Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Book Review: In One Yard: Close to Nature Book 2

I was introduced to Warren A. Hatch several years ago by a mutual friend. He sent me a copy of the original In One Yard: Close to Nature, which I regretfully never got around to reviewing. I will not make the same mistake with Hatch’s sequel. This book has much to recommend it, no matter where you live.

Mr. Hatch resides in Portland, Oregon, USA, and every organism shown in the book was discovered on his property, the yard of which is only one-sixth of an acre. Clearly, exploring even this small an area can result in constant discovery and astonishment. A reader is going to be inspired to put the book down frequently so as to go looking for mosses, lichens, insects, arachnids, algae, and other living things right outside their door.

This “ignition switch” alone is what makes this book unique and critically important. One could consider it an exercise in vanity (the first book was self-published), but by documenting various species in depth, and showing the reader how he captured the detail and drama of each creature, it becomes a blueprint for how you can do the same. Why you should go to the trouble is self-evident in the countless, captivating images.

The text both explains the natural histories of the organism, and challenges the reader to make their own observations. The stories are an interesting and effective mix of the author’s personal experience, additional knowledge gleaned from literature and correspondence with world-renowned experts, and a periodic, friendly “Mr. Rogers” query to the reader. The author does not put himself above the reader. He defines scientific words with each use, and understands that occasional repetition is a good thing.

The first book was a large, magazine-like paperback. Book two is a smaller, hardback volume. Both are slightly “busy” in their design and layouts, and if there is any fault to the new book, it is in the literal fine print of “Extra Notes” that may be difficult for those with poor vision to easily read. The images are so overwhelming in their excellence and detail that almost anything else can be forgiven anyway.

The one thing that surprises and disappoints is that this book is flying under the public radar. Mr. Hatch’s prior works have rightly received critical acclaim from the scientific community. Hatch has produced posters and DVDs that have also garnered generous reviews; and he was elected a Fellow of the Linnean Society of London in 2003. This is an exceptional honor, as the society was founded in 1788 and has only about 2,000 members. Admirably, Hatch lives a car-free lifestyle.

In One Yard is the perfect complement to Douglas Tallamy’s books Bringing Nature Home, and Nature’s Best Hope. Hatch’s books show you exactly what can result if you cultivate native plants and make even minimal effort to observe and record. Yes, he has invested heavily in the equipment needed to produce what you see on the pages of the book, but what a payoff.

Ideally, we need more Warren Hatchs. More people should do an ongoing bioblitz of their home and property, and share the results widely through blogs, vlogs, Youtube, Instagram, and other media, if not an actual hardcopy book. Be creative. Buy this book as an inspiration and model. In One Yard: Close to Nature Book 2 is available exclusively through Wild Blueberry Media, LLC for a very reasonable $35.00 (postage paid). Don’t take my word for it, just ask Sir David Attenborough who effuses that the book is “splendid” and “it spurs me on.” When a world class, globe-trotting naturalist asks “….whether I haven’t looked at my yard with the concentration and insight that you have,” that is high praise indeed.

Thursday, August 5, 2021

Team World

My wife likes to watch the Olympics. Generally, I could not care less. It seems to be too much pomp and circumstance, too nationalistic, and not much fun for the athletes. I do think we can improve, both as the Olympiads themselves and, more importantly, as spectators.

In my Fantasy Olympics, every participating country would leave with ten medals of varying colors. The field would be that level, that competitive. The overriding priority of the Olympic Committee would be to welcome more new countries every Olympiad, and recruit more diversity for each event. The commentators would shut up and let the performances speak for themselves. Enough nit-picking critiques, please. Explain the rules of rugby, though. How do you stop the other team again? Also, how has no one been killed by the hammer throw?

Those of us television viewers and in-person audiences, should we ever have those again, can up our own game. We can stop taking the games so seriously. We can be “traitors” for a moment and cheer for another country’s representatives. Where is the crime in that? Heck, if belugas were in the swimming events, you can bet your bottom dollar I would be rooting for them.

We need to trust our athletes to do what is best for them, and therefore their comrades. The backlash over Simone Biles’ decision to withdraw says a lot more about our character than it does hers. We have unrealistic expectations and, unfortunately, they are often couched in racism, too. Our white privileged society “values” other ethnicities primarily as servants and entertainers (and I lump athletes in the latter category). Those are the only professions we “allow” them any material affluence, and even then, only if they meet or exceed our grotesquely inflated demands for record-breaking efforts. Disgusting, but we don’t give it a second thought until one of those athletes is brave enough to stand up for themselves.

The Olympics tends to be a missed opportunity to get a glimpse into other cultures, and here in the United States we will never be encouraged to learn the continuing impacts of colonialism and economic expectations on other nations. We want Latin America to keep giving us baseball pitchers and bananas. What do we care about them otherwise? Yes, I am exaggerating (barely) to make the point of our sense of entitlement.

The fact that we demand the Olympics be held at all in the middle of an ongoing global pandemic says enough, does it not? The “world stage,” I keep hearing, but what we need is world parity, not simply in athletics, but in global health and economics. Dominance disgusts me, in any form. It is a reminder of oppression and inequality that comes from privilege and colonialism.

If you want to unfollow this blog because it makes you uncomfortable, because you view the author as a “race traitor,” or a conspiracy theorist, that is your right. However, I suggest instead that you ask why you have the sentiments you do, and whether they are serving you any longer. Stop letting Olympic athletes be proxies for you. Step up your own game and join Team World.