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

Over millions of years, fig trees have shaped our world, influenced our evolution, nourished our bodies and fed our imaginations. And as author and ecologist Mike Shanahan proclaims, “The best could be yet to come.”

Gods, Wasps and Stranglers weaves together the mythology, history and ecology of one of the world’s most fascinating—and diverse—groups of plants, from their starring role in every major religion to their potential to restore rainforests, halt the loss of rare and endangered species and even limit climate change.

In this lively and joyous book, Shanahan recounts the epic journeys of tiny fig wasps, whose eighty-million-year-old relationship with fig trees has helped them sustain more species of birds and mammals than any other trees; the curious habits of fig-dependent rhinoceros hornbills; figs’ connection to Krishna and Buddha, Jesus and Muhammad; and even their importance to Kenya’s struggle for independence.

Ultimately, Gods, Wasps and Stranglers is a story about humanity’s relationship with nature, one that 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

Diary of an Eco-Outlaw

Diary of an Eco-Outlaw

By Diane Wilson

Diane Wilson is an activist, shrimper, and all around hell-raiser whose first book, An Unreasonable Woman, told of her battle to save her bay in Seadrift, Texas. Back then, she was an accidental activist who worked with whistleblowers, organized protests, and eventually sunk her own boat to stop the plastic-manufacturing giant Formosa from releasing dangerous chemicals into water she shrimped in, grew up on, and loved.

But, it turns out, the fight against Formosa was just the beginning. In Diary of an Eco-Outlaw, Diane writes about what happened as she began to fight injustice not just in Seadrift, but around the world-taking on Union Carbide for its failure to compensate those injured in the Bhopal disaster, cofounding the women's antiwar group Code Pink to protest the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, attempting a citizens arrest of Dick Cheney, famously covering herself with fake oil and demanding the arrest of then BP CEO Tony Hayward as he testified before Congress, and otherwise becoming a world-class activist against corporate injustice, war, and environmental crimes.

As George Bernard Shaw once said, "all progress depends on unreasonable women." And in the Diary of an Eco-Outlaw, the eminently unreasonable Wilson delivers a no-holds-barred account of how she-a fourth-generation shrimper, former boat captain, and mother of five-took a turn at midlife, unable to stand by quietly as she witnessed abuses of people and the environment. Since then, she has launched legislative campaigns, demonstrations, and hunger strikes-and generally gotten herself in all manner of trouble.

All worth it, says Wilson. Jailed more than 50 times for civil disobedience, Wilson has stood up for environmental justice, and peace, around the world-a fact that has earned her many kudos from environmentalists and peace activists alike, and that has forced progress where progress was hard to come by.

Available in: Paperback

Read More

Diary of an Eco-Outlaw

Diane Wilson, Derrick Jensen

Paperback $17.95

Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, Volume 2

Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, Volume 2

By Brad Lancaster

Turn water scarcity into water abundance!
Earthworks are one of the easiest, least expensive, and most effective ways of passively harvesting and conserving multiple sources of water in the soil. Associated vegetation then pumps the harvested water back out in the form of beauty, food, shelter, wildlife habitat, and passive heating and cooling strategies, while controlling erosion, increasing soil fertility, reducing downstream flooding, and improving water and air quality.

Building on the information presented in Volume 1, this book shows you how to select, place, size, construct, and plant your chosen water-harvesting earthworks. It presents detailed how-to information and variations of a diverse array of earthworks, including chapters on mulch, vegetation, and greywater recycling so you can customize the techniques to the unique requirements of your site.

  • Real life stories and examples permeate the book, including:
  • How curb cuts redirect street runoff to passively irrigate flourishing shade trees planted along the street
  • How check dams have helped create springs and perennial flows in once-dry creeks
  • How infiltration basins are creating thriving rain-fed gardens
  • How backyard greywater laundromats are turning "wastewater" into a resource growing food, beauty, and shade that builds community, and more.
  • How to create simple tools to read slope and water flow
  • More than 225 illustrations and photographs

 

Available in: Paperback

Read More

Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, Volume 2

Brad Lancaster, Joe Marshall

Paperback $39.95

The Song of the Earth

The Song of the Earth

The Song of the Earth is the fourth and final volume in the Four Keys to Sustainable Communities series and brings together the voices of leading visionaries in science, spirituality, indigenous wisdom, innovative community, and social activism to paint a powerful portrait of new possibilities for the human family.

People across the globe yearn for a new civilization of harmony and vibrant cooperation among all peoples—living in balance with the Earth. This vision is not a dreamy fantasy; it is the birthright of humanity.

Stories, interviews, articles, and ideas from all over the world are collected to create an integral worldview for others to build upon. “The Song of the Earth contains voices that need to be heard, voices that affirm the unity of all life.”—Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee

The Song of the Earth is the attempt to create an integral picture. It is the call to explore the marvelous web of life on our planet. It asks that we consciously design gentle, sustainable lifestyles and communities that honor diversity in all forms. The celebrated list of contributors includes Satish Kumar, Wangari Maathai, Joanna Macy, Chris Johnstone, Duane Elgin, Thomas Berry, Elisabet Sahtouris, Ross and Hildur Jackson, Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo, Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, David Korten, The Venerable Dugu Choegyal Rinpoche, and Stephan Harding.

The Four Keys represent the four dimensions of sustainable design—the Worldview, the Social, the Ecological and the Economic. This series is endorsed by UNESCO and is an official contribution to the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development. The other books of the series are Beyond You and Me, Gaian Economics, and Designing Ecological Habitats. The Four Keys to Sustainable Communities series was completed in 2012 and is now available in the U.S. for the first time.

Available in: Paperback

Read More

The Song of the Earth

Maddy Harland, William Keepin

Paperback $7.49

The Book of Pears

The Book of Pears

By Joan Morgan

Although apples may have won the battle for modern-day supermarket shelf space, throughout history the pear has usually ranked even higher in the hearts of fruit enthusiasts and connoisseurs. Cherries, plums, peaches, and many other fruits are also wonderful in their season, but the pear at its finest can be so much more exceptional in terms of its luscious texture, richness of taste, and its fragrances reminiscent of rose water, musk, and vanilla.

The Book of Pears is a one-of-a-kind guide to this extraordinary fruit, following its journey through history and around the world, accompanied by beautiful botanical watercolor paintings and period images. Noted pomologist and fruit historian Joan Morgan (The Book of Apples) has researched and crafted the definitive account of the pear’s history and uses, from fresh eating to cooking and baking to making perry, the delicate and sophisticated pear equivalent of cider.

Featuring a directory of 500 varieties of both ancient and modern pears with tasting notes and descriptions for every one, The Book of Pears reveals the secrets of the pear as a status symbol, introduces readers to some of the most celebrated fruit growers in history, and explains how the pear came to be so important as an international commodity. This unique and fascinating book will prove indispensable for historians, horticulturists, and all fruit lovers.

Available in: Hardcover

Read More

The Book of Pears

Joan Morgan

Hardcover $65.00