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
Paperback: 9781603587976
Pub. Date April 23, 2018

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: Available for Pre Order

Paperback

Available Date:
April 09, 2018

$14.95

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

Choice Reviews-

"Fig trees are found throughout the tropical world with over 800 species in the genus Ficus. Many figs have an elaborate pollination system in which tiny wasps mate inside of the fruit. This book considers the biology, ecology, natural history, and the historical/cultural importance of this interesting plant. An especially fascinating aspect of fig trees is that they are utilized in forest restoration efforts. For example, in Central America and Africa, scientists have planted mature fig tree branches to use as 'instant trees' in deforested areas. The fig trees attract animals and promote biodiversity in the immediate area. The author highlights how edible figs have been discovered in archaeological sites that date back to 13,000 years ago. The author also devotes several chapters to specific historical eras and notes that in the Bible, Adam and Eve used fig leaves to serve as clothing. The book contains many fine-quality line drawings to illustrate principles, such as how a wasp enters a fig and the natural variation in the morphology of figs. Summing Up: Recommended. All readers."

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

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

By Nicky Scott

Answers all of your recycling questions with a complete A-Z listing of everyday household items and how to recycle them. From old cell phones and E-waste to expired medicines and motor oil this little guide shows you where you can send your unwanted items and how you might make a bit of money while you’re at it. Also includes great ideas for reducing consumption and your volume of trash—ideal for businesses and consumers alike!

  • What do you do with your old mobile phone?
  • Where can you take your old car batteries?
  • Which foods are compostable?
  • What happens to the stuff you recycle?

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle is packed with ideas for cutting your consumption and reducing your rubbish. It’s an invaluable guide for anyone who wants to slim their bin and help stop the earth going to waste.

 

Available in: Paperback

Read More

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Nicky Scott, Axel Scheffler

Paperback $7.95

A Cafecito Story / El cuento del cafecito

A Cafecito Story / El cuento del cafecito

By Julia Alvarez and Bill Eichner and Belkis Ramirez

A Cafecito Story is a story of love, coffee, birds and hope. It is a beautifully written eco-fable by best-selling author Julia Alvarez. Based on her and her husband's experiences trying to reclaim a small coffee farm in her native Dominican Republic, A Cafecito Story shows how the return to the traditional methods of shade-grown coffee can rehabilitate and rejuvenate the landscape and human culture, while at the same time preserving vital winter habitat for threatened songbirds.

Not a political or environmental polemic, A Cafecito Story is instead a poetic, modern fable about human beings at their best. The challenge of producing coffee is a remarkable test of our ability to live more sustainably, caring for the land, growers, and consumers in an enlightened and just way. Written with Julia Alvarez's deft touch, this is a story that stimulates while it comforts, waking the mind and warming the soul like the first cup of morning coffee. Indeed, this story is best read with a strong cup of organic, shade-grown, fresh-brewed coffee.

Available in: Paperback

Read More

A Cafecito Story / El cuento del cafecito

Julia Alvarez, Bill Eichner, Belkis Ramirez, Daisy Cocco de Filippis

Paperback $12.95

The New Wildcrafted Cuisine

The New Wildcrafted Cuisine

By Pascal Baudar

With detailed recipes for ferments, infusions, spices, and other preparations

Wild foods are increasingly popular, as evidenced by the number of new books about identifying plants and foraging ingredients, as well as those written by chefs about culinary creations that incorporate wild ingredients (Noma, Faviken, Quay, Manreza, et al.). The New Wildcrafted Cuisine, however, goes well beyond both of these genres to deeply explore the flavors of local terroir, combining the research and knowledge of plants and landscape that chefs often lack with the fascinating and innovative techniques of a master food preserver and self-described “culinary alchemist.”

Author Pascal Baudar views his home terrain of southern California (mountain, desert, chaparral, and seashore) as a culinary playground, full of wild plants and other edible and delicious foods (even insects) that once were gathered and used by native peoples but that have only recently begun to be re-explored and appreciated.

For instance, he uses various barks to make smoked vinegars, and combines ants, plants, and insect sugar to brew primitive beers. Stems of aromatic plants are used to make skewers. Selected rocks become grinding stones, griddles, or plates. Even fallen leaves and other natural materials from the forest floor can be utilized to impart a truly local flavor to meats and vegetables, one that captures and expresses the essence of season and place.

This beautifully photographed book offers up dozens of creative recipes and instructions for preparing a pantry full of preserved foods, including Pickled Acorns, White Sage-Lime Cider, Wild Kimchi Spice, Currant Capers, Infused Salts with Wild Herbs, Pine Needles Vinegar, and many more. And though the author’s own palette of wild foods are mostly common to southern California, readers everywhere can apply Baudar’s deep foraging wisdom and experience to explore their own bioregions and find an astonishing array of plants and other materials that can be used in their own kitchens.

The New Wildcrafted Cuisine is an extraordinary book by a passionate and committed student of nature, one that will inspire both chefs and adventurous eaters to get creative with their own local landscapes.

Available in: Hardcover

Read More

The New Wildcrafted Cuisine

Pascal Baudar

Hardcover $40.00

The Man Who Planted Trees

The Man Who Planted Trees

By Jean Giono

Twenty years ago Chelsea Green published the first trade edition of The Man Who Planted Trees, a timeless eco-fable about what one person can do to restore the earth. The hero of the story, Elzéard Bouffier, spent his life planting one hundred acorns a day in a desolate, barren section of Provence in the south of France. The result was a total transformation of the landscape-from one devoid of life, with miserable, contentious inhabitants, to one filled with the scent of flowers, the songs of birds, and fresh, flowing water.

Since our first publication, the book has sold over a quarter of a million copies and inspired countless numbers of people around the world to take action and plant trees. On National Arbor Day, April 29, 2005, Chelsea Green released a special twentieth anniversary edition with a new foreword by Wangari Maathai, winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize and founder of the African Green Belt Movement.

Available in: Hardcover, Paperback

Read More

The Man Who Planted Trees

Jean Giono, Michael McCurdy, Wangari Maathai, Norma Goodrich, Andy Lipkis

Paperback $10.00