion, and life-threatening dedication of real scientists--their emotional preoccupations, sexual distractions, and passions for research. The esoteric, demanding, sometimes exhilarating world of science emerges from the shadows of its passive narrative into the sunlight of the personal voice of those who attempt to wrench secrets directly from nature. All of us who struggle to balance family, professional, and social commitments with intellectual quest will be intrigued by the humanity of these tales.

Available in: Hardcover, eBook

Read More

Luminous Fish

Lynn Margulis

Hardcover $21.95

Gaviotas

Gaviotas

By Alan Weisman

Los Llanos—the rain-leached, eastern savannas of war-ravaged Colombia—are among the most brutal environments on Earth and an unlikely setting for one of the most hopeful environmental stories ever told. Here, in the late 1960s, a young Colombian development worker named Paolo Lugari wondered if the nearly uninhabited, infertile llanos could be made livable for his country’s growing population. He had no idea that nearly four decades later, his experiment would be one of the world’s most celebrated examples of sustainable living: a permanent village called Gaviotas.

In the absence of infrastructure, the first Gaviotans invented wind turbines to convert mild breezes into energy, hand pumps capable of tapping deep sources of water, and solar collectors efficient enough to heat and even sterilize drinking water under perennially cloudy llano skies. Over time, the Gaviotans’ experimentation has even restored an ecosystem: in the shelter of two million Caribbean pines planted as a source of renewable commercial resin, a primordial rain forest that once covered the llanos is unexpectedly reestablishing itself.

Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez has called Paolo Lugari “Inventor of the World.” Lugari himself has said that Gaviotas is not a utopia: “Utopia literally means ‘no place.’ We call Gaviotas a topia, because it’s real.”

Relive their story with this special 10th-anniversary edition of Gaviotas, complete with a new afterword by the author describing how Gaviotas has survived and progressed over the past decade.

Available in: Paperback, eBook

Read More

Gaviotas

Alan Weisman

Paperback $24.95

The Organic Seed Grower

The Organic Seed Grower

By John Navazio

The Organic Seed Grower is a comprehensive manual for the serious vegetable grower who is interested in growing high-quality seeds using organic farming practices. It is written for both serious home seed savers and diversified small-scale farmers who want to learn the necessary steps involved in successfully producing a commercial seed crop organically.

Detailed profiles for each of the major vegetables provide users with practical, in-depth knowledge about growing, harvesting, and processing seed for a wide range of common and specialty vegetable crops, from Asian greens to zucchini.

In addition, readers will find extensive and critical information on topics including:

  • The reproductive biology of crop plants
  • Annual vs. biennial seed crops
  • Isolation distances needed to ensure varietal purity
  • Maintaining adequate population size for genetic integrity
  • Seed crop climates
  • Seed-borne diseases
  • Seed-cleaning basics
  • Seed storage for farmers
  • and more . . .

This book can serve as a bridge to lead skilled gardeners, who are already saving their own seed, into the idea of growing seed commercially. And for diversified vegetable farmers who are growing a seed crop for sale for the first time, it will provide details on many of the tricks of the trade that are used by professional seed growers. This manual will help the budding seed farmer to become more knowledgeable, efficient, and effective in producing a commercially viable seed crop.

With the strong demand for certified organic produce, many regional seed companies are increasingly seeking out dedicated seed growers to ensure a reliable source of organically grown seeds for their farmer and gardener customers. This trend represents a great business opportunity for small-scale commercial growers who wish to raise and sell vegetable seeds as a profitable part of their diversified small-farm operation. Written by well-known plant breeder and organic seed expert John Navazio, The Organic Seed Grower is the most up-to-date and useful guide to best practices in this exciting and important field.

Available in: Hardcover, eBook

Read More

The Organic Seed Grower

John Navazio

Hardcover $49.95

Designing and Maintaining Your Edible Landscape Naturally

Designing and Maintaining Your Edible Landscape Naturally

By Robert Kourik

First published in 1986, this classic is back in print by popular demand. It is the authoritative text on edible landscaping, featuring a step-by-step guide to designing a productive environment using vegetables, fruits, flowers, and herbs for a combination of ornamental and culinary purposes.

It includes descriptions of plants for all temperate habitats, methods for improving soil, tree pruning styles, and gourmet recipes using low-maintenance plants. There are sections on attracting beneficial insects with companion plants and using planting to shelter your home from erosion, heat, wind, and cold.

You can download the color insert here >> 

 

Available in: Paperback, eBook

Read More

Designing and Maintaining Your Edible Landscape Naturally

Robert Kourik, Mark Kane, Rosalind Creasy, Maia Massion

Paperback $49.95