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About Fred Pearce
Fred Pearce, author of The New Wild, is an award-winning author and journalist based in London. He has reported on environmental, science, and development issues from eighty-five countries over the past twenty years. Environment consultant at New Scientist since 1992, he also writes regularly for the Guardian newspaper and Yale University’s prestigious e360 website. Pearce was voted UK Environment Journalist of the Year in 2001 and CGIAR agricultural research journalist of the year in 2002, and he won a lifetime achievement award from the Association of British Science Writers in 2011. His many books include With Speed and Violence, Confessions of an Eco-Sinner, The Coming Population Crash, and The Land Grabbers.
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Throughout history, rivers have been our foremost source of fresh water for both agriculture and individual consumption, but looming water scarcity threatens to cut global food production and cause conflict and unrest. In this visionary book, Fred Pearce takes readers around the world on a tour of the world's rivers to provide our most complete portrait yet of the growing global water crisis and its ramifications for us all. With vivid on-the-ground reporting, Pearce deftly weaves together the scientific, economic, and historic dimensions of the water crisis, showing us its complex origins--from waste to wrong-headed engineering projects to high-yield crop varieties that have saved developing countries from starvation but are now emptying their water reserves. Pearce argues that the solution to the growing worldwide water shortage is more efficiency and a new water ethic based on managing the water cycle for maximum social benefit rather than narrow self-interest.
“A vivid, important, and inspiring book.”— Elizabeth Kolbert, Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Sixth Extinction and Under a White Sky
“Eloquently mulls the ecological dynamics of forests as well as the social, economic, cultural, and political forces that determine their fate.”—LA REVIEW OF BOOKS
A powerful book about the decline and recovery of the world’s forests––with a provocative argument for their survival.
In A Trillion Trees, veteran environmental journalist Fred Pearce takes readers on a whirlwind journey through some of the most spectacular forests around the world. Along the way, he charts the extraordinary pace of forest destruction, and explores why some are beginning to recover.
With vivid, observant reporting, Pearce transports readers to the remote cloud forests of Ecuador, the remains of a forest civilization in Nigeria, a mystifying mountain peak in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, and the boreal forests of western Canada and the United States, where devastating wildfires are linked to suppressing the natural fire cycles of forests and the maintenance practices of Indigenous peoples.
Throughout the book, Pearce interviews the people who traditionally live in forests. He speaks to Indigenous peoples in western Canada and the United States who are fighting to control their traditional forested lands and manage them according to their traditional practices. He visits and speaks with Nepalese hill dwellers, Kenyan farmers, and West African sawyers who show him that forests are as much human landscapes as they are natural paradises. The lives of humans are now imprinted in forest ecology.
At the heart of Pearce’s investigationis a provocative argument: planting more trees isn’t the answer to declining forests. If given room and left to their own devices, forests and the people who live in them will fight back to restore their own domain.
An unprecedented land grab is taking place around the world. Fearing future food shortages or eager to profit from them, the world’s wealthiest and most acquisitive countries, corporations, and individuals have been buying and leasing vast tracts of land around the world. The scale is astounding: parcels the size of small countries are being gobbled up across the plains of Africa, the paddy fields of Southeast Asia, the jungles of South America, and the prairies of Eastern Europe. Veteran science writer Fred Pearce spent a year circling the globe to find out who was doing the buying, whose land was being taken over, and what the effect of these massive land deals seems to be.
The Land Grabbers is a first-of-its-kind exposé that reveals the scale and the human costs of the land grab, one of the most profound ethical, environmental, and economic issues facing the globalized world in the twenty-first century. The corporations, speculators, and governments scooping up land cheap in the developing world claim that industrial-scale farming will help local economies. But Pearce’s research reveals a far more troubling reality. While some mega-farms are ethically run, all too often poor farmers and cattle herders are evicted from ancestral lands or cut off from water sources. The good jobs promised by foreign capitalists and home governments alike fail to materialize. Hungry nations are being forced to export their food to the wealthy, and corporate potentates run fiefdoms oblivious to the country beyond their fences.
Pearce’s story is populated with larger-than-life characters, from financier George Soros and industry tycoon Richard Branson, to Gulf state sheikhs, Russian oligarchs, British barons, and Burmese generals. We discover why Goldman Sachs is buying up the Chinese poultry industry, what Lord Rothschild and a legendary 1970s asset-stripper are doing in the backwoods of Brazil, and what plans a Saudi oil billionaire has for Ethiopia. Along the way, Pearce introduces us to the people who actually live on, and live off of, the supposedly “empty” land that is being grabbed, from Cambodian peasants, victimized first by the Khmer Rouge and now by crony capitalism, to African pastoralists confined to ever-smaller tracts.
Over the next few decades, land grabbing may matter more, to more of the planet’s people, than even climate change. It will affect who eats and who does not, who gets richer and who gets poorer, and whether agrarian societies can exist outside corporate control. It is the new battle over who owns the planet.
In November 2009 it emerged that thousands of documents and emails had been stolen from one of the top climate science centres in the world. The emails appeared to reveal that scientists had twisted research in order to strengthen the case for global warming. With the UN's climate summit in Copenhagen just days away, the hack could not have happened at a worse time for climate researchers or at a better time for climate sceptics.
Yet although the scandal caused a media frenzy, the fact is that just about everything you may have heard and read about the University of East Anglia emails is wrong. They are not, as some have claimed, the smoking gun for some great global warming hoax. They do not reveal a sinister conspiracy by scientists to fabricate global warming data. They do, however, raise deeply disturbing questions about the way climate science is conducted, about researchers' preparedness to block access to climate data and downplay flaws in their data, and about the siege mentality and scientific tribalism at the heart of the most important international issue of our age.
Fred Pearce is one of the world's leading writers on climate change, and in Climate Files he tells the real inside story of the events leading up to the stealing of those fateful emails. He explores the personalities involved, the feuds and disagreements at the heart of climate science, and the implications the scandal has for all our futures.
Over the last century, the world’s population quadrupled and fears of overpopulation flared, with baby booms blamed for genocide and terrorism, and overpopulation singled out as the primary factor driving global warming. Yet, surprisingly, it appears that the population explosion is past its peak—by mid-century, the world’s population will be declining for the first time in over seven hundred years. In The Coming Population Crash, veteran environmental writer Fred Pearce reveals the dynamics behind this dramatic shift and describes the environmental, social, and economic effects of our surprising demographic future.
A provocative exploration of the “new ecology” and why most of what we think we know about alien species is wrong
For a long time, veteran environmental journalist Fred Pearce thought in stark terms about invasive species: they were the evil interlopers spoiling pristine “natural” ecosystems. Most conservationists and environmentalists share this view. But what if the traditional view of ecology is wrong—what if true environmentalists should be applauding the invaders?
In The New Wild, Pearce goes on a journey across six continents to rediscover what conservation in the twenty-first century should be about. Pearce explores ecosystems from remote Pacific islands to the United Kingdom, from San Francisco Bay to the Great Lakes, as he digs into questionable estimates of the cost of invader species and reveals the outdated intellectual sources of our ideas about the balance of nature. Pearce acknowledges that there are horror stories about alien species disrupting ecosystems, but most of the time, the tens of thousands of introduced species usually swiftly die out or settle down and become model eco-citizens. The case for keeping out alien species, he finds, looks increasingly flawed.
As Pearce argues, mainstream environmentalists are right that we need a rewilding of the earth, but they are wrong if they imagine that we can achieve that by reengineering ecosystems. Humans have changed the planet too much, and nature never goes backward. But a growing group of scientists is taking a fresh look at how species interact in the wild. According to these new ecologists, we should applaud the dynamism of alien species and the novel ecosystems they create.
In an era of climate change and widespread ecological damage, it is absolutely crucial that we find ways to help nature regenerate. Embracing the new ecology, Pearce shows us, is our best chance. To be an environmentalist in the twenty-first century means celebrating nature’s wildness and capacity for change.
Fred Pearce has been writing about climate change for eighteen years, and the more he learns, the worse things look. Where once scientists were concerned about gradual climate change, now more and more of them fear we will soon be dealing with abrupt change resulting from triggering hidden tipping points. Even President Bush's top climate modeler, Jim Hansen, warned in 2005 that "we are on the precipice of climate system tipping points beyond which there is no redemption."
As Pearce began working on this book, normally cautious scientists beat a path to his door to tell him about their fears and their latest findings. With Speed and Violence tells the stories of these scientists and their work-from the implications of melting permafrost in Siberia and the huge river systems of meltwater beneath the icecaps of Greenland and Antarctica to the effects of the "ocean conveyor" and a rare molecule that runs virtually the entire cleanup system for the planet.
Above all, the scientists told him what they're now learning about the speed and violence of past natural climate change-and what it portends for our future. With Speed and Violence is the most up-to-date and readable book yet about the growing evidence for global warming and the large climatic effects it may unleash.
From Hiroshima to Chernobyl, Fukushima to the growing legacy of lethal radioactive waste, humanity’s struggle to conquer atomic energy is rife with secrecy, deceit, human error, blatant disregard for life, short-sighted politics, and fear. Fallout is an eye-opening odyssey through the first eight decades of this struggle and the radioactive landscapes it has left behind. We are, he finds, forever torn between technological hubris and all-too-human terror about what we have created.
At first, Pearce reminds us, America loved the bomb. Las Vegas, only seventy miles from the Nevada site of some hundred atmospheric tests, crowned four Miss Atomic Bombs in 1950s. Later, communities downwind of these tests suffered high cancer rates. The fate of a group of Japanese fishermen, who suffered high radiation doses from the first hydrogen bomb test in Bikini atoll, was worse. The United States Atomic Energy Commission accused them of being Red spies and ignored requests from the doctors desperately trying to treat them.
Pearce moves on to explore the closed cities of the Soviet Union, where plutonium was refined and nuclear bombs tested throughout the ’50s and ’60s, and where the full extent of environmental and human damage is only now coming to light. Exploring the radioactive badlands created by nuclear accidents—not only the well-known examples of Chernobyl and Fukushima, but also the little known area around Satlykovo in the Russian Ural Mountains and the Windscale fire in the UK—Pearce describes the compulsive secrecy, deviousness, and lack of accountability that have persisted even as the technology has morphed from military to civilian uses.
Finally, Pearce turns to the toxic legacies of nuclear technology: the emerging dilemmas over handling its waste and decommissioning of the great radioactive structures of the nuclear age, and the fearful doublethink over the world’s growing stockpiles of plutonium, the most lethal and ubiquitous product of nuclear technologies.
For any reader who craves a clear-headed examination of the tangled relationship between a powerful technology and human politics, foibles, fears, and arrogance, Fallout is the definitive look at humanity’s nuclear adventure.
DEEP JUNGLE is an exploration of the most alien and feared habitat on Earth. Starting with man's earliest recorded adventures, Fred Pearce journeys high into the canopy - home to two-thirds of all the creatures on our planet, many of whom never come down to earth. During his travels he encounters all manner of fantastic flora and fauna, including a frog that can glide from tree to tree, a spider that can drag live chickens into its burrow and a flower that smells of decaying flesh.
It is in the jungle that Pearce discovers secrets about how evolution works, the intricate links that connect us all, and maybe even clues to where humans came from - here is the key to our future foods and medicines, our climate and our understanding of how life works. At the start of a new millennium Pearce asks why we continue to waste precious time - and billions of dollars - looking for signs of life elsewhere in our universe when the greatest range of life-forms that have ever existed lies right here on our doorstep. Today environmentalists say we are on the verge of destroying the last rainforests, and with them the planet's evolutionary crucible, and maybe even its ability to maintain life on Earth. But nature has a way of getting its own back. The Mayans and the people of Angkor went too far in manipulating nature and paid the ultimate price. Their civilisations died and the jungle returned. Nature reclaimed it's own and it may do so again ...
In Confessions of an Eco-Sinner, Fred Pearce surveys his home and then sets out to track down the people behind the production and distribution of everything in his daily life, from his socks to his computer to the food in his fridge. It’s a fascinating portrait, by turns sobering and hopeful, of the effects the world’s more than six billion inhabitants have on our planet—and of the working and living conditions of the people who produce most of these goods.
Water has long been the object of political ambition and conflict. Recent history is full of leaders who tried to harness water to realize national dreams. Yet the people who most need water-farmers, rural villages, impoverished communities-are too often left, paradoxically, with desiccated fields, unfulfilled promises, and refugee status.
It doesn't have to be this way, according to Fred Pearce. A veteran science news correspondent, Pearce has for over fifteen years chronicled the development of large-scale water projects like China's vast Three Gorges dam and India's Sardar Sarovar. But, as he and numerous other authors have pointed out, far from solving our water problems, these industrial scale projects, and others now in the planning, are bringing us to the brink of a global water crisis.
Pearce decided there had to be a better way.
To find it, he traveled the globe in search of alternatives to mega-engineering projects. In Keepers of the Spring, he brings back intriguing stories from people like Yannis Mitsis, an ethnic Greek Cypriot, who is the last in his line to know the ways and whereabouts of a network of underground tunnels that have for centuries delivered to farming communities the water they need to survive on an arid landscape. He recounts the inspiring experiences of small-scale water stewards like Kenyan Jane Ngei, who reclaimed for her people a land abandoned by her government as a wasteland. And he tells of many others who are developing new techniques and rediscovering ancient ones to capture water for themselves.
In so doing, Pearce documents that these "keepers" are not merely isolated examples, but collectively constitute an entire alternative tradition of working with natural flows rather than trying to reengineer nature to provide water for human needs.
The solution to our water problems, he finds, may not lie in new technologies-though they will play a role-but in recovering ancient traditions, using water more efficiently, and better understanding local hydrology. Are these approaches adequate to serve the world's growing populations? The answer remains unclear. But we ignore them at our own peril.