[UCP Books]: Walden Warming: Climate Change Comes to Thoreau’s Woods

“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.”–Bill McKibben, author of Oil and Honey


“What better place to chronicle the effects of global warming than in the cradle of the American environmental movement—Thoreau’s Walden Woods.”–Don Henley
 

 

Walden Warming

Climate Change Comes to Thoreau’s Woods

Richard B. Primack
 
 
Publication date: April 14, 2014 978-0-226-68268-6
UK Publication Date: April 28, 2014 Cloth $26.00/₤18.00

 

 

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 Thoreau’s writings, warming temperatures have pushed blueberry flowering three weeks earlier. The climate around Thoreau’s 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. 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 observed have declined in abundance or have disappeared from Concord. Primack also describes how warming temperatures have altered other aspects of Thoreau’s 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.

 

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 editor-in-chief of the international journal Biological Conservation.
 

Please contact Micah Fehrenbacher at (773) 702-7717 or micahf@uchicago.edu for more information.

 

 

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